30.8.11

a dirty quick sketch of august summer days

oooh british summer pudding: ice cream cones and jelly babies!
jelly babies... well, they didnt really see it coming i suppose.

a bit of schadenfreuden as the pretty car gets hefty parking ticket.
i was lucky that rich man didnt get to rip my head out...

visiting new and old: visit to luthier stoppani @ chorlton,
along with old friends who came to visit to the hills...

very happy birthday minnow! 
i bet no one made such bonkers cake for you.
YET.


awesome steam engines. we had couple more rides this summer.

including a very very small wee one, 
fed coals teaspoonful at a time. hehe.

beautiful chinley home. at this point one may be slightly sweaty.
but whats the worry. it rains half of the day by default. haha.
many walks taken with all kinds of friends this summer.
thanks guys, for making chinley part of your summer.
our summer.

25.8.11

851 vs 10106

my wee brother and i were always 2 years 2 months 20 and 2 days apart.  it was often a matter of fact for him to give me list of things that he wanted- he would say 60% (3 out of 5 wish list things) could be rounded up to 100% which really ticked me off (as i have not gotten anything from him in recent years! haha).

i have numerous curious black-blue dots on random points of my body.  hands. elbows. calf. even on the middle of my back (right behind my heart, it was described).  he once asked me what those things were- i wondered if he was trying to be cute. 'of course, it's the pencil marks.' he looked at me with a slant, trying to figure out which part of me was the mad bit; alas, i had to remind him that thanks to brothers, i am covered in remarkable constellation map of some random universe, lovingly marked by my own flesh and blood siblings, each hand done with a sharp pencil.  and of course, there was no silence but a insistent denial of such episode(s).  year after year.  to the point that may be i should give him 'one' to remember.

every time i crossed the ocean, i used to pick up a carton of fags. even after i have stopped smoking (though i would glad to go back smoking tomorrow if i were terminally ill and had only a year to live. i would be a proper chimney). that was always for the kiddie bro.  of course, i refused to give them off as gifts, i did charge the duty-free prices, however, it wasnt such a bad deal for him, as he saved about 50%.  the endless trail of lighters found in his room after his death confirms his dedication to fags. ha ha!  i wonder where all those lighters went- i put them into a box then next time i returned to mom/dad's, it wasnt there in 'his' room.

i remember him saying that next time minnow comes over, we gotta take him to a proper good restaurant. and though it was exciting, that usually meant that he would 'drive' us and i would 'pay' for all of us. but i wouldve been happy to do it. in fact, eating was so important to both of us. minnow thought it was hilarious that we devoted so much concentration on food.  but the first and last meal he did for us at his old work- a proper 10 courses meal (5 courses each, but all plates were different, hence 10 courses) probably would easily be the best food i ever had.  not only well-done, but also done with love and pride.  he was so happy that i was the first one of the family to have eaten at his work, not just a la carte, but doing the proper tasting menu. 

funny, i had to look at my google calendar to realize that it happened in 2009.  by 2010, he was already gone.  and now, 2011.

what a weird feeling.  it's been over a year already since i lost my wee bro?

not only a year- 
2 years, 3 months, 30 days-
851 days, the kind web date calculator reminds me,
wee bro has been buried in my heart. and the gap grows.
every day.

10,106 days, we lived and barged into one another's life.
sherazade would have told her stories,
10 times fold for those nights.
she would have grown old and mature,
beyond her beauty of the younger days.
by 10, 106th night, 
shahyar would have grown fond of her slack skin,
as he would know every single one of them.  
engraved in his heart through his fingers.
and as small wee ordinary individuals, 
we also shared stories, him and i.
and also of smaller sagas we collected individually,
often heated and puffed up, like wheat puff cereal, 
larger than life. 
but thats the best way to tell stories,
with personal flair and a bit of sprinkled embellishment.

and today, 851th night without the living wit of wee brother,
i am attempting, with great sincerity,
to put a sprinkle of gold speckles, 
fairy dusts to lift my mind, 
through the heavy thunderstorm and proper tornado warning, 
just to see if i can tell a story of an ordinary kid,
a brother, a son, a friend,
a love,
buried in my heart,
beating beating beating beating
through the rigid boundary of so-called reality.

i love you wee bro.

12.8.11

prom 37: brahms violin concerto a la 'chopsticks'

... so came the last night at the proms and now minnow is ready to enjoy his summer holiday. ive been lucky to head down south to london to see the bbc phil strut their stuff in the royal albert hall.  now i am quite well educated about the good pubs around south kensington (though one needs to forgive the fact that rich people generally dont want any beer consumption past midnight, hence calling for last call at 2315 or something ridiculous like that-) and the train-tube transfer from st. pancras to gloucester road (which never makes any sense when one is trying to pronounce it the way brits do).  yesterday even included a thrill ride on the cab, direct from train to rbh, as we booked wrong train ticket hence was running the risk of being late for the concert (gasp)!  though, i am happy to inform that rather than paying over 100 quids for new sets of tickets, we were able to get away with the murder by tipping the cabbie generously at max 15. score!

it's been an interesting experience.  for a (former pop) festival that is over hundred years old, it's got much blood and interests that runs through the capillaries.  for instance, on the first day, i was told with great authority that mere mortals with day ticket hopes to the arena (the floor where everyone stands up) must stand on the west side of the staircases, not the right- as the east side of it is reserved for the season tix holders.  as i tuck in my tail to go stand on the 'correct' line, i was taught in a tensile manner about 'doing it standing up.' it includes the details such as getting the raffle numbers and not leaving one's spot for longer than twenty minutes.  ooh and also some serious musicology lectures, and about how i should take music more seriously. these people DO take promming seriously (though some of their musical preferences can be quite amusing)

example: one of the proms opened with beethoven symphony no. 4. i was desperately trying to remember anything useful (as i have played the beethoven symphony cycle couple times for conducting classes/etc) when the fellow 'promers' have bombarded me with question: what do i (possibly) know about beethoven 4?

i could think only two things:
no. 3 is eroica and it rocks,
no. 5 is fate and it rocks.

how am i supposed to remember beethoven 4 when it has NO TUNES at all? (it's all elaboration on chords and progressions; second mvt sounds like schubert and fourth sounds like stodge mozart) (it is rather that poor twin who totally got slammed by the other twin in the womb, as 4 and 5 were written simultaneously) well, (obviously) if i were to taken music seriously, i would know it.  haha! some of them were impressive in their collective knowledge- with referential recordings, conductors, orchestras, even track length!

it included things like similar lecture about ravel's alborada del gracioso (i was almost hooked on the chin by saying that it was written for the piano- hehe; the piano version was completed in 1905, then parts of the suite, mirors, were orchestrated not only by ravel, but also by others, including the aussie mofo percy grainger.  i thought since they are likely check their facts 'later' when they get home, i should lay low), or how rachmaninoff's best music is for the choir (i was ashamed that i didnt know much about his symphonic choral music, but i think his piano-related things are darn impressive, usually...). the list goes on and on.

i suppose if i were to tell them i am a professional musician, i may have been treated a bit differently (as they were certainly more congenial when they realized that im with an orchestra member), but what would be the point? i was excited to stand the entire concerts (with ice cream breaks during intermission, which i have not seen in canada! or states!) with the crazy enthusiasts- as it meant that what we do as musicians do matter, and that with such close-to-blind-dedication, the state of arts in general society isnt as bleak as we (the classical musicians, who now have to share our pot with other musicians- jazz, rock, hiphop, trance, you name it) often like to cry about.

yes, the bread is now spread along larger group of people with so much more diverse interests.  the great days of patronage and cushy unionized ensemble gigs may be far gone but things do change- (millions who occupy now empty historical textile or mining towns of any G20 countries, or even recently, the auto factory workers of north america, would agree, surely) and unlike bolts of cotton textiles, culture, though it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly, does matter. yaaay.

though with such enthusiasm, there can be a disaster or two.  or even gross misrepresentations. bad presentations-yes (the rachmaninoff prom featured a particular russian soprano who was compared to a vibraslap, thanks to her comical phrasing and vibratos wide enough to drive a train through. though you had to see her side-cutout-diamante-jeweled-breasted dress, complete with waving gesture for the public which could make the queen blush) (none of us could figure out how she got there.  the guardian described her as 'astonishing' and i dully agree... perhaps she had a rough night?).

the hot potato in my mind after last night's prom is even more amusing, as one of my favorite violin concertos, brahms, took the centre stage, but with... a pianist.  yep.

when i first saw the program, i wondered why my education have neglected to inform me about brahms third piano concerto.  i felt zipped. cheated. fooled.  i only have a phd in the damned solo piano.

well, mr lazic, the pianist, apparently couldnt help it but to arrange the concerto for piano and orchestra.  so there it was. his reasoning was that since brahms composed from piano and the parts were then consulted by his dear mate joachim, the composition essentially can be reverted back to piano music, with enough merit to be taken seriously.  okay mate. i can see your point.  as he points out, few great works, such as numerous bach and vivaldi string/wind concerti exists also for another instrument, notably, for the keyboard.

i really tried to not to think 'how it could be' till he started to play (after that lovely introductions from the orchestra). i thought this was hard. till. i realized.

shit. i better not fall over laughing on the floor during the concert.

now,
that's effort.

i think there's something innate about herculean struggle (well, closer to man than god i suppose) in brahms' music in general. often it's too big, too loud, too soft, too many sharps/flats, too long, too many repeats, too f*$*ing difficult- it's music that requires more than what one would give 'nicely and willingly.' all musicians that i know struggle on regular basis with brahms. difficult man. it's just like the way he treated the women he loved (clara schumann being an exception, of course)- just like a little kid, he would pick on her, be rude to her, ignore her, hoping that she would pout and pay attention to him. and why should we be expected to be treated any better, haha!

and then he (rarely) rewards the musicians with this incredible contact with humanity (now i sound really frilly and dodgy, but it's true...)  and all good things about being a simple human being- with emotions, feelings, history, state of being (though you may be close to cursing than smiling, sipping tea while playing brahms) and thoughts into the future, of course.

to believe me, you only have to check out szeryng doing the brahms concerto 1st mvt, at 8:27, he is a monster with that triple stop business. i mean... anyways, if that have tickled your interest, also feel free to check out the third mvt, which has more difficulties than juggling fire acts on unicycle, with stilts on, while saving babies from drowning.
http://youtu.be/OlIEbBcXT_U
http://youtu.be/lB0UeWKRpLg

see the problem was that by sitting on the piano instead of standing stout with violin (and keeping brhams' orchestral parts, i think this may not be based purely on artistic vision, but to make this 'thing' more accessible to conventional orchestra so he can go and get more contracts),  the initially great concerto became a grande comic caricature a la chopsticks for intermediate level pianist.

i am not into pushing difficult music as better music. for your info, i am a great fan of 'white' music of arvo part and i do enjoy simple things such as 'clapping music' of reich.  dang. i think bach inventions (of two simple melodies, one for each hands of the keyboard player), which all pianists learn as kiddies, are the one of the best things ever written in the world.

i do have a problem with taking a 'heroic' piece and watering it down to cocktail muzak.  double and triple stops on a violin is fiendishly difficult. in fact, joachim, the killer popstar of the violin of his day, writing to brahms, urging to change the solo part (due to difficulty) says one thing: this is no small fry.

playing two and three notes on a piano simultaneously isnt all that impressive- i mean, i bet everyone who's by a piano can strike out couple bars of chopsticks, one finger per hand, no problem.  so there goes the spirit of the piece.  it's like dumbing down picasso's blue period painting into a single blue colour patch from a paint shop.  surely one could do but one wouldnt expect an acknowledgement of certain nature? (most likely people would love you for your sense of humour at this point.  'johnny's very clever, haha.')

in addition to sucking the life out of the solo violin part by reducing it to a kindergarten music exercise, the 'adaptations' were very pale efforts to reflect anything brahmsian, i thought- in fact, more chopinesque than anything (and they dont share much idiomatic similarities in piano writing).  then by filling out the piano parts with filigree in conjunction to the original orchestra parts, it just sounded like a reduction- how do i know? well, that's my day job. i play one-man orchestra for instrumentalists at universities and music schools.  my job is to reduce the orchestral parts into two-hands job (with one-monkey-paycheque).  at least he couldve made the adjustment to the orchestral parts (but you see, then it makes it 'less accessible' to the conventional orchestra, which results in 'fewer' contracts, possibly.)

but i still have to support (and do) the idea of new things and innovative spirits.  in fact, it is inevitable that a good thing will always be tinkered with, as it already possesses great quality and that attracts AND inspire mere mortals, like us. and mr. lazic.  i do get to play wonderful music, some of the best stuff from the entire western civilization- i mean, who am i to play mozart? but of course, music needs to be played and listened, to be enjoyed and even little punters like i can experience great joy in it. that's what makes great things great.

*seriously, i know. i am making some horrid noise on the violin since i have received one last week.  it's a funny thing to think that the satisfaction of gaudi designing sagrada familia may be the same human emotion as me playing one round of 'little brown jug' without making my friends runaway in frenzy.

but because it is a share thing, this artistic expression, one must be responsible for it. put your name on it, especially if you are going to insist on its existence and its relevance to the world.

this work is no brahms piano concerto no. 3.  at best, it may be called 'piano adaptation by mr. lazic of brahms violin concerto, with original orchestration.'  it's very naughty thing for him to take someone else's last name.  i bet mr. lazic senior may even be a bit pissed (would he start to question mr lazic's mother and look up her diaries in effort to find a dashing man with last name brahms? well, i think it's a certain possibility... one knows one's mother for sure, but fathers- hehe.)

though i may be mistaken for mr. lazic's sincere enthusiasm, the situation makes it difficult to avoid the sense of false modesty.  after all, those fiddle/keyboard concerti of bach and vivaldi were done by bach and vivaldi, not mr. jones or... mr. lazic. so we do say '- by bach/vivaldi,' for both versions.  if it's done by a punter or an enthusiast, we do put the names of the one who is responsible.  just to clarify.  it's a similar case to mahler 10- mahler died before finishing it and so someone else 'finished' it for him. and we arent talking couple bars- we are talking majority of the work being done by someone else, and rightly so, some conductors wont touch the symphony, though they do conduct the adagio of the first mvt, which was completed by mahler.  also mozart's requiem- do look it up, mozart died and sussmayr kindly completed the work, conveniently losing the 'sketches'which he worked from. urr...

look, if one didnt know about the violin concerto and its character, i think it was 'okay' music. the arena promers clapped in enthusiasm.  who am i to say that their enjoyment is invalid because the adaption has lost the spirit of its model and that wrong last name was put on the credit?  i am not concerned about that. heck, not every work presented in proms can be great (case and point to the russian soprano), and it does not needs be.

but i do think if one is so involved and attached to one's work, they should owe up to it. including giving an appropriate title.  if you arent brahms, you shouldnt sign it brahms.  i am a bit lost to think what to think of mr. lazic's effort. but perhaps his first piano concerto in work would redeem his shortcomings- whether it be artistic one or a simple inability to connect appropriate objects and ideas, like putting square pegs in square hole. it's amazing what one may remember from the proms concerts.  feel free to leave your two cents! much love to all of us, all different yet simple human beings- curious, opinionated and alive.  long-live-humanity!

10.8.11

organic cereals and london burning

tuesday 9 aug 2011, fire on property, surrey (lewis whyld/PA) 
when i first went off to live on my own, i remember being rather surprised that many people of my age (late teens) didnt know manage practical aspects of life.  never mind cooking actually, they were clueless to go to a real shop, where unprocessed vegetables (with dirts) and meats (with head and feet, etc) sit on the shelves and fridges, waiting to come home and celebrate their lives by becoming beautiful and nourishing food.  many of my friends flocked to the conventional north american supermarkets, where everything has been packaged in plastics and boxes, with many stickers and labels to qualify themselves as food items.  often they talked of buying a plastic tray of (biologically engineered, massive) chicken breasts, however being still bit queasy about the idea of touching dead flesh and eating 'meat' whilst munching on frozen organic dinners.  somehow, their food wasnt related to food matters, furthermore, their food also consisted of food that claimed to be something different than what they are.

i remember being completely confused by people who would bring their coats and jackets with missing buttons, asking for 'alterations,' to reattach the buttons.  or friends who didnt realize that putting more laundry detergent does not give you cleaner clothes but rather suddy ones.  

almost religious stance with buying organic cotton clothings that traveled across the oceans several times rather than buying a second hand clothing because it created less damage to the world.

replacing still-working televisions and fridges (though dated) to brand-new energy saving models and calling the removal service to trash their old things.

insisting on driving to organic farm to get the 'clean, pollution-free ' steaks, not realizing that dinner of a good beef steak just doubled their crude oil consumption.  

buying fresh organic 'wild' green mix instead of local fiddly lowly cabbage? very often one picks up the pkg without realizing that it couldve traveled across the continent to get to the consumer.  which is worse? no one knows.

recently i was rather amused by a very strongly positive comment on organic certified breakfast cereal.  gluten-free and certified organic! must be great and tasty! i wondered if one have taken a look at 'who' these organic companies are operated by, as often they are subsidiary of larger industry giants.  not to mention the amo of processing that went into compensate for loss of gluten (would you rather have naturally occuring wheat protein or added xanthan gum and cornstarch? i think it's a tough one, unless you actually have gluten allergy, not you 'think' you do...) about the industry costs of processing and refining gum and cornstarch? ouch, head...

getting coached to wash clothes often with enviro-friendly soap by an enviro-nazi is another funny one.  bit of dirt never killed anyone but have they looked into how much resources are required for each washing and drying?  i think repeating a shirt couple times is really alright, unless you sweated self through the shirt. a common sense would dictate a good test with someone else's nose (if you can find a willing dude)...

of being confronted by PETA as they chew on silently screaming, still-live carrots, which i find hilarious.

looking for organic stuff while nearby shop stocks things directly from local farms- though they still cannot afford to pay the organic-certification governing body (it could cost up to 2000 USD/yr for independent producers) also creates an interesting issue: what does one buy with what kinds of decision making?

i am splitting hairs, really. i have no rights or status to criticize or condemn others of their actions.  at certain point, i tell myself: well, at least they are making efforts.

but does it really add up to something that is better, at the final sum? i am not so sure.

with all these things in mind, i wonder where we have slipped as a society. we now have citizens who holds rigid value system, often mashed and interwoven with artificial frame of moral values- as result of confusion of two similar-looking yet different words: co-existence and co-dependence.

uk is burning at the moment with silly riots. silly in a sense that the rioters are mainly into causing mayhem rather than proving a point (if any).  it's bunch of angry children out having a 'good time' by smashing shops and taking things.  of course, the seed of it all was supposedly well-intended and violence-free, organized protest.  but once the windows broke, the flame spread. from london to everywhere- liverpool, manchester, birmingham, you name it.

i think these things are all quite closely related.  with very simple explanation.  we are forgetting to contextualize and see the 'real value' of things. the rioters are looting, grinning with their five new pairs of new runners, though making a gross stereotypical judgement, none of them are likely to go for a run for health reasons.  because they arent able to see any value in their lives or themselves, it does make it a 'good time' to go smash windows and take things, which adds instant values (which are then just as easily lost within couple weeks).  we are convinced by the 'media' to look for labels and qualifiers, to rely heavily on some private governing bodies to provide us with 'quality' products (hence give us 'quality) and easily associate feelings of superiority with our actions (though in real life, all we are doing is to buy more exclusive, expensive products with not much difference, unless, of course, one had taken a good look at the value of the product where one can be happy with- which is a bit different than buying the 'happiness' and 'satisfaction.')  

it is so easy to adopt labels and values presented by others. there simply isnt enough time or mental power to set a contextualized values for every aspects of life. one would simply not be able to get on with anything. so we all pick a few important points, so it would make enough sense, to give oneself enough satisfaction and self-worth to continue on a bit further.  and to remember that for every single decisions that took efforts, one have decided to forego other issues. even if just for now.  

a life that is worth the time requires time. and a satisfaction is usually not restricted to a tight boundaries, which is amusing and amazing at the same time.  and no, i dont know of anyone who would become genuinely happy with new free television.  i do understand that i tend to be surrounded by particular breeds of people (ie. university educated, arts-sympathetic, etc.) and that there are loads of people who are so far from who i am.  and i chew on the fact that by the end of the day, i am nothing better or worse. we all strive for the same sets of emotions, though the context of those emotions may vary greatly and the means to achieve them in even greater variations- whether it is through looting or consuming globally traded organic food.  

and boy it is a lucky thing that everyone can be so different, as there could be nothing left to enjoy if we were all the same.  though, today, i feel rather mixed bag of emotions for the people whose lives have became cheap and/or simple (cheap enough to be reprimanded through simple action of purchase or looting) and wonder how one may restructure one's value systems and ethics to be at peace.

for what it's worth, here's bits and pieces of monkey love to the world.  as a poor monkey with minimal material possession, i think offering of affection is pretty kick-ass. unless, of course, you can buy me stuff. especially if it is carbon neutral and organic.