thanks for sorries, now where are the answers, UPS?

woman writing a letter by gerard ter borch II

-following the last email from me, about how they did not read my response as they calmly suggest that package can be picked up now while ive been telling them i will be away for a month from the beginning:
correspondence 1:
Dear (monkey)
Thank you for your additional comments.

I have processed your package for return since you have stated that you are out of town for a month and will not be able to collect it. I am sorry that I missed this detail in my previous response.

If you would like to have 3 delivery attempts on your shipments, I would recommend that you request "Adult
Signature Required" on your future shipments. Adult Signature Required shipments are not redirected to our
Alternate Delivery Locations (ADL) and will receive all 3 delivery attempts.

If the delivery driver does not have access into your apartment building, then he has no choice but to leave
the delivery notice at the front lobby. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that other tenants in your building will not remove the notice. UPS provides our customer with a tracking number so they can monitor their shipments online at www.ups.ca and receive up to date information on their package progress.

I sincerely apologize for the problems you have experienced with this shipment. I have forwarded your e-mail to my Management Team for further review. If we may assist you in the future, please don't hesitate
to contact us. Thanks

then a follow up from customer service team leader,
correspondence 2:
Dear (monkey),

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. I definitely understand your frustration in only receiving one delivery attempt when you are expecting three attempts. Our practice of delivering residential
packages to a nearby UPS Store or UPS Collection Point is intended to be a safer and more convenient way for individuals to receive their residential deliveries. That being said, I believe that there is always room to improve, so I have forwarded your feedback to our Processes and Procedures Department for future consideration.

After researching the details of your inquiry and reviewing your shipment progress, I see that the delivery process was not as seamless as it should have been. For that, I am truly sorry.

You have advised us that the driver did not make an effort to contact you or your housemate when the first
delivery attempt was made on 11/22/12, and you were not able to locate an Infonotice. In addition, I see that your package was delivered to The UPS Store on 11/22/12, but was only scanned as being available for pick up on 12/03/12. I have brought the details of these service failures to the attention of our Operations Manager at the center in your area to be reviewed and corrected for future.

If I can assist you further, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks

my piece of mind,
correspondence 3:

dear (team leader),

i sincerely hope that your report of this case to the appropriate personnel will result in positive change for UPS and its customers.

i still have questions regarding this particular case. when amazon.ca have authorized this contract, is it a service that specifies 'single delivery attempt' instead of the usual three, meaning that it actually is a different contract altogether? what exactly is the service that was authorized for this particular delivery and how does it differ from the normal UPS residential delivery with three-deliver-attempts? what is the cost difference between the two services? my logic says it must be a cheaper service, as to charge the same price for these contrasting practices would be unethical.

i have spoken to others in toronto who did say that their local UPS drivers do make three-delivery attempts before transferring it to 'pick up service.'  so if my local UPS is only providing single delivery attempt to ease the load while charging the same for other residential areas which receives three-delivery attempt, this is unfair.

what is your answer to this? if it is the same charge for the two different areas with two different protocols, who makes that decision and how is it justified to the customers? does amazon.ca know that you are providing this limited and partial service? did they knowingly agree to it?

if both companies have understood that UPS will be only making a single delivery attempt, how am i suppose to know that i am subjected to this limited service practice? there is no information on the web log of
either companies that makes this difference detectable for me at all.  if you are providing an unusual service than the norm, would not be responsible to let the recipient know?

this is why i think single-attempt-delivery is a failure in logistics at present. there is no way to guarantee that your notice will actually get to the recipient, as it never got to me. also, having found the last log info on UPS site, which states that the package has been 'delivered' and 'signed for' only adds more confusion as it simply did not happen. how are you to change the format to notify the recipient where the package actually is, rather than making it impossible to find out, until one has to go through the painfully slow and inefficient call centre agents?

and i would like to be given an answer to WHAT HAPPENED during the silent time between 11/21/12 to 12/03/12.  i think as you will be investigating the case anyhow, i am at least owed an explanation.

i am forwarding this information to amazon.ca as well so that they are clear about how/what we are communicating (about), and i can only hope that UPS is not going to be another global commerce tyrant and try to bury this case under the silence,

looking forward for your reply/answers, monkey


reassurance of UPS?

following up with UPS is fun i think...
the latest on the UPS adventure!

UPS Reply:
Thank you for providing the requested tracking number. 
UPS is enhancing its residential delivery process to better serve our customers and keep your package safe. Picking up your package from a UPS Store or UPS Collection Point provides flexibility and convenience for you instead of having to make alternate arrangements or waiting for a UPS driver.
Your package is readily available for pick up at the following address: (a depot in toronto)
You will require a government issued picture ID and one of the following: 
- Information notice number 
- Postcard number 
- Tracking number 

(i dont have your notice ticket. you really didnt read my complaints.)

I sincerely apologize for the problems you have experienced with the shipment and the inconvenience this has caused. Your frustration is understandable.

If we may assist you in the future, please don't hesitate to contact us. Thanks,  UPS

Monkey Reply:
dear UPS,
you state that my package is ready for pick up now, which makes it very clear for me that you have not read any of my feed backs.

i do not really understand how UPS is attempting to improve its services when you actually no longer attempts to deliver the packages, rather asking the recipients to come to you to pick it up. in this case, i believe your company misrepresents itself as a courier company. you are depot/pick-up service provider.  in fact, UPS, by doing so, clearly states to me that it is no longer interested in providing adequate services with reasonable staffing, hence forcing the customers to comply with limited and cut-back services.  

if the building is too busy to accommodate properly, that should be dealt internally by increasing the manpower required to provide proper service. refusing to do so and making customers an active part of your solution is  bad business philosophy i believe.  doing it in silence (as you seem to be doing) is even more problematic. what is your actual policy? why cant i find it or why cant you send me that?

and i am frustrated that none of the correspondences/communications through email and calls have explained the case of 'lost' information ticket. what is the current practice? 

where does the driver leave the tickets? what is the reason for not leaving the tickets on the door but on the lobby, which makes it impossible to believe that the driver even bothered to come up to the final destination?  where was my ticket left? 

what is the procedure to compensate for 'lost tickets' that are left in neglect in public areas of big residential buildings such as mine- as i see no effort from UPS to follow up on the notification to recipient process, which means the 'lost tickets' become customer's problems, hence letting UPS to recast the blame to the customers rather than owing up to malpractice.

now, lets get back to this particular case.  i think you must be rather lax in your readings of my complaints.  i did clearly explain that i was leaving to europe on weekened, hence sacrificing the entire day to a package that was promised to be delivered to the end of the day.  

i am now in england and therefore, i am not able to pick the package as you suggests, as the most convenient solution.  this kind of replies are prone to make people sarcastic.  did you read my reply?  if so, what made you think that i am able to come down and pick up my parcel?  are you suggesting that i leave my government-issued ID with another to pick up a simple package from you hence going without it for a month?  would you do that?

since you so freely offer to follow up further complaints, i am requesting my second complaint, which you attempted to answer and have failed spectacularly, to be followed up by the next level manager, as clearly, i have to believe you have done your best at this point, which is not solving the initial problem, but to add another:  the lack of care or lack of reading comprehension skills of the workers of UPS.  

i think this is important issue to be discussed for the company, as communication skills should be the foremost important skill along with understanding of procedures and company policies to actually answer the questions that has been asked. somehow, you have managed to not answer any questions but to add more.

regarding your apology, i am assuming that there will be another one due for me, as of last email, you have managed to reveal another problem of UPS: inept workers and/or subpar quality of work.  or please do feel free to explain what the apology is for- is it really for me? for what?

so please, do send my reply to the appropriate personnel, i will be forwarding this entire thread to amazon.ca today, in hope that may be you will answer them as you are not answering  me at all.

what a waste of time, thanks for reply which is not a reply. it is a statement or notification, if this confuses you, i suggest you look up the definitions in traditional scholarly dictionaries. these are now widely available online for free.

looking forward to hear back from you, and i hope you can answer my questions and accusations.


you asked for it UPS

1. why did you send an email? -something else

if some other reason, what was the nature of your inquiry?-initial inquiry was to resolve the situation of un-notified and undelivered package that has been on hold in local depot centre since 21 november 2012.

i have given up on trying to get my package delivered, as i am leaving town today for a month. i lost a day's worth of work as i had to cancel the day to receive this package, as it contains a christmas gift for an important person in my life. however, it wont be here by the time depart to england.
the customer support service is atrocious as call agents clearly expressed lack of authority or control over actual execution over the solutions they provide over the phone.

the fact this particular building getting only 1 delivery attempt in comparison to the usual 3 attempts is unacceptable and ethically wrong, as the senders still pay 100% cost for maximum 33% of service expected.  and that this knowledge is held in silence and has not been disclosed to the building residents. this info has been given over the phone through the agent.

2. (i was a receiver)

3. you found it easy to interact wit UPS? -strongly disagree
-i never got the notification sticker on my door, which is likely to been left at the lobby; i do not understand why the sticker would be left at the lobby if the driver actually have came up to my unit as the lobby is a busy place and with traffic, such things may be lost easily.  rarely couriers leave the stickers on the individual's door, which makes it more likely for the notice to be delivered.

since there is no logical explanation to 'leaving it in lobby,' except not being able to get through the lobby to residential area through locked door. however, the buzzer is linked to my housemate's cell phone and there has been no record of anyone calling through the buzzer on assumed day of delivery.

and UPS call centre agents give misinformation, partial information; even at a call centre manager level, he wasnt able to give any satisfactory answers to my complaints/inquiry.

4. UPS was able to satisfy your request? - strongly disagree-nothing was delivered, so no.
and given false promise for 'morning' delivery, i lost morning's work.

in addition, having to wait till 7pm (the 'end of the day'), i had to cancel rest of my work, which is unacceptable.
and it did not get here. the time that i spent on contacting UPS and amazon is also a waste of time as there is no result to speak of, except personal frustration and missing parcel.

5. it was a pleasure to interacvt with UPS representative? - strongly disagree-the only answer that was consistent over the phone was :'there is nothing i could do.'
this is the kind of support you provide to a conflicted situation? it's not a support but an evasion of responsibility.

also, the idea that 'items are held at depot for your convenience' is disagreeable.
UPS makes single delivery attempt because this is busy area- once again, only 33% of the service is provided to residents of this building.  this is unfair and unethical.

you are a courier company, not a local depot/pick up service. if you lack the logistics/manpower to properly handle the volume of service required in this area, clearly the company is skimping on proper staffing.

6. Based upon your interaction today, how likely are you to recommend UPS to a colleague or friend? -strongly disagree
-i am so appalled with the situation, i have published my frustration on personal blog. i am considering a campaign in my building to veto UPS until a clear and just change is made to fix the current problem.

7.  If every interaction with UPS was like this one and your shipping needs remained the same, will you desire to use UPS decrease, stay the same, or increase? - decrease
-are you joking?

8. Please provide any additional feedback or comments about your experience.


piece of mind for UPS

the other day, i found this incredible recording of ian bostridge/julian drake doing winterreise music video. so i bought it. apparently it was supposed to come through canada post and it did so in just three days. except, i never got it.

the building post box was not being used because canada post was going through 'equipment change,' though i unfortunately heard postie talking to management about one of them losing keys to the mail room. sigh. so we had no mail delivered (only pick up in middle-no-where-cherry-beach, which take 15 min cab ride and no direct public transit there) and i can only assume it got lost in the pile of things as it never showed up here and postie said there was nothing there at the depot.

so amazon decided to redeliver using UPS.  i wasnt informed of it, so i assumed it was coming through canada post again.

so yesterday, i decided to look up the order and see what quackery was on.  well,apparently it has been delivered. to blaine. who the heck is blaine? it certainly aint my name.

amazon offers to cancel the order and refund the money.
meanwhile on chat, decided to call UPS.

UPS says driver went to deliver, no one was home, left sticky and that means you come pick it up in lakeshore.  that's what 'blaine' signature means.  i say i was home on that day in midday. no one knocked. no sticky was found anywhere. and i aint blaine.

this building with 34 floors, often afternoon courier delivery men who are getting tired with the day, does not wait for the elevator.  yes, elevators are slow and it's incredibly busy as one is now on 'service.'  so they often look at the line up for elevators, then just put stickies on the lobby and leave with package.  rarely, they will actually come up and leave a sticky on the recipient's door. this is how you tell at this building that they actually did come up.  if they did come up, why leave the stickies at the lobby?

with foot traffic, these stickies are often lost to oblivion. so no way to really assure that you even get that notice, unless they did come up and leave the sticky on your door.  hence, no sticky on my door, UPS man was being 'smart' that afternoon.

UPS help line then says: oops sorry. you can pick it up. i say no way. you arent charity. you are paid to deliver things. you neglect customers in this building by only attempting one delivery (contrast to the usual three), worse, you dont even make sure the notice gets to appropriate people.  not my problem your system isnt working. you get it to me tomorrow as i leave on sunday.  after much discussion on 'your company must try to meet the minimum standard regarding your contract,' of 25 min, lady says it'll be delivered by noon tomorrow, after learning i travel to europe in two days.

12:45pm, no goods. i call UPS, through number i found on canadian site. gets redirected as it's US system of UPS. asked why it's on canadian site then. they say it's just a structure. waste 2 min on waiting. gets to canadian agent. retell story again. her solution is to 'wait,' ask for the manager. wait 3 min on line.

manager takes the call and says there's nothing non-ordinary and that even when agent may request morning delivery, the drivers may not make it because of their routing.  shits hit the fan.

1. why are your agent telling partial information? she said it'll be there by noon. you say it CAN be there by noon, but not guaranteed. so why did she neglect to tell me that? so i am wasting the whole day here at your mercy?
"well that was mis-information. i am sorry"
but not sorry enough to do anything about it.

2. how do i even know the driver made an attempt to deliver the pkg? because your log says so? how do you explain lack of sticky then? that's what started this whole fiasco.
"there's nothing we can do to assure you"
of course not, you arent even assured.

3. why is this building only get one-shot delivery? you do three-attempts for others.
"it's a busy area."
you arent charging any less? discriminating based on traffic to maximize your profit? at cost of all the people who live in 34 floors of this place? nice.

4. you make no efforts to see if your driver actually communicated with receivers?
"that's what we do with post-it notes"
okay. well, why wasnt it on my door? im sure on one's trying to make me pop a vein by taking my UPS stickies off my door. i am forced to think your driver wanted early day off.  and you make no effort to follow up afterward? yeah, that's right, you do not care. though you know how to pronounce 'im sorry.'  if i had no sticky, how the heck am i supposed to know that you are holding onto my pkg? yeah, well, in 10+ business days you held to my pkg, you did not bother to let me know the second time. in normal areas, you would have made at least two more attempts. way to be unfair.

5. what do you want me to do now?
"i cant tell you to stay until 7pm, that's what's considered 'daytime.'"
right. so let me ask you, the only way to assure that i get this pkg is to stay till 7pm
"yes, and i am sorry."
no you arent. you may feel sorry for yourself now though.

6. how do i register my complaints?
"i would register the complaints internally to the local depot and the call agent."
i trust you how? you represent UPS, i cant!

7. what do you mean all the complaints are dealt internally with no feedback to customers or based on specific cases/requests? then how do i know that you will actually register my complaints?
"you should trust that i will."
 dude, you guys proudly put it on web that my name's blaine and i signed for my package. i dont think so.

8. it's impossible to tell you why this matters.  not only you are not fulfilling the contract between you and amazon, you fail to provide that minimal service you do for this building resident, which is 67% less work for you at 100% charge- unfair.  i have no trust in the company, because your internal systems does not work from what i have experience and since you arent transparent to customers, my only option is to trust you to be inept, lazy and only profit oriented.  and your call agents are not doing their job properly nor the drivers. so how should i believe you?

9. if you care, i hope you will actually register my concerns to your company. i cant help but to think you will completely disregard this conversation, swear about me once the conversation is over to your colleague, and send a meagre email notice to the local office to register a token complaint, and call it a job done.

but we, the customers depend on you to complete your contracts, as this is not charity and we paid for it.  your name is on it, along with company name. you do have an obligation.  and if the ethos of the company is to 'deliver joy,' clearly you are to care for your business (as shown on your homepage) or is UPS just lying to sell services that it has no interest of providing?

i cant force you, of course, you say you are sorry. well, i dont need you to be sorry. but if you are to do your job, you will communicate my points to your company internally. i will never know and i wont trust you, because of what have happened. so this is the end of conversation, i cannot thank you for the time, since all interactions with UPS seems that you are in practice of total disregard for customers as human beings but series of contracts, i can only wish that you will at least fulfill your job requirement.  good day.
"...thanks for your concern."

total call length yesterday: 21 min, today: 43 min. he did sound sorry by now though. he certainly wasnt at the beginning of the conversation. he was keep saying 'what do you want me to do?' which i kept replying 'well, what does your job require you to do at this point?'  crazy. poor dude. i may have beat him up but it's not personal. im merely asking them to do their job. this is not charity.

and now i wait.
till the driver shows up.
a day of frustration.

and yes, i just sent this blog link to UPS canada.
they prob wont care. but they should at least be informed.


the latest project, fat gurl wanna be rock star: lost-then-found music for piano and bassoon, came to life this afternoon.  the idea of trash was intriguing from the get-go and now that the concert has happened, it is easy to simply discard the experience, hence producing more trash. however, in spirit of true dumpster diver, when the time is right (after the dust has settled), i am going to revisit and re-evaluate this rich experience. YES.

for now, today was the day one of the rock star journey.  it went with the usual unexpected surprises (including a runaway page of the saint-saens. nutty. just like the composer himself, who one day just left his wife without saying a word and disappeared in midst of vacation... i suppose i will never ever let that happen again), trying out new things (somewhat cumbersome learning curve for live streaming) and trying to befriend an unknown stranger yet (a very distinctively voiced, somewhat full-on steinway piano with that occasional display of resonant, beautiful sound- promising, enticing and teasing).

and yes, friends and audience who loved every bit of the long program (somehow it grew and grew; bit of good trimming never hurt anyone, will look into this) and a space that was filled with unusual ideas and timbres- we rented gallery 345 at sorauren avenue and at our initial contact with mr. e, the owner/curator, full of enthusiasm and curiosity (yes, to point of intriguing and charming eccentricity), though he has heard bassoon recitals, i dont think he was expecting such a full-on in-your-face-punk-bassoon that resonated the space.  and i can only hope he was pleasantly surprised.

this is one of the very few projects of recent where i was integrated from conception to first performance.  i am still pushing on with a small self-directed recording project, but since it's largely solo journey, it's much simpler and i am quite used to it- almost comforting, like extension of a practice room, where one is learning constantly about oneself and coming to accept self at the given present- while keeping the eye on possibilities and reality.  but working with the heron lady, who has been itching to try out something different (ex. bassoon rockstar lady), my conception of a program (the usual academia/classical concert hall presentation with standard repertoire and traditional values) has been stretched further-

rather than worrying whether it may come through or not, i tried to 'give it a shot,' composing simple chains of images taken from our daily lives, loosely connect the pieces, shape the pieces in a structure that reflects more than time-line or difficulty levels (we tried my favorite format, where a prog begins from silence to very quiet and still music, which returns back to the end, where it comes to the point of quiet to silence, a circle; i think it did work this afernoon. would love to hear about it!)-

of course, like every performance, there are things that went beyond my expectations and there are things that will evolve.  however, the most important thought about this no. 1 concert of many to come (i hope), is that we, heron lady and i, are able to converse, construct, cast and communicate ideas- ideas that were accepted and appreciated by our supportive audience, not only because they love us but because it resonated with them somehow...

the magic will become apparent in couple days when things settle.

ah. beautiful afternoon.
i feel curious and curioser.
life is worth living and yes, i am dreaming of events.
especially in that malleable space of gallery 345.
i want to fill it with energy and thoughts,
questions and provocations,
acceptance with opinions and disagreements,
to live and to speak and to listen.

thank you world, for giving me the space to be a musician.
thanks, blue heron lady.
thanks to all support staff.
let's do it all over again!


demo sessions 4: time management

so youve finalized the rep. has timeline for due dates. secured your staff. and now: time management.

try to figure out what you would need and may 'want,' and by that, think about the order of the asked playing samples. you want to put the strongest one on the beginning, as the schools receives mountains of cds, there's no guarantee that they will listen to all of it. well, i suppose there's a guarantee that they will NOT listen to all of it, haha.  so though it may be possible for the auditioner(s) to move around and listen to things out of order, it is likely that they will pop it in and it'll start blaring whatever's on first.  also, the other point is that look into your weakest piece- this is the one that you may want to take multiple takes of.  save some time for it.

here's a news. to record an hour of music, it usually takes 2+ hours.  how does that work? well, first, depending on the familiarity with space/acoustic, you and your engineer will have to play around for a bit to find the optimal space. this is worth the time especially if you are doing your 'own' with consumer level electronics.  this set-up can take anywhere from 10 min to half hour.  if not sure, play a bit, record and listen to it before you commit the entire session with the setup.

and between takes, you will want to stop and discuss/review and determine what can be fixed and what should be embraced (aha. your producer would be useful here).  try not to dwell too much on the discussion, however, it will take time.  for instance, if you are recording a song as a vocalist and your song is about 2 min long, do realize your discussion with pianist may take longer than 2 min.  more number of selections there are, more time it will need for in-between-things.

and there's no way that people feel fresh enough to plow through a session unless one is already experienced.  do realize that mental pressure of 'demo' making will take some toll on self. you may need drink of water or time to cool down for the next track.  and no, this is separate from the discussion time.  it is safe to assume that a typical audition cd (3 instrumental selections and couple excerpts) will take 2 hours or longer usually.  do try to make a time sheet- allocate chunks of time to each track and do make consideration for possible take 2, 3, 4..., along with the previously mentioned breaks and discussions, dont forget the setup time either.  this will give you a very realistic timeline of a session.

do realize that after the raw takes are made, engineer will spend additional time to cut, trim, save and burn your material in required form.  for straight trimming/tailing/burning, it usually takes me anywhere between 0.5 hr to... whatevers. so dont make an exciting and dangerous assumption that by the end of session, you will have something that you can put in an envelop to send off.  however, if you are doing real time burning (there are portable CD burners that will do it), this may be possible. check with your engineer.

look over small stuff that you can do in advance to save the time.  one big thing is score-related things. does your score and pianist/collaborators' scores match up? same edition? has same bar number? at least put in some bar numbers or rehearsal numbers, which will save you significant amo of time during discussion and retakes (if applicable).  are they readable?  are silent page turns possible- you can do this by getting someone to turn, or shrink the pages and print multiple in one page to eliminate the turn, whatever you have to do, as falling pages do happen and a track can be... unusable.  if you have photocopies, are they secured in a binder or other things, so it'll be readable and stay put in one place? feel free to bring some tapes. they never hurt anyone.  even better, on that last rehearsal with your team, do some 'practice' takes, and do cut, paste, shrink, print, tape, so that your music is not going to pose additional problems.

if you think you need other things- water, etc., do get it before your session starts. you may not want to be rushed but when that time ticks to the last few min and you still have few things to lay down, you might experience slight anxiety and regret.  a few people also pack energy bars and other fuels, as rec session can be somehow quite draining.  if you need to go out and get a banana in a middle of a session, you will lose time.

remember to turn your phone off. 

do bring a watch or a clock and keep an eye on time AND timeline.

these four posts should carry you for the most basic demo making sessions.
i hope everyone will have a successful demo making experience, and do remember: most likely, you would be doing an early-year demo. this is not representational of who you are and what you do. it's a simple snapshot of who you are now.  if this is for applications, do realize that pre-screening is only a pre-screening. this is not the end or the beginning of the world. it doesnt have to be. and if it is for pre-screen, most schools do not allow edits either, so all you have to do is go out and take couple shots.  relax and be who you are. you dont want to be someone else and the schools dont want to take someone else- they want to see who you are!!

and yeah, dont ever get clever and rip someone else's work off to send in. this has happened in past. once you are caught, it could lead to 'academic dishonesty,' meaning all your post-secondary degrees can be taken away from you, and you could be banned from the entire north american post-secondary educational institutions. and yes, this is retroactive.  

happy recording!


demo sessions 3: find your location!

tumbling dice: the musicians relax int he villa's basement studio.
despite the debauched environment,
exile on main street went onto become
widely viewed as the stone's best album.
however, not a good place if you want to do lieder demo.
from daily mail, 20 may 2010

to find a decent place to do a recording may be surprisingly difficult.  there are more sound around us than we realize. but boy it stings you in the ears when unexpected/unwanted- in the quiet passages, in the grande pause, end of a fleeting cadence, there it is, slamming doors, long-tone exercises, the streetcars...

most of my work happens in three places:
1. faculty of music- WH, vic chapel, FM + other rooms
2. conservatory of music- conservatory theater, mazzolini hall
3. local churches

notice that there is no 'real' studio? well, it's because i tend to do the 'away' events mostly, related to the school events, especially recitals and demo recordings (playing/coaching/rec).  and these locations have one thing in common: decent, real piano and 'friendly' feel to young budding musicians.

yes, many small scale commercial studios wont have a grand piano.  a few may have an upright piano. some will say that an electric keyboard IS an acceptable substitution (try to tell that to a lieder singer...) and hope you will overlook.  this is all fine until you have to do a classical music demo recording.  you want to make a recording that focuses on your playing rather than some ancient mistuning (or lack there of) heard from the piano.  and this is why i highly recommend 'school' facilities to students- as both schools mentioned do have professional staff maintaining the instruments; its visually neutral feel also helps (imagine doing a vid-aud in the backdrop of CNE or a big mega rammstein show... yeah... not the most efficient) along with 'savings' on the wallet. save the big bucks to do a studio recording (with editing), as most demos do not allow (or tries to discourage editing, see previous post).

if you decide to go and rent a studio, do go take a look and do plonk a couple notes. and yes, do ask for the equipment list and referral for the engineer, as pro studios tend to provide engineering services as well.  realize not all studios are design to do high-fi classical demos.  if they provide producers, do ask if they are familiar with classical music/your repertoire.  producers are to twick and fine tune things and this wont happen if they arent familiar with the 'ideals' of the discipline.

dont forget to check if you are comfortable performing in the space as well.  many of students probably have not had the pressure of recording, nevermind in dry 70s- style studios, laden with foams, carpets and even rockwool.  in such space, it will sound weird at first experience: usually awfully dry, horrid and soul-crushing.  this may sound entirely different on the actual tracks laid (an intelligent AI algorithm called reverb can remedy the situation), however, even knowing that, if you are not used to dry space, you may be discouraged too early in the game, hence not getting that max bang per buck.  also, in case of vid-aud, you want the place to be neutral- not a grunge space where you can see previous death metal bands' coffee stains and god-knows-what (the stones did alright though, in such debauchery).

after all this consideration, if you are renting, do ask them for packages/different rates that you may be able to negotiate- single hours are always more than a bulk.  if you are using their piano (which should be at an acceptable playing condition), do ask if they provide a tuning service (there'll be an upcharge). also your local churches may be able to rent you their worship space for a fee. if you been to a church to listen to a noon concert and liked their sound, do call and ask them. why not: the worst answer is: no, we dont.

if you are student, you can always try to book school spaces- this should be made through the appropriate office(s) of the school.  start inquiring- main desk can always direct you to the appropriate personnel. in some schools, they may have open-doored rec facility as well.  if you never learned what's avail, well, time to find out.  two contrasting cases:  at the conservatory, student can book conservatory theater, which as decent acoustic if appropriately recorded.  but if you want to rent walter hall, that'll cost you some pretty penny.

for all the public spaces, do get there early and post signs, big signs: recording in progress, please do not disturb.  the door shutting, next door neighbour practicing, recalling of the bar incidents between friends and roaring laughter- you may not want them in your tracks. and though it sound nutty, do check local events listing. i often have to tell people to look into a different date on the santa parade day.  you laugh but it happens more often than not.  same with st. paddy's parade, gay parade, caribana, veterans's, anything they block the road off and have a ghetto-blasters and marching bands: NO.
unless you are in a sealed room.

and try to pick the least busiest time of the day.  if you are doing a take in boyd neel (one of my go-to rooms for demos in EJ, as it's secluded, spacious, familiar and not connected to too many hallways; geiger torell gets loads noise from staircase/bathroom traffic in 330, you are often interrupted by curious peeps. same with all the other classrooms.  i do like 120, but the piano's often abused.  109 often gets bleeding in noise from office traffic.  130 is also nice if you are used to playing in a dry room.  both 'end' rooms in 2nd floors can be overly resonant and loud, losing details, calibrate accordingly), do not book the hours right before a band rehearsal.  or right after the band rehearsal.  if you are using classrooms, generally avoid the 'working hours,' to avoid people unknowingly ruining what couldve been your best take.

another example of a good space: vic chapel. it sounds great for guitar, flute and voice.  realize that the piano is a bit of a gruffy dog (still nicer than something you may find in a 'pro' studio) and if it's during the time of vic college classes, you will have bleedin'noise.  in the evenings, you will also pick up traffic noise from queen's park circle.  the best time in vic chapel is early early wknd mornings. if there's no parade.

keep your eyes open when you go to a concert in a new place.  ask others around if they know a space that rents for fee, has decent piano (if you need one), has a pleasant visual view (for vid-aud).

and do these searches early! multi-use spaces get quite booked up by november and probably is booked solid for dec, right through holiday.  and always gather a couple of dates among your staff so you dont have to lose the space on desperate circumstances.

next thing: time management (you kinda have to think this before booking a space, oops...)


Kein Aug hat je gespürt, Kein Ohr hat mehr gehört Solche Freude

 no matter how well you thought you know them, the various people in one's life rides the wave of life, each heading to an appropriate yet different direction. in passing and weaving, one may see a familiar one in a particularly beautiful light- the light that enables us to see through the fog of daily mundane life.

suddenly you realize what real life is- or rather, what it can be.

in 2008 ted talk, benjamin zander, at end of it, talks of 'shining eyes,' would we dare walk the same and talk the same, if we remember those shining eyes?

in 2009 banff days, a few very kind, intelligent and gentle souls continued to lit up silent, demanding nights, where i was easily found, wood shedding in studio, early morning hours. felt chased and failing, i relied on these kind souls to fuel self, to take another step- borrowed, or rather, 'fed' hope into blood.

in daily setting, i rely on one of my best friends to keep me grounded, centered and resolved.  he understands that being depressive does not mean that one is in need of a good cry. he doesnt say much. but i know his fists are held in fury when im mistreated. and he quietly sends me off to practice and gym, knowing that is the medicine that keeps me from keeling over.

people talk about over-reliance on social media and internet devices, how we forget to communicate with real people. my phone, however, often bursts with kind words from various people, including a particular minnow, who is willing to take that punch for me, thrown in frustration, quick to retract in embarrassment.   

then there's a quiet friend who i have not seen in a long time, who has nourished me with warm bowl of soup and a lovely note, hiding in the jumble of grad lounge fridge madness when my dental surgery left me a bit pathetic.  

and there's the igniter, who graduated from being a mere book bombing. shy as a wee child at times, he produces magical moments, really, rather shamelessly. and i am often surprised at the vignettes of his life- i can only hope his wings will grow stronger and stronger, to wake the people.  

not to forget about the heron lady, who gracefully acknowledges her whole being, including the strong and the weak bits- and that's how she fly.  herons arent meant to sprint. they are meant to fly.

though not often, there's the mystique writer who creates gossamer thin weave of lovely blanket which he sends occasionally- stories of taichi, leaves and quiet meditation. when i get the chance, i wrap self around with the blanket of words- to quietly sink into a hiding hole.

and many others- including my wee poor momdad and granny, who are like imaginary magical bean stalks, growing through and breaking my boundaries with unexpected answers, demands and love... all these people wakes me in the down deep of the grey sleep.  this autumn has been very difficult and i found it challenging.  

perhaps life does not give a challenge that is too big. may be it is the human weakness of 'die-trying' that breaks us.  i now understand in my 30s that may be i should embrace the things i cannot uphold.  to hold the world, i am not atlas.  i will be crushed to pieces.  but to embrace the world and lean into it, i may get to share the last bit of saving grace.

it's 2am and reno guys will march in at 9am sharp.
i need the sleep but i cannot sleep.
im anxious and i am worried.

so here i am, in surreal space which i cannot tell how it actually exists, i am invoking the real world that i must live in, with bright eyes, with ears that can hear, to wake up from the gripping hand of depression.

it's not impossible.

and i can see it. hear it.

as my friends wake me,

with their gentlest touches.

Das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
Sie wachet und steht eilend auf,
let me rise with you oh the beautiful people.


demo sessions: a bonus sneak preview

so, here is a peek of what the session may look like:

we have: quiet space, well-maintained piano, appropriate instruments and scores.

for visual, zoom recorder will record into a class10 SD card.

for audio, we have AT4050ST, which has two diapragmes/capsules in one casing, so we are still recording stereo.  this mic is connected to mackie 402, which powers it (through turning on 'phantom power' button), and then it will feed to three recorders: zoom, tascam and microtrack (which runs on battery, which will save you in case there is power outage). and you monitor the sound with good headphone (in this case, AKG K240s).

here's a funny thing:
so why is the back up with battery power important? well, if the power goes out, yes, mic will be silent, as mixer will be silent. so we arent recording anymore.  however, because of battery power, microtrack will stay alive, meaning you will be able to save the progress, in contrast to recorders without battery backup, which will simply fizzle and forgot if anything have happened at all.

so if the power goes out NOW, tascam's going to have an amnesia. but zoom and microtrack will give you the option to save.  this can make or break the day.

what you dont see:
gaff tape (always secure your lines so people wont trip. or your machines may fall to ground), spare medias (meaning appropriate things for each recorder: here, we would have compact flash and SD card), if you are going away, you may want a spare mic cable (however, better to test them on regular basis as they are heavy and bulky), sometimes a sandbag (to secure the mic stand), a notepad and pencil/pen.

and you let the session roll. yeah. this kiddie btw, totally killed his list. yeah.

demo sessions: 2. make your war list and call upon your allies

now, let's form a list of repertoire needed:

1. title, movement, composer, year, edition
2. req. staff: do you need accompanist? chamber musicians?
3. TIMING: yes. seriously. how long is it?

if multi-movement works, do timing of each mvt.  by doing this, you can now separate your repertoire into two categories: solo with no accompaniment, music with other people in it.  this is important in case you cannot book a leisurely day-long session; your pianist's probably playing for others as well.  maximize your financial means by getting him/her in only for the things that you actually need him/her.  this also enable you to book separate sessions with your engineer, as he/she's probably not able to book you a nice 3 hours chunks at a time.  more on that later.

now... here's the important thing to consider-
these tapes are usually request for 'pre-screening,' meaning if you PASS, you may be granted a live audition round.

now, why would they ask you to do such crazy things?

well, it's not to make your life miserable, but to actually help you.

by passing through the pre-screening, you are given a soft 'okay,' meaning you are suitably matched with entrance audition requirement.  some schools receive obscene amount of applications and if they were to take everyone who applied, not only it would cost everyone a handsome deal (applicants: hotel, travel, pianist fee; schools: all-inclusive-logistical-nightmare), it would seriously make the live audition to last throughout the entire year.  for reference, jacob school of music, indiana university, has 1600 students.

but you see, passing the pre-screening actually still does not guarantee a placement in actual school.  for grad studies, most land-based institutions are govt subsidized. they will try to pick the best of who they can get.  you may be at the top of their applicant, you may not be. it depends on year, applications (size, quality), available spots in the studios, even on building logistics (renovation, etc.).

if you think 20 edits in 5 min piece will get you an audition spot, yes, it may. but you are unlikely to make it through the live round with that piece (unless you improve drastically).  and some edits are obvious. some are impossible.  this is why more school is asking for DVD/vid-aud tapes.  visual editing is expensive and almost impossible to hide.  so take a note here: if they ask you for visual demo, forget the hope of miraculous editing.

after all, they want to take you, not you through some frankenstein!

now to assemble list of useful allies:

pianist/chamber musicians:
pick the person who you have played with, rehearsed with and happy with.  if youve been working on a difficult sonata with a fellow student, this may be the time hire a professional for the session (if you both are not ready to be recorded yet).  remember, this is your demo; your sonata partner may be ready and roaring in 3 weeks. but if you cant wait that 3 weeks, you may start contacting an accompanist ASAP.  ive seen many sessions crumble into meltdowns because of difficult reductions and/or piano parts.  and realize that pianists are probably busy during these recording/demo/audition/recital times. get in touch early.

if you are going in with your fellow sonata partner, make sure that he/she is also comfortable of being recorded. if this is aud-vid rec, do tell them in ADVANCE so they can dress appropriately. i once did a session with pianist wearing a cafeteria table cloth as she wasnt aware and came up in lovely surfer shorts that was too short for the camera angle...

please dont just take an ad or someone's word.if you have time (and with calendar, you would have MADE the time), try to look through referrals, ask someone you trust for referrals and listen to their samples, or go through school-provided list.  as there are many different type of engineers, they may focus on different issues.  i once had a 'plea' last minute call from a singer who hired an engineer and when he got home at 11pm and listened to it, the recording had no dynamic range... the engineer btw told him that he's focusing on television broadcast (where you need to 'normalize' as much as possible, meaning low dynamic range).  except this was an ADP application to a big brand nyc music school. and because they did it on the possible last day, there was no real time to fix anything *see, mark your due date EARLIER.  you want someone who is familiar and understands 'ideal' sound for classical music (which may not be quite the same with dubstep)

another way is to request list of equipment.
here's a microphone i once saw on an engineer advertisement around school:
now, you say: who hires a 'pro' engineer with that microphone?!

well, im saying when it's written: Sony ECM-DS70P, it doesnt quite look like... that, at least to the general public who havent paid attention yet.  you want to hire someone who has professional level microphone (after all, this is music demo) and who can do 16bits at least (that's CD quality. the usual industry standard is 24bits, which is then reduced down). if you dont know the engineer at all, do ask for the equipment list and do some google searches. you will soon find out who does the 'home style' and who can run with detailed and instruement-appropriate microphones to capture you at your finest.

additionally, MAKE SURE THEY RUN BACKUP.  sometimes equipments fail. power fails. things break. coffee is spilled. one way to prep for it is to run a backup.  the backup unit should have battery-power-back up and should have a separate input line (this can run from the same mixer, however); if you are running the line-in (microphone) directly from main unit to backup unit, if main fails- well, back up will also fail. going through a separate pre-amp/mixer will at least 1. guarantee power to the mic and 2. ensure line-in stays alive.

and bring BACKUP MEDIA. this may be extra CDs (if you are burning it there), or an extra SD card, perhaps a memory stick with more-than-plenty room left in it.  in this case, if your master CD gets sat on by a random dude, you still have another copy.  and with the way things go, rather than having another CD, you have a better chance of storing/finding things digitally through flash-memory stick/cloud computing (dropbox, Adrive, etc)

if you do aud-vid demo, and engineer said they will sync it later, do trust them and do check it before you send it off.  i played in many demos and often by the time i found out from my copy that aud-vid is out-of-sync, the actual application have reached the destination.  of course, they would try to understand this may not be your fault, but do not leave things to grace of others. do check the quality of the work you receive. *once again, helpful to get the stuff done in advance, so you can have couple days if necessary to request re-sync, etc.

well, the opposite view is: it's only a pre-screen!
well, feel free to go ahead and 'practice' recording with your own gears, or explore with friends. this can be a great asset and awesome experience.  and the consumer level recorders such as H2, H4 or the ZOOM series can do amazing things WHEN PLACED OPTIMALLY.  but this also takes a bit of practice- how to position, where to position, how far/close, what kind of room, too loud/too soft, etc, the challenges will creep up. but dont give up! it is possible to do an acceptable demo with self and friends.  and above mic from sony only costs 50-70 dollars, much less than an hour session with a decent engineer... yes, you can LEARN, which is awesome.  but make sure that the final quality is comparable (by the due date).  if everyone wore their best suit to the audition, perhaps you should not show up in your best pajamas...  and if you are tight on time and unsure of the approximated final result- call and engineer if this is the school that you REALLY want to get to.  it's hard for the juries to take a crummy quality recording seriously (just like resume printed in stained papers).

take this one seriously. no one that i know can 1. play, 2. listen and 3. make notes, 4. manage time, 5. be calm and focused on the repertoire.  especially when the pressure may be on for the 'demo' and delivering the best.

as a pianist/chamber musician/producer, i often provide additional support as a producer in a recording session.  the role of this third person is to: simply bring out the best of a session.

this may mean running photocopies, finding tapes, checking editions, making notes during takes, suggest tutti cuts, determining what can be fixed now and what cannot be (which turns to 'what needs fixing' and 'what needs accepting'), if there's future editing plan, where the edits should take place and where to start/finish the retake (many people do retakes on the 'spot' of retake, which means it cannot be spliced without problem.  you need a bit extra on front AND back for successful splice. and depending on the context of music, some spots just cannot be mixed together- pianists: beware of your pedalling, as this often makes editing impossible), and most importantly, time management.

if your engineer is well-versed in your repertoire, please do ask them if they would be the third ear.  for me, it makes the session more interesting. however, it is also useful to not to ask anyone to be the 'producer,' as impractical suggestions (usually due to time/resource constraints) can also destruct a session.  you can also ask your teacher or mentor to be there, if it does not phase you (it often does, believe it or not- think of how your lesson goes; if you play better in lesson, you should consider asking them if they could. if you do feel pressured in your lesson, well, perhaps you should do it without your teacher).

it can even be your colleague or a friend who is IMPARTIAL and RECORDING EXPERIENCED.  the colleague thing can turn into a mini- studio class session, which you do not want.  you dont have time to ponder changes in a studio during a session- the aim is to twick and adjust, not to consider and fancy a change.  so be aware.

but i tell you, having an efficient producer (or in my case, i do my best to do double: rec eng/producer), can really save your sanity during a session.  think about this one carefully, as you can do without, but if you do find the right one... BINGO!

next topic: finding space and estimating time


demo sessions: 1. filling in the days

tis the time of the year where many people face a horrid event: making audition tapes.  well, now a few asks for DVDs/youtube uploads. how times have changed!

if you thought filling out applications were difficult, i am glad, as making a demo should really be a nice experience- difficulty is optional, not required.  however, it does help to prepare oneself to the daunting ask of making a demo. i sat in to play. to accompany. to produce. to record. to boost morales. so here it is, a few tips.

first, figure out who wants what:
each school will have particular requirements for selection of repetoire and preferred format.  read it carefully  and if you are applying to multiple schools, do make a mastersheet:

1. due date for application/upload:
2. school/program/preferred teacher:
3. format requested: CD? DVD? mp3s? youtube?
3. repertoire required:

now that youve made a mastersheet, go get a monthly calendar, print one if you want. start marking the due dates on calendar.  NOW, mark T - 3 business days if the school requires hard copies to be delivered through post/courier.  this is to give yourself a realistic due date to work with.  of course, one can always do international express courier. it hurts to do it though. also, this gives you a bit of room in case things go bats.  we are talking: you getting ill. your musician(s) or technical staff getting ill. flood in the recording space.  forgotten major essay.  prepping the wrong thing.  family emergency. losing your master of recording session. lost score. whatever goes.

the mastersheet and the marked calendar now stays with your music scores/binder/books.  having a hard copy that you can scribble does make a difference.  ready? if you need, do colour coordinate the dates of each school. after all, we can always use some colour.

next: what to record and who do you need??


controversy, hardship- let us be alive, courageous and liberated.

voters line up before dawn at washington mill elemantary school, 
near mount vernon in fairfax county, VA, tuesday, nov 6 2012 
(AP Photo/j. scott applewhite)

12:55am, 07 november 2012.

romney came up the podium and made his speech.

how many ears did it reach? how many hearts did it touch? many.
supporters. oppositions. bystanders.
it was not the victory speech he wrote.
but perhaps this was greater speech than the one he wanted.
to believe in america. to believe in principles. to be a real citizen.

this was one of the ugliest and bloody political battles in recent times (especially for -1.5 years). along with americans, the world watched: people ran from one side to another, swayed and swayed, lost, confused and angered, looking for unreal solutions, fix-alls. pressurized pot of america.

it was campaign season full of frustration and word games, fuelled through data/media processing/manipulation.  it was fought hard, nothing spared, a million commercials in nine states in the last month... it is so easy to lose the sight of the real reason in the holy game of politics- some members of the society becoming borderline unreasonable (in my eyes: the tea party members were memorable, and also herman cain...)

but the real goals-
to improve, to believe, to grow and to mend.

i am not an american. but this election weighed heavily in my mind.  i lived in america for five years, 2003-2008.  as i learned to become an adult, an individual, if inexperienced, in america through my mid-late twenties, it is an integral part of who i am today. though its former glory fades as it lose its grip of the world slowly through recession, international military conflicts and the consequent divisions among its citizens, america will remain to be one of the key players in my own personal and objective international relations.

because of america's role in this global, close-knit world, we will all carry the weight of this decision, though as non-american, most of us from the outside had no choice but only to observe today.

i rooted for obama in my heart.  but that's not as important- in a sense, in such a tight race (and result), it does not really matter who 'won' for now. in fact, i would say no one really won as the population still remain fractured. however,  the most significant news was a simple one:

historical turn-out for the voting day.

even with scar of sandy still fresh, open and bloody.

people waiting for hours,
braving the weather,
personal situations and logistics,
conflicts in beliefs-

they came and voted. yes. this is the real victory.
a society where its citizens are aware (if forced by the difficult circumstances- health, military, equality issues, to name a few), and took the courage to be vocal.

i wished for every voters that they made decisions they really believed in.

that in time to come, whoever wins,
people will remain flexible and aware,
opinionated and to be communicative,
to be responsible,
to not be blinded by quick-solutions,
to commit and believe in power of change an inspiration.

the election results illustrates heavily conflicted country, that all parties need to keep their integrity, having the grace and courage to move away from personal attacks and cheap shots (it does grate my nerves to see people casually calling romney as an idiot, a moron, etc. though i disagree with most of his principles, he is a man who still has almost half of the nation who believes in him. his ideas are controversial and dangerous, however, if he is a citizen, let him also be respected for his role and influence. republicans, however ridiculed they have been by others, are still valid and important members of the society), demanding times- but what an opportunity for living!

obama, with peoples' voices, is declared victor today, if barely.  this illustrates nothing about the value of his policies or actions.  however it does shows that we do support, with doubts, questions and anxiety.  yes, he has a long term to carry and yes, we believe that we can. but we must believe in our own choices when times are difficult and demanding, not only on a celebratory election night. hang on, believers, as the hard time is to continue, especially when we believe in right for free speech, expression and ideas.

i wish the americans (and others) will keep this gift of the paradigm alive- the gift of willingness, to take action- whether it be passive or active.  often there may not be a clear option- then we may never give up, that we progress through the difficult weight, to find a better solution and to continue to question the solution, to not be stagnant, but to be alive, flexible, persevere and to consider.

congratulations, america.
you showed the world that you are alive.
let us live with you, in robust discussions and exchanges,
let us be better, compassionate and courageous,
in the difficult times.


'how to disappear completely'

as we give up an hour of a day, the official 'sinking' into the depth began last night.

right after samhein and hurricane sandy, i cant help but to think this autumn was brutal. beautiful but brutal. as if the bright reds of fading trees can share so much with torn flesh of a dying animal, blood leaving the body, eyes hazing over the last bit of breath.

perhaps things look even more gruesome when juxtaposed with brilliance of life- it is the death of youth that is tragic and beautiful, not death of the old.

there has been too much drama in monkey life, right from the start of september. and it is showing no sign of ending. it is almost sad that i do not possess the courage or the strength to write publicly about all the issues that has came up and that has left marks.  is it cowardice or is it the right political move? i cannot tell them apart anymore, not at this point.  all i know is that it is not realistic to write it out to the world.

after all, i do have a real thing to worry about: renovation for the apartment. sigh.

perhaps it is not realistic to express  to the world what i really think and believe.

may be when people say they want to know and they do appreciate, they really say they wish they already knew and they want to be appreciated.

after all, as general public, we want it easy. we say we want fairness, but what we say is we wish it was fair.

just as they say, it is for the good of the people, though it really is good for 'them.'

and perhaps it is inevitable, after such beautiful summer of freedom and real friendship, life back in the grind can suffocate you gradually but slowly.

ive been broken for awhile.
only difference is that now im crumbling.
piece by piece, to floor.
to stepped on further,
as people say: oh i am sorry. of course you matter.
but i understand, of course, as you say, what you mean to say.

and it's okay.

brief look at the photos from nyc on nytimes after the hurricane makes me even more unsure about my own 'right' to 'complain' about this 'horrid' life. perhaps it is simpler than that. may be it's just another re-encounter with reality, with its harshness and fury.

as i wondered downtown with hint of yuletide madness in the air (it is madness isnt it?), i cannot help to think that it really doesnt matter. that i dont really matter. which is the truth.  the world will go on, just as it always has.  as i give up the 'right' to care about self-existence, there it goes, importance of my own life.

just like the leaves blowing in the wind, soon to become lightest dust, may be i want to disappear.

...in a little while
i'll be gone
the moment's already passed
yeah, it's gone.
im not here
this isnt happening
im not here...

(from how to disappear completely, kid A, radiohead)


things from october, from wee monkey life in yyz

 a great scene: when the world is against you,
well, go with it to see where it goes!

 happiness is a drolly cat in a lovely home, snuggling.

 i wondered if they knew what was on the other side:
fish steaks.

 even in the middle of the city,
hymn of autumnal gold radiates.

 bicycle reborn!
must wait till sandy is gone and rain stops...
wait! now i can break in rain!

with open flesh wound,
torn and broken.

 gorgeous flowers that arrived with
gorgeous lady guest.

 having my daily wheaties.

 giraffe outside of my window one morning.
i live on 32nd floor...

 just in case the suburbanite joggers are super motivated...

 what happened here?
quiet sunday morning by a burger shop.

 aftermath of sandy.
it used to be a beautiful weeping willow.

'im a bit different but
you love me anyways'
had to try very hard to not take him home!


pop! pop! waa! haha!

i have a sears catalog bike from 1973-4.  i inherited it from a friend while i was still doing my doctoral degree- so about 4 years, ive been riding it.  it's an old thing- somewhat small steel frame, 10 speed gears it says, but it really does... on speed.  but at least it's dependable- no untold gear shifts in middle of a ride.  the breaks are old and the seat is crumbling. but i do love the bike.  bright orange with faded spots.  though i still 'owns' a decent mountain bicycle (my good friend is taking care of it for awhile now), my first choice was always this little orange bicycle.

recently toronto's been having much rain. and it means i cannot ride my bicycle, as the break cables are loose and stretched out, there is a sure guarantee that my bike wont stop in time when it rains... sounds like an excuse but i dont have any bike tools (and yes it would be hard to find the right ones for it- except... may be make real investment and get adjustable tools...) (but what about space? i live in a small apt! excuses...), so all this time, bike was getting tired and more tired. at least i manage to get some new street lights and fed it some teflon lubricant. heh.

well, today, i noticed that the tires aren't full. i did put some air in recently but i know that they are slowly deflating, ever so slowly and surely.  so today being a beautiful autumnal day, i decided to put some air on- there are some bike shops with air pumps that one can use.  on way to birdy house (am housesitting on/off this month), did exactly that. i even put in some extra air, thinking that the weather is cooling.

almost there. red light. stop and wait.


a lady clutched her bag, a  whisp of 'oh my god,' a toy dropped by a toddler, we are all looking around. what had happened?

a rated B-movie scene. no joke.
a man on the corner with a fag says:
'dude, you got a flat.'


and yes it was. a flat. thanks to my smartphone which rules most of my waking hours, i quickly found that im just 10 min walk away from one of the old and better bicycle shops in town. i get there. explain i have a flat. the dude says the day's been full of flat bikes. i say well... good for business, no?

then i thought, hey, can you replace my break pads? they are almost threadbare.
umm we dont just do breaks because sometimes the mechanics are faulty, not just the pads. to avoid angry people, we require tune-ups, if you tune-up, we will do the break pads.
okay. sounds good. anything else you see wrong?
your chain is very worn and loose...
i will do it next month i guess. this has snowballed already, sigh.

wait, wait, no no,
let's do the chains as well.

so all the sudden, here i am, with 130 bill and a pop that made me laugh.
i wasnt done, apparently.

an hour later, as im talking about the bike fiasco, i get a call from unknown caller.

*howling laughter
hey, this is the bikeshop-
your front tire- blew up!
it went 'bang!' and scared us!

... i suppose you guys will tend to that?
yes we will. tell you what-
*side talk
we feel really sorry for you,
we never seen anything like this either,
so we are going to give you 20% off.
aha great... thanks, mates.

what a classy bike. it's like going to the doctor's then having your appendix popped. what better place to be than a bike shop with a full-order to pop the very last thing that needs attention.  it's probably the extra air. the dya got warmer than anticipated, so it all got a bit too much. in hedonism, the poor tube, with its body full of life, well, popped. HAHA!

and after this incident, i am sure i will love my orange bike even more.  it's weird not seeing it on the hallway. well, in three sleeps, it will come back, all worked and happy. im surprised it still rode so happy and nice all these time, havent made much complaint, till... well, i brought it to the mechanics. and it literally let it go. to loose. pop.

what a funny world.  recently, life's been messy. but here it is, unexpected silly stuff, brilliant. makes me laugh. here's to another day.

bike pic from (mine's identical):


shot through the heart, unexpectedly

i ran into this korean illustrated story on facebook today. obviously, it is in korean, however, i think with this, the story may not need too many words. the old lady is walking, from end of her present life to the start of new one.  the man in the suit is the post-death figure, guiding her to the doorway.

she talks about why it has to be so difficult. losing her husband 12 years ago. taking care of her only daughter, then the grandkid. worked till the fingers were worn out. then came the end.  12 years of endless work and- solitude. however, she did love. loved for real, with her life. from age 19, for happy 50 years. she wonders if she could meet him now- with that same butterflies in her tummy.

guide tells her: there's the door to the next life. you go alone from here. to think, to reflect. to conclude, to end, before you start a new one.

is he in there?

guide tells her: no. he isnt there anymore. once you pass the door, you will be reborn, tabula lasa. but once married, you will be with him in the next one.

she simply says: unfortunate...

too sorry to go like this, i cant leave...

dear, what did you think about when you were here? were you also sorry to go?

there he is.
what took you so long? look at you, all wrinkly, haha.
let us go.

were you here the whole time?

let me carry you. how is the kid?
all grown up. even the grandkid-
hmm. already.

how was it with out me?
not even going to go there.

i filled this house, the silent space, with various small noises- tears, runny nose, and heart. to imagine such feeling- that may even transcend 12 years of gap, between living and dead.  i cried, by myself, thinking about the love i have received from others, the love i wish to give to others. and also the love i keep reserved for the ones who has left already.  i wondered if it would be true- if one has to wrap up, knowing no more of 'it' can be retained anywhere, to be at peace, to start anew- and if so, what i would be thinking about.

what my little brother may have thought about.

of love that i hold and generate for my friends and family.  the friends that i wish i can do more for, as they give me more than they could ever imagine.  of people that i still keep near to my heart, because of their beauty that sustains me during the hard times.

and of the love that i hold for dearest minnow.
knowing that he would also wait for me. even for 12 years.

being able to have such room in one's mind-
this is a luxury that i hold so important.
as it reminds me what it is to be a human.
love to you all.


the house free of noise

i am house sitting part of the week and it feels quite remarkable. from the lofty small patch of wee concrete branch on 32nd floor, i am now on the ground level, in a long living room, silent.  with a silvery piano that knows how to enjoy the silence.

i didnt realize how much of external forces run in my veins.  in chinley, things are different- with barely 2000 people in the village, things are quiet. there are stars and grass. sheeps, lambs, llamas and little brown calves, who may be grown into big, stubborn teenagers now. however, though it can quiet, minnow and i habitually turn on the itty old blue stereo or the sturdy tivolis when we are in the house. the bbc programs run through the house, much like the thinnest capillary vessels that reaches all part of the body and heart. and of course, with another person in the house, the space can be full of conversations, both spoken and unspoken.  at st. mary's, where i am so lucky to practice, it's on an old roman road- and passing cars do keep me company with their brief through-the-window-doppler hellos.

in yyz, everywhere i go, it's surrounded by sound. especially if im working at the school. it is very rare to practice in silence. faculty of music has a fantastic facility where we can get in 24-7 pretty much.  but even there, by 10am, it's filled with people, working hard and yes, audibly. after all, it is a music building. and this happy mayhem goes on for a long while.  occasionally i get in at ungodly hour, just to find that rare quiet time- but not as often as i would like to.  about home, well, living on 34 floor building- an official early skyscraper, it is difficult to have any silence at any cost. even when the neighbours are quiet, there is much noise from the streets that bleeds through- especially the urgent rolling of emergency vehicles.

but in this detached house, with quality fridge (i am often amazed how noisy fridges are/and other unassuming devices that can emit and fill your ears without knowing), it stays quiet.  i feel as if now i can hear myself thinking, first time in a long while.  and because i am house sitting, i am physically alone.  there's a calico cat, but she is, after all, a cat- friendly but still like to remain independent.  i can hear the house adjusting itself- somewhere, a little pop, here and there.

and then there's me. when im not playing the beautiful silver piano, i can be coddled in a comfortable silence, where things can settle, so that i may observe the smallest corner of myself. awaiting somewhat big meeting tomorrow (2 wks wait), it is possible that im somewhat saturated with anxiety.  but in this space, that anxiety is breaking down into little scales and dissipates into thin smoke. and i am allowed, to be myself again, free from gossips, opinions and political noise of all sorts.

i feel better. i feel settled. i also miss my little home on 32nd floor. but this is a retreat. yes, literally. pulling away from.  i think i will be strengthened by the time i leave. i hopefully have given enough time to my new and barely there thin roots- more like little hairs, but those roots will grow strong and big, if i can nurture them, and i may grow into who i am supposed to be, not who i simply wish to be, out of convenience.

it's a hard thing, to let yourself to develop without sabotaging, or rather, willfully 'determining' what the self should look like.  thanks to the silence, i am able to see a bit better today. and tomorrow. and days to come, even when i am back in the thick of things.