musing at the food court

santa went up last week in yorkville. my retail job at swiss chocolate shop finished christmas decoration about two weeks ago.  tis the time of giving, we say, and we see it all over, with glistening lights and sparkles.  christmas adverts are out on telly and some are quite touching.

last saturday, as i had 20 min to spare to my planned journey, i decided to get a quick snack at the eaton centre's foodcourt, then walk through the underground PATH to get to TSO, noseda, bollani show- my favourite, ravel g major piano concerto was on the program and i was certain that it would be spectacular (and it was!)

i forgot that it's christmas time.  the mall was heaving with people, with bags everywhere, families in tow, lots and lots and LOTS of stress. get gifts, get stressed! how did i miss that slogan.

i took a seat at the communal long table and as i slurp my sustenance served in real china bowl and real spoon and fork, i started to people watch.

there were a few very happy looking people. and a few really unhappy people. lots of people looking totally confused (which shop? where to sit? how much? here? there? what? why? how?). some getting nearly slapped on faces with food trays and shopping bags. it's quite hilarious.

then i realized there's that one homeless man, eating up leftover food on the tables.  fairly clean, but the wear and tear on his hands and faces- the weather burns, rough skins, the deep lines on his face from days on the street, marked him quite clearly. though, he was so ninja quiet.

then he sat near me on the long table for some leftover chinese. i thought i shouldnt stare, so i changed my view and started to watch bickering young couple (high school), about how much money they should spend on new cell phone plan.

 then came a indignant proclamation:
'he shouldnt be here!'

i looked up, there was a man, with his woman (wife? gf? partner?) and two children. they mustve been initially looking for a place to sit. he was speaking LOUDLY toward the homeless man.

'hey, what's the problem,' i had to ask.

'he isnt a customer. he is a homeless. he shouldnt be here.'

everyone ignored or pretended to ignore this angry man. i have no idea why he was so angry. but before i knew, i was speaking. oh monkey. please shut up.

'he is not bothering anyone, did he ask you for something'

'no, but it's wrong for him to be here.'


'because he isnt going to buy anything.'

*so i lost it.

'look, emptyhanded cheapskate. he's not NOT allowed in public space, he hasnt bothered you. you are bothering him.'

'ooh fine, im gonna get the guard.'

'go ahead. i will make sure he will have something purchased. im not gonna say what i think, because youve got kids with you. just go.'

he left, angrily. red faced. huffing. woman and kids followed him, uncertain.

the homeless man, who was quietly eating, finished the plate and moved away without acknowledging the fiasco.    me, believing that was the best outcome, finished my snack, put the tray away and left.

it was an exchange less than a minute long. im still thinking about it.

i dont think what i did is anything special. however, i do think it was necessary. if one can stand up for another who has done nothing wrong/suffer needlessly/treated unfairly, one should stand up, for the sole reason that no person should be abused for where they are in life.

who they are- for instance, may matter a bit more, ex. extreme violent christians, indoctrinating despots, etc., but where they are in life- rich, poor, tall, short, big, small, old, young- should not be a reason where we all close our eyes and pretend we dont hear anything that is WRONG.

standing rock, aleppo, black lives matter, drowning/non-drowning migrants/refugees, homeless people, LGBTQ, handicapped, woman, children, vulnerable white men (yes, they do exist, not all white men are powerful and previleged), old and infirm.

to ignore them is to forfeit the spirit of christmas, in religious (jesus!) and secular context (victorian industrial era and its brutal treatment of working class and below). tis not wrong and tis not hard to stand up for the others. but it does take an effort.

'liking' and 'sharing' takes no effort. it's as if you can hardly do any less.

i wonder how i can motive self further so that i actually do 'like' and 'share' with others.

with sudden weather change, i wondered today, where the dude may be getting his dinner tonight.




the girl over balcony

tis sunday. i had  non-9am (or earlier!) start, awesome.

so i rolled in bed in sunshine for a bit, then headed out to fill my fridge, which has been sitting kinda empty as the days been quite bustling.

i often walk to chinatown, along dundas on quiet weekend mornings to go get my groceries.  before the city wakes up for festivities, shopping, meetings, brunch and dinners, tis a quite a different place. as the weather is turning colder, you may see few cocoons of homeless people. an empty cab driving around. sometimes small hoard of people exiting the bus station.

this is the time that i do not need to listen to anything carefully, so i usually walk without a 'soundtrack.'  bare eared, no headphones, earphones or filters. just the quiet hum of the city.

then came an unexpected sound. it took me a bit to figure out where it was coming from - i looked around me, and started to scan- and there it was, upward. such loud bird?

but it wasnt a bird on the balcony wall.

there was a girl, one leg over the glass balcony on 12th floor, screaming at someone inside the house, all i could make out was that she is 'so sick of it.'

for second, i wondered if it's just another drama.

then i picked up the phone to call 911.
the police cruisers and ambulance came. they took info. i gave my contact. they went up.

after about 10 min of this bustle, i went off to get my groceries. and did my shopping. as i went on with the plan, then it really started to nudge me on the side.

when i was heading back, the cruisers were still there. i talked to the officer briefly- she's headed for hospital for help. he was glad that someone called.

and the day, it is so beautifully sunny and bright.
life goes on and i wonder how her day's going to be like.

i look up and all i see is bright blue sky with white sun with tint of gold.
but when i looked up this morning, all i saw was crisis for that terse 3 min, first hearing her, then waiting for the police to arrive.

be kind to your peeps. stay aware. and do lend a hand.

and i should go on with the day. with disturbance in my mind.


the midnight song from long-forgotten summer sea

when i was a very young kid, i was sent to the seaside, once every summer.

my mother was youngest of pack of six, and since mom and dad both were from seoul, we didnt really have direct family relations out of the city.  luckily, a few of her sisters' in-laws had places out of the cities, so mom would ever so carefully pack a backpack for me, for a few days, and my eldest girl cousins would take me with them, to the seaside.

that particular summer, my cousins decided that i was old enough to make choices.

i made many mistakes.

on way down, on the train, i gorged on salty and fatty snacks. i was allowed dip my own fingers into the bags, take however much i wanted.  silly me, i made myself very ill, very quickly.  i remember desperately putting my head out of the moving train, throwing up.  my cousins wiped my face with cool, wet tissues, half-amused and half-grossed out.  in midst of such mess, i remember looking up.

i still remember how blue the sky was.

mom and dad, granny and bros werent with me.  just cousins, so faraway in age (both were in university at this point), i felt as if im on my first solo flight.

one day, after a late lunch at the market stalls, we skipped to the sandy beach.  i dont remember what my cousins were doing. they were just about visible, and i ran into the water, to a spot that i liked earlier in the day.  not too deep, not to cold.  i swam into the sea, happy, chasing the sun.

then i tried find the bottom of the sea.

it was not there.
tide was rising- it was after lunch.

i didnt know anything about tides.


the world turned, very quickly.  the sky, the water, all ran together. i was in the middle of a vortex.  i saw things. i didnt know what they were. i waved my arms, kicked my feet. my head bobbed on and off the horizon.  i drank in water. salty water. it burned my throat and nose. i couldnt tell if saltiness came from tears or from the sea water.

bobbing. looking around.

the world became quieter.

as i spent more time under the water, as my limbs lost will to move, i sank downward.

in the water, it is very quiet.  especially since my own struggle against the water sounded so loud to my ears. shouting. limbs shouting. screaming,

as my head was under water, mouth was full of salty water, not able to make a peep.

i looked up, the summer afternoon sun refracted through the light. sky was still blue, i think.  my world was becoming dark. through ever-changing water, the light danced on my eyes. quiet. i may have found peace.

then all the sudden, i was jerked up. pulled up, someone dragged me out, i started to breath again, flailing my arms, thrashing my saviour.

i was laid on beach, throwing up endless salt water. eyes full of tears, my cousins were there. they huddled around me. towels around my shivering skin, each pore standing up in goosebumps, screaming intangible fearful things.  i dont know who pulled me out of the water. i dont know how long i was there, in the vortex, the gateway to a silence i never experienced before.


at the mahler 3 concert today,  after three dramatic movements full of marches, summer midday heat, still air, stroll into the meadow, then into darkness, we get to the depth of the night  (from notes of mahler to bauer-lechner), riding on the mellow off-stage flugelhorn, into the night.

it is quiet. the harp sound- like water drop breaking the surface tension, with mellowness, nietzsche's midnight song starts, from the deep chest of an alto.

suddenly, i was pulled into that memory.
watching the refracting sunlight, as i sink.
tears fell, slowly.
was it sleep i was seeking?
is it pain that i was surrounded with?
all joy- eternity-
is that what i was searching for?

what did it say, the deep midnight?

was it the seawater salt in my body, burning me inside, or was it the tears that burned my eyes as i cried, drowning for that indefinite moment?

-from nietzsche's thus spoke zarathustra (1892),
set in mahler 3, 4th movement:
sehr langsam- misterioso

O Mensch! Gib Acht!
Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht?
"Ich schlief, ich schlief—,
aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht:—
Die Welt ist tief,
und tiefer als der Tag gedacht.
Tief ist ihr Weh—,
Lust—tiefer noch als Herzeleid.
Weh spricht: Vergeh!
Doch all' Lust will Ewigkeit—,
—will tiefe, tiefe Ewigkeit!"

O Man! Take heed!
What says the deep midnight?
"I slept, I slept—,
from a deep dream have I awoken:—
the world is deep,
and deeper than the day has thought.
Deep is its pain—,
joy—deeper still than heartache.
Pain says: Pass away!
But all joy
seeks eternity—,
—seeks deep, deep eternity!"


is money an emotional device?

staying in england during brexit, having loved ones' birthdays (happy b day, granny, mom, julian!), observing rio 2016 preparations and travelling through several different economic regions sthis summer, i become, once again, curious of money as an emotional thing.

recently i have heard from a young one (early 20s) that he thinks he figures that he wont have much and he never really will; this was quite a surprise.

in cambodia, they were using us dollars as base currency, because their own currency, riels, is too weak to actually have much purchasing power. i changed my 20 american dollars to riels and learned it the hard way.

this is the summer where things are not costing me exactly double (when spending in pounds), which allowed me to head out to barcelona to see a dear friend. there, we paid fairly (and handsomely) for one of the most beautiful projects in the world, sagrada.

in london, my wallet leaks.  london trasit capping at about 10 pounds, and zone 1 travel commanding 2.40 one way during off-peak hours on oyster/credit card (on cash, it'll be whooping 4.90!), it's taking a hit as soon as i set my foot out of the hotel.  i walk a lot.

and we often use money as a political  device: whenever you buy something,  you are 'supporting' a business. bit related to the last post about slavery in shrimp farming: if you are buying cheap shrimps from thailand from major distributors, likely, you are supporting the vicious industry in one way or another.

money is often used as a symbol as well: i rather be poor and happy than to be rich and miserable, makes me chuckle all the time though.  it is likely that a person who has a fairly lubricated, comfortable life have reduced some unpleasant variables and hence created a better bet for the good day. why do people say this often? i think it's bit of a sour grape.  i rarely seen people who are in financial struggle to be beaming happy. there are. but they are few.

then there are instances where people say: i care about you but i didnt buy anything because i am poor.  this is the curious case at the moment.

most people have things that they need in reasonable situations.  for instance, trying to buy something for my granny is a bit of a nightmare. at age 93, whatever she does not have, i am sure that it hasnt been needed. so what do i buy?

often i see people using money as tool of compassion. i try to give to a charity/project of the moment every quarter. because if i do not make a habit/schedule of it, i am unlikely to do it, especially if i am attracted to tasty noodles, living in middle of the town or something, haha.  but let's make it clear, i do it because most importantly, it makes me happy.

and people often use money as a political tool in personal relationships.  'not buying' or 'buying' things has been one of the earliest form of expression of 'love/support.'  the terms sugardaddy, boomerang kids, these two terms especially, are quite relevant, though one of a very old term and the latter being quite a recent phenomenon.

but the real confusion comes when people use 'money' as a reason for action/inaction.  for instance, often i see parents trying to compete (whether consciously or naturally), to be the 'better one' through monetary support: i love you more, here's how, i am giving you money.  then a contrasting example, when people assume their lack of care is purely due to lack of money (i was going to do something but i dont have money)(personal justification, i think).

i end up watching the debt-related shows frequently when im back at the gym at the ymca.  it usually involves two people in relationship, or a single person, who 'feels' that they have a financial problem but then they arent really sure, and their relationship is in tatters.  then this lady comes and try to fix up the situations.


i no longer feel the shadenfreuden when i watch the show.  it could be very 'satisfying' to point finger at the people and say: 'how dumb!'

but i realize that most cases are built on simple chain of consequences; and it intrigues me how or what led them to have a non-working financial model for so long. most of cases, it's the same sequence.

1. one is not aware of exact spending scale/reasons.
2. one is not aware of exact earning scale/reasons.
3. therefore one is not aware of one's own assets.
4. therefore one is in debt.
5. without pt. 1,2,3, the case spirals down.
6. because it's chronic, they get into heavy debt.
7. because money expresses 'love,' their relationships break off.

and so the lady comes in and do the same restructuring with everyone.

1. do detailed spending scale.
2. do detailed earning scale.
3. do updated asset check up.
4. usual verdict: too much spending, not enough earning.
5. create a realistic but lean budget.
6. take more opportunity to make more money
7. create payment/savings plan
8. retrain the relationship so that its values are not dependent on 'spending.'

1. spend consciously:
usually means spend less. and that means compromises. fancy groceries. hangout times. 'modest' celebrations for 'loved ones' (including selves), are likely out.

2. earn to your potential:
no, not 'im gonna be a superstar, so im gonna do just that,' but 'i wanna be a superstar, so im gonna need things and people, so im gonna work to accumulate asset so that i can have the support/experience to be a superstar.'  this one bites loads of us on the butt i think: the job is too lowly! it does not meet my artistic/self-conception! i cant possibly divert from my 'dreams.'

what bites?

if we all lived in dream life, we all would be superstars, beautiful, intelligent, strong, charismatic and rich.

none of those are likely to happen this week. or next. for most of us.

but creating more opportunities to maximize earning potential? it can happen this month. may be not the way one would ideally envision, but something can happen during that timeline.

3. love
this includes self-love (i 'need' my own space, beautiful and functional, i 'need' that new tool, i 'need' to have it to 'enrich' myself), and love towards others (if you love someone, you would pay for them! look, i spend more on them, i love them more obviously.)

this, is bit nuts. i dont think i can quite put it in a short writing.  does this mean lack of financial support mean lack of love? sometimes. does it mean financial support means surely love? sometimes. that means sometimes NOT.

anyone who is accused of 'demanding love,' through money, will vehemently deny it.  they may even say: if you loved me, i would not even have to ask, as you would KNOW that i need money, and you would have given it to me in the name of love.

reverse case: i cannot express my love for you because i have no money.

most of the time, it's things that money cannot buy that allows us to express who we are.  helping someone cross the road. help lifting that baby carriage off the train.  writing a note (or even an email). calling someone. going to see someone, using your time and financial asset.  making a cup of tea (it doesnt even have be the tea that you bought).  standing up for someone (bullying in the street etc).  picking up garbage.  cleaning the house. all these things are real.

if 'buying love' was true, all lovers would be flocking to harrod's and dubai.

may be we project and disguise our own selfishness under the guise of 'but you must love me.'

it's hard to say.
is money emotional? no.
is money used as an emotional device? yes.
is this normal? it became normal.
is this good?


here's a good summer day and happy birthday to dear minnow.
minnow's often trampled by people who are blinded by self-centeredness. it's also his own making, as he tends to be generous with care (whether it be monetary or emotional), people forget that he gave them something (especially when they may want something specific from him)- i sigh, as i understand that such unrecognized efforts usually leads to further silent demands and subsequent resentment from the other parties.  but it's inappropriate for me to change someone. i just wish people do not take others for granted. but hey, it's gonna be a good day. and im glad to have minnow around.


dying for scampi and chips

rescued people from the notorious seafood slavery business

yesterday, at grocery store, j was looking for some shrimps to buy, which led to this little video that ive seen awhile ago.


a short summary:

1. thailand's shrimp industry is one of the biggest in the world, and if you have bought shrimps in discount at local groceries, you probably bought the ones that are related to this modern day slavery.

looking back at my southeast travel this summer, i do believe that the industry's full of human trafficking and illegal trades (especially from lesser robust economies such as myanmar and laos), and that there are just not enough attention to be paid for human rights or labour issues.

2. most of seafood comes from wild-harvesting, not 'farming.'  there are only very few species that we can successfully farm at this point, ex. salmon and shrimp; however, if CAFO farming makes you feel funny, it may be a shocking but good news (to know!) that shrimp farming has greater carbon footprints than beef farming.

on CAFO:

on shrimp farming:

3. shrimp farming also create dire threat to local biodiversity and may lead to breakout of diseases, extinction (esp the mangrove tree crisis); and because marine farming is still in its infancy, the field knowledge is not deep enough to support our current consumption level.

the problem here is it's very difficult to actually source ethically harvested shrimps.  often, the sustainable seafood labels concern only the biodiversity issue, but not the labour practice related to the chain (such as ocean wise)

if you manage to find ASC certified supplier/products, that is a great way to go.

but on practical, daily basis, the closest way to confirm whether one is buying tainted shrimps is to see if the catching origin has been specified. true, even then, much of seafood commerce is shrouded in mystery and lies, but hey, some action is better than none.
look for domestic shrimps. they will be more expensive and oh they will be so clearly labeled as domestic- but hey, one's boast may be another's truth.


sure, the world may seem like a joke at times. too crazy. too noise. too weird. but no one should have to die for scampi and chips, i think. that's bit too extreme.  so there it is, peeps.  when you buy shrimps, if you can spare two seconds, think about it briefly. after all, it's not one action that makes the difference, but forming a pattern of behaviour that makes us better informed, kinder people.



after june- HOME!

behold, khao soi @ khao soi samerjai, chiang mai, 60 bahts

from end of may, it's been a whirlwind of movements- to eastcoast, back to toronto, hop on the plane, go to spain for yet another brilliant birthday trip, then off on solo sojourn in northern thailand and cambodia, and now, finally back home.

which home: my close friends will ask.

bouncing between two home, of yyz and man, the concept of home is a very simple one for me.  it's place where i feel 'at home,' with loved ones, where i can let my guard down (did you know that sleeping in new places keeps your brain up? so home is a place that wont happen)


with the ongoing situations of refugees all over the world, fight to keep doors closed to others (brexit or us election campaign, anyone?), very real face of poverty i saw in asia (especially in phnom pehn), i am certainly appreciative of calm of home.  i slept almost a whole day soon as i got back.

home has running water. home has dependable electricity. i am not aware of people jumping in and out (i stay at hostels most of the time), loud partying or drunken entrance on ungodly hour (im sure this is only because i dont party, haha), figuring out a new shower when you are already mentally defeated. i have a kitchen and things are where i left them.

home has bed that i can fall asleep instantaneously. a place to take a hot bath. cup of water that i dont have to mentally check its source. real plates and cutlery. i do not have to hand launder everyday. no sand on the floor.

place where i know where my loved one(s) are. the scent of them pervading the place. their personal artifacts- toothbrushes, towels, leftover dinner, they are all there in their place, slightly different every time but with such comfortable rhythm.

i stopped buying souvenirs long time ago. the more i travel, i realize with G20 wealth, you can get most things back at home, often at a better quality (sure you may pay a bit more, but the general buying power is much stronger with the G20 currency so).

funny that my favourite khao soi is actually still from toronto, despite of eating bowls and bowls of it in northern thailand.  but is it really a surprise when one consider thai khao soi was 2 dollars and toronto khao soi was 12 dollars? in toronto, what is a normal cheap staple has transformed into exotic beauty- anything but a commodity good.

also hilarious to think that their market gucci bags are obviously fake, but their northface items may not be (so many of them are made around there, it is entirely possible that they are seconds or redirected merchandises). that abercrombie sweater? i bet my butt it is at least 50/50 real stuff. haha.

so in a sense, home is not so different from thailand. but oh it so is.  weird world of globalization.

now snug in my english hole, this monkey ponders the different power relations and hierarchy that i participate whether i know it or not- the different definitions i got for ex-pats vs. immigrants were actually quite startling. more on that later.

but for now, how nice it is, to look at rained english rose and think, aha, this is home.
just as much as the view of the cn tower and dundas square.
the world is big and im so grateful i have places that i know it's my home(s).


quod vide

beresford, new brunswick
spring 2016

summer sun rose, with humid air,
pearly blanket that holds on to every bit of heat.

we had no spring to speak of,
not the ones with cherry blossoms scattered on street,
for each step to be dyed pale pink.

nevertheless, the leaves came.
they unfurl, grow, towards the sun,
unafraid, no waiting, certainty.

tulips will fade soon, 
lights long and hot, water glass covered in dew.
mirage. on the road. cars. houses. people.

departing soon, to east to east to east
where i will chase the sun,
of stories, not of mine, but to make it mine.

but for now,
im a pool of blue.
a small puddle of blue.
but it will lift, like a fog,
once i am airborne.

if you blinked you wouldve missed spring.
like a bubble, it was, this year.
started so tiny, filled up with hope and air,
and it popped. gone.
it was beautiful.
and it wont ever return again.

when i go back to my heart to revisit,
it will change,
e v e r y t i m e 

fallacy of memory.

but i will take a small piece,
melt it on my tongue,
like a small piece of chocolate,
bitter and sweet.
it will be beautiful.

an ending is a necessity
and i am slowly marking it.
as if
defining where the sky ends
and water starts,
as i saw
on empty beach of east coast,
where sun turned away and sunk into
the myriads of clouds.

a period.


short thoughts on mothers day

mother wanted to sleep.
i clearly did not.

mother sang to me.
i cried and fidgeted.
colicky baby.

mother wanted to teach me.
i wanted to teach her.

mother wanted me to say yes.
i said nothing, stormed out.

mother left me a message.
in frustration, i pressed '7' immediately.
then regretted as soon as i hung up the voice mail.
i call back with smile, with smidgen guilt.

i give her advice.
i buy her iron supplements.
i gently pull her away from extra groceries,
as cart is full and so is my fridge.
she cant stop though.

what if

mother wasnt there
to tell me all the things im doing wrong
of the importance of my wacky haircuts
inquiring about my incomes
as musicians always seem to be in brink of debt
packing me way too much food
that i leave half of it in the car

what if

i think of calling her up
texting silly cartoon emoticons

and nothing came back

one day

time will flow and i will have to look inside
to find her
that she is there
may be quiet



as mothers always are


congrats sir, mr. hartenberger of nexus!

today, my work brought me to a quite an important junction point of many people's lives: russell hartenberger's retirement concert at the faculty of music, full of percussionists of all ages and times. especially the young ones.

snowy april, dreadful outside. but people trickled in all afternoon, carrying snare drums, for the snare drum olympics (haha this is an annual ritual… i wonder if i can find a vid clip of it); and by 730pm, the walter hall lobby was full of friends, families, students, mentors, just people who shared memories, laughters and marking of passage of time.

all these people came because they have been given something real when they crossed prof hartenberger+nexus. nexus is bit special, the first percussion group that became a western classical music standard format.  AND they are all good people. throughout their entire career, life and performance.

*here's a lovely performance from 1980s!

i have seen them in so many different shows, with so many different ideas and people since i came to the faculty in 1999.  on stage. in teaching studios. in hallways. libraries. lobby. rehearsing. performing. loading and unloading. and never in my life i have seen any of them losing their grace, talent or humanity.

today, people came, and those who could not, sent messages. so many lovely messages. and the younger generation, they are playing on the stage. of music they love. the music their teachers love. the music that we hear now- making us stop, to take a look, to have a listen.

in some of the musical selections, i keep seeing each members of nexus, as these parts were written for each person in mind.  with recent loss of robin engelman,- a dearest figure in my university life, during this retirement concert, i cannot help but to think how beautiful life can be, to live through our short life spans, by transferring, inspiring and provoking one into quest of beauty.  and when i look back on the stage, i see these young people, full of life and excitement, playing these music with vigour and life.

the reality of life lives in the presence of beauty.
of humanity.

days like today, i love my job and i think of people who i may no longer see physically. but they are in my heart. as i chew on so many engelman jokes, i wonder what it will be like, to look back and wonder if i have managed to share beauty with others.  after all, that's all what's about isn't it?


... he who eats my bread lifted up his heel against me...

caravaggio: kiss of judas, c. 1602

often people are surprised to learn that i used to be a catholic bible study champion in entire city of seoul, way back when i was twelve.

i remember meeting the cardinal for the ceremony.  wearing my sunday best, eyes casting down, i was somewhat confused what the big deal was, as i have not learned how big, powerful and old the catholic tradition was.  after all, south korean isnt one of the 'traditional' catholic countries.  my dad, upon religion shopping, chose catholicism for the family (a whole another story about that).  since my mother was heavily involved in the local church community, i grew up with loads of bible stories in my childhood.

some things did not make sense and some things raised questions rather than answers.  but as a little kid, most of my life didnt make much sense, so i just chose to let the differences go and did my bible studies.  the fact there was a league and i could do well in it was a big draw for a small second child, competing with her closely-aged brothers.

when i met the cardinal, he asked me what made me study the bible; i thought there must be a good answer, but i blurted the truth instead:

i dont really understand it, so i hope to understand it.

he kindly didnt ask much more. he congratulated me and gave me coupla things as prizes: wall plaque, few books  and a lovely cross which still hangs in my parents's place.

then i worked at local korean catholic community church for 8+ years as an organist.  playing and working for my godmother, the music minister and conductor of a sizeable choir, over the years, i came so familiar with the rituals and services, especially for christmas and easter.

as a working kiddie organist, easter season was pain on the butt. music's slow and sad, doleful and full of shadow of death.  we practiced the same tunes over and over. as easter approaches, there were more things- extra practices, to make musical arrangements, call up musicians for quartets and such and getting their music ready etc., then four straight days of long and serious service.  at end of easter sunday survice, i would dream about passing out and dying. hahaha.

now that i do not work as a church musician, however, the meaning of easter grows larger in my mind every year.  good friday being the legal holiday, even the university closes, giving me a bit of room to quiet down.

yesterday, pope francis washed the feet of refugees. then he broke the bread with them.  today, there mustve been thousands of passion reading, telling the same story of jesus.

this year, i remember a few parts of the passion in particular: peter being told about his upcoming denial of jesus.  jesus being human, being all alone in the dark night, the ultimate night as a human being.  inevitable call of the cock, calling for death.  judas' hug and kiss for jesus.  purple robe of the king and the crown of thorns.  soldiers drawing for loots- jesus' cloth.  mother left crumpled with grief.

i am deeply grateful that i grew up with the catholic tradition close to me, as if it was up to me, i would not have (what normal kid wants to focus on religion at that age?!)  the rituals are beautiful and there are many traditions and arts built upon it.

and today, i think of the great passion music that describes the story of fall of a son of the god. and the irony that the most difficult time of his trial mustve been the 'waiting,' in getsemane, in silence- while his friends all fell asleep, one by one.  the nights in dry climate can be rather cold, as land mass cools down.  if jesus was wearing his day cloth, im sure it wouldve been cold. and dark. so dark.  we forget how dark nature is, as our perception have changed to omnipresent light in our 21st ceuntry lives.

but perhaps the most 'cold' thing would be to stand all by yourself, in the wide world.  jesus being a man, not a god (so that death is possible), he wouldve felt the physical discomfort. and the psychological discomfort that comes from betrayal, fear and anger.

to stand alone, what would that be like?

with family and small but strong group of friends, i cannot imagine what that would be like.

but there he was, the crux of the easter miracle.
a man alone.
full of sorrow.

pope francis washed the feet of the refugees.  i wondered if those refugees wouldve felt alone during their journey- some would have, some may be totally alone by now.  as we discuss their welfares, many of them would be standing alone, in the wide whole world.  and jesus wouldve known what that felt like.

the stories, they come back, from my childhood. and they become real as i get older.

the tears flow, as good friday night is the night of defeat. oh how mary wouldve cried her heart, till it's burnt to dark soot.


pursuit of happiness: born to be blue: about chet baker...

*could have been: by david braid

born to be blue- the initial interest for this movie came from a small update from a dearest friend during TIFF 2015: hey, i wrote movie tracks- argh, it was not possible to get to the sold-out showing then.  finally, today, coupla months later, i cleared schedule to go see it as it's doing a briefest stint of a week at the lightbox.  the project intersected so many lives of utoronto- i went with curiosity and beaming enthusiasm for friends and teachers.

then i walked out the theater with blue, smudging off from my trail, as melancholia filled my heart and brought down the daunting weight of the pursuit of happiness.

a young boy from the big field of oklahoma whose life consisted of repeated launchings into the stratosphere of highest euphoria and the consequent crashes, whose life could have been full of- well, i did end up being full of beauty which was sustained through consumption of his own life, overflowing into his musical legacy. and lies. so many lies. and the days that were soaked in heroin high, distorted into beauty, if brief.

but were those intentional lies or just highly distorted imaginary memory fragments, ashes of beautiful flare-ups that burned so bright, each time, and left the rest of the time with dust-light, darkest soot, sprawling whenever the wind blew?

i did not know chet baker, the person. i liked his tunes and have a very soft spot for his flugel playing.  unlike other members of the trumpet, flugel is a bit of an anomaly- the heraldry golden sparkles of trumpet has been replaced by dark mellowness, smoky, rather. and i wondered if the movie was set in the timbre of flugel horn.

the movie is loosely based on particular aspects of chet's life, around his drug addiction, the massive trouble that followed him for heroin money, including legal troubles and a bad scuffle that left him with broken mouth. but as true addicts do, he rebuilds, to chase his happiness- through playing, drugs and beauty to the day of his mysterious death.  this is not a biopic, but a fantasy on a theme of reality, much like a 'high,' where altered reality fills the experimenter with beauty that is greater than life itself.

apparently the character of carmen ejogo is a fictional amalgamation of all the ladies that wafted throughout chet's life- the flesh and blood, of bodily warmth from the 'reality.' and the 'reality' does restore chet, lets him rebuild- as he's made of flesh and blood, though only to allow him to re-launch to the vicious addiction cycle.

a quick glance on the web got me a a few negative, even angry feedbacks from jazz enthusiasts, of how this is not an actual biopic, therefore how insulting it is for chet.

but is it?

if the role of arts is to create an exit to a greater degree of emotions, i think the movie was a success. ethan hawke's character, if simple because he was so singular focused (chase that high- whether through music or through heroin), is realistic.  i do believe that most of us mortals wander through life, not because we have diverse interest, but because we are not able to find that singular inlet into beauty; parallel examples are abundant around all of us- who have not seen a true addict?  for an addict, a 'better' life is not necessary, but the pursuit and acquisition of the 'happiness' is an absolute mandatory.  in a fact, we are all addicts to pleasure and beauty, or whatever one decide to call it.

hawke's character is weak and ugly.  timid and afraid at times.  such an anti-hero. however, that is who we all are.  in the great force of life, we are timid and ugly.  sometimes we are lucky to have aids, such as love, to support us through the hard time.  we often compare 'love' to 'air,' a necessity for sustaining life. however, the narrative of this film stresses the very point we often choose to oversee- if a true happiness can be obtained through abandonment of 'life,' is it necessary to live?

filled with slow, grating narrative and frustration after frustration (come on chet, do the right thing...!), filled with beautiful music set in that hauntingly mellow tone of flugel horn (plenty of space and room for each sounds, thank the lord for sparseness. nowdays, so many things are too over-filled, including sound), the film filled my heart with a wish for true fulfilment, something that is imagined, not to become true (for most days of my life), and the hint of sadness that comes from such realization.

...it all began so well, but what an end,
this is the time a fella needs a friend...
*but not for me, george/ira gershwin, one of chet's best tune


rapture into the bluest water

often, feelings come at rather inconvenient times. more one tries to escape, more one gets sucked in, to the bottom of the maelstrom.  in midst of drowning, reality shatters, death- if briefly.

today's morning was full of big, heavy wet snow, turning into freezing rain. big flakes being guided by the wind, slapping against the waterproof jacket hood.  hazy, heavy and opaque. not at all calm, menacing, as it continued to pour down these big frozen tears.

i often wonder what is going on in midst of something beautiful.  when i see beauty, do you also see beauty? but what do you see? and what do i see? what did anyone else see? it is fleeting, it may not even last long enough to register into one's own consciousness.

some days, the familiar beauty, in conjunction with other alertoric passage of the day, becomes too hot to handle- and one falls into the alternate reality- the reality comprised solely of imagination, memories and projection. strong and irresistible; we fall on our knees, pleading for that hint of dignity, should we be in 'danger' of being vulnerable.

dropping heavy boots onto the floor, i opened the book, for the class. debussy's prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. over the years, i got to know it intimately, for the conducting class. the sensuousness, the colours, sighs and feline curvatures.  like a cat youve known all your life- you can trace it in your mind, the warmth and softness of its breathing body.

there's that one favorite part of mine: mm. 55, d flat major.

we take the turn, somehow, we get to an open- vastly open and light-filled space. ocean blue, no cloud in the sky. brilliant platinum whites and deepest cobalt blue. the tang of the ocean and the endless horizon, flatter than silence.

i have seen this coast, in quiet and reclusive southern french coast of cap d'antibe, steps away from the bustle of nice.  chagall, matisse, monet and picasso painted here. with the vibrant colours that looks impossible under the indoor lighting of art galleries. it is of no fluke that cote d'azure have inspired so many painters.  we were there in the week of the nice carnival; it rained most of the time. we took solace in warm and dry indoor, looking out to the grey sea, warmed by the essence of the summer in our wine glasses. till the penultimate day, when the sun rose and everything became magic.

aquamarine water.
blue sky.
pale golden sun, warm on skin.

we walked along the coast. full of unreleased sighs.  the mind took it in, all of it, expanding all directions, of this golden sphere of moment.

and today, while expecting to feel this familiar coast, a surprise.

just this summer, i drove out with minnow to the west coast. and from west vancity, i drove straight to kelowna; winding road, rain-reduced visibility, then sleek surface with long and fast passages. it wasnt an easy drive but i had a destination.

i kept the GPS coordinate from the police report where my brother died six years ago.  ive been wanting to finish his drive from tofino, just half-hour short from kelowna.

we parked the car on the side of the road. it was during the darkest point of the night when he crashed (130am).  he would not have seen how deep the fall would be. or if there was a fall, awaiting for him, destiny.  but when we got to kelowna, the summer sun was high, things were perfectly beautiful. and the water, calmer than silence. once again. brilliant with refraction on surface. as if, nothing happened.

this morning, we were talking briefly about mahler 5 adagietta in regards to tempi. and came death in venice. of fleeting beauty. of intersection of lives. of the plague. of tadzio.

then rapture.
everything changed.

all i could see was- water. the infinite big blue water. d flat major. suffocation in the glorious water.  suspension of time. nullification of our lives. exaltation beyond the human flesh. and water, of cote d'azure, of the okanagan lake, blue.

oh how the tears fell.

i couldnt stop. the more i resisted, the stronger it pulled. as the music evolved into its glorious peak, i was pulled further and further under onto the heart of the maelstrom. invisible yet real, simultaneously.

tears fell for beauty. for longing. for loss. for vulnerability.

there came the hints of brutal spring and eternal summer and it left me this morning, in midst of grayest winter.

with messy aftermath of the big, unforgiving water, i walk through the day, with hint of salt and water in my mind. in my face.

what did you see this morning-
what did beauty do to you today-

*painting cred: cap d'antibe, monet (1888),
monet painted 40 landscape from antibes in jan-may 1899.


watching the neighbours' contest: and i do admire bernie

image from twitter


1. glad to see bernie pushing through.
if this was back in 2008, i wouldve been in the bandwagon for hilary.  but 8 years later, gratefully, feminism had time to cultivate next generation of girls who are willing to be more inclusive, of other minorities- the poor, undereducated, legally suppressed; this is progress, where women feels less pressure to concentrate all their voting influence for the single reason of female figure(s) visibility.  i understand the older women's frustration, but in contrary, they should be proud of us, the girls, for being able to reach out to larger minority: the have-less, even if that means overseeing age and gender of sanders

2.  trump's lead among the conservatives arent surprising.  he polarizes and other nominees appear to be moderate in comparison to trump, hence the even split on the field among kasich, cruz, bush and rubio.  the real challenge is when candidates start to withdraw.  should a moderate rise to the second position after bloody contest among themselves,  then i would worry.

3.  as long as trump ends up representing the republicans, the election has hope, as his attitude-his best asset, ironically may persuade the public to opt for the 'other'- sanders, yes, the socialist! gasp. and if trump heads republicans, then begrudgingly, democrats have to stick together. so it becomes a contest of: pro-sanders, anti-trumps and pro-trumps. anti-trumps, the minority then will decide the election.

4. if a moderate republican, say, bush, somehow gets ahead of trump for nomination, then it gets complicated.  similar to above, a contest of: pro- republicans (they will clump against democrats), anti-sanders (anti-socialists) and pro-sanders.  the division within the democrats can hand the win to republicans easy.

5. hilary's history of survival and success, ironically, is driving her away from previously supportive audience (esp the young women), as sanders' war on class puts hilary in a very emotional place for many.

6. trump's bullish personality is drawing people toward him; this trend will not stop unless people realize that a government simply cannot operate as for-profit business.  a government's roll is to allocate wealth within the system for citizens, not rolling the books to black.  in fact, because of its non-profit nature, government debts, especially in forms of bonds and loans within the country, is not necessarily bad, as debts then signifies investments (across generations).  however, foreign-sourced debts is a problem (i wonder how many americans are aware of countries such as china*with infrastructurs such as harbours and bridges, and united kingdom *through oil and manufacturing firms). and unlike trumps' failed enterprises, a government should not look into bankruptcy as an elective option (trump airline, taj mahal casino@atlantic city etc)

7. i need to wind down and go to bed. argh.


beyonce wins, always, of course!


so there it was, 50th superbowl halftime show, with cold play, bruno mars and beyonce. and yes, YOLA (youth orchestra of los angeles).  shot with new drone cams, i thought it looked bizarre. i personally enjoyed last year's katy perry's show better, but it's probably all to do with the left shark. haha.

then the postings started. about how cold play was outshadowed by beyonce. about the weird visual effects from mashing drone feeds with wide cams. and oh. the tragedy of 'underappreciation' for classical music.

huh what?

so superstar orchestra conductor did not get same visibility as beyonce. YOLA kids did not get their own segment. but with beyonce on program, even coldplay couldnt fight her for the attention.  i wondered why is the conductor even on the side of the stage- as the drummer, heavily amped, was clearly marking beats for the kiddies?

wait, was dudamel put on the screen to 'recognize' the classical musicians?

wait, why does classical music needs verification of its own merit from a football game?

the fact that we think we 'deserve' same 'status' as pop, i think, is a symptom of our own problems; not everything needs to be 'equal' to other things.  classical music is what it is, and as a person, most joy one will experience in classical music is through personal playing and appreciation.  certain things just dont translate successfully to certain format.

for me, it's bit like... happy personal relationship.  everyone likes to talk about the 'secrets' of successful personal relationship- advice columns, church tea gossips, text flirting, swiping left or right, etc... the entertainment magazines are all about 'relationships.'  but really, there is no way to translate that into such format, from it being so personal and dear, and different EVERYTIME for EVERYONE.  so no sane persons in good solid relationships would not seek validation from comparing selves to ... i donno, some celebrity marraige/breakdown.

i find it bit bizarre to see all these 'negative' reaction to the half-time show. after all, it is a football game half-time show...

as a special interest party, i think it's never too careful to not to value life totally based on all-other-things.  same as i do not really appreciate good lattes because i am lactose-intolerant (i do appreciate the craftmanship though. i just dont want one, therefore tend to be oblivious).

and though i dont really care for beyonce, i know that in pop culture, queen bey wins. and someone will be a winner. well. till next queen comes along, anyhow.

happy count-down to the controversial oscars! haha!!


slow transformations


the lone planetarium, which closed its operation back in 1995, may get a second life now, as part of university of toronto expansion; since it sold to utoronto in 2009, many ideas floated around but this winter, a public announcement was finally made about its future: new building for history, islamic studies and music department- possibly a new chamber hall, 250-seats.

i hear much complaint that the faculty of music facilities are way out of date and that it is inadequate and that NO ONE CARES. this hurts me a bit, because when people say 'no one cares,' it seems as if people are acting 'as if (they) no longer care,' whatever the reason is.

every time i see a broken thing, trashed floor and uncared, tossed garbage at work, i am slightly disappointed.  yes, we grew out of building and we are cramped. it is worn and busy but really, music can happen here and we can practice and learn here.  i understand that old, worn-out tired building is difficult to care for, but if we dont, who will? and how does trashing it further help anyone anyhow?

but perhaps, with new project announced, may be people will remember that things do cost money, and things are important. and that we all chip in this together, not just current students but of the entire canadian community- through taxes, education in music, belief in public education etc.  as simple as not leaving garbage on the lounge table, damaging library properties, taking a thing or two home...

another thing i hear frequently is that all projects move too slow. this is true and not true. with undergraduate program consisting of mostly 18-22 years olds, couple years is a long time period (if you are 20, a 4-years project would be 20% of their life so far!) and it is easy to feel as if nothing happens and no one cares, but it's not true!

building projects in downtown toronto is slow and expensive- i do not remember any significant major projects that finished on time+budget in last 20 years.  and for st. george campus budget, i doubt music prog is a hot investment project (compare to info tech or even world-ranked medieval studies dept), which means it takes much more red-tapes to get through. im not saying we should be 'grateful' for what we get, but we must not forget that such projects move slow and that it takes time and tireless efforts of many many people.  we must stay consistent in our opinion and support for such project to actually start, and then to completion.

faculty of music was built in 1962 and school was much smaller.  just to put it in perspective, 1954, master's prog was introduced and only in 1961, musbac prog became a 4 year prog.  now we have musbac, masters, docotoral and perf dip + opera school. we did outgrow the building.  and we produced many fine artists, educators, and individuals. yes, most importantly, individuals who hopefully gained a life-long sight to importance of humanity studies, and the way to express and understand self/others through sound. people who has been enriched by the some of the best of the western civilization and more, people who can sing when their hearts are full.

just putting timeline in perspective,

-ROM second expansion with lee-chin crystal took 2003-2007 (this project had many extended deadlines), as part of 250-million expansion (cost of crystal itself hovers around 135-million)

-AGO expansion ('transformation AGO') with frank gehry initially had 195-million plans, started in 2004, ended year behind initial deadline (2008),  it cost 276-million at the end.


-conservatory construction took place 2001-2009, with construction cost of 110-million
though, on wiki entry, foot note 15 says the project was really conceived way back in 1991; the URL isnt working but i wont doubt it goes back longer than people may remember.

so though expensive, and always behind schedule, such projects can become reality.  just like chipping away on instruments every day. if practiced right, it will improve. this is not the time to be disheartened. this is the time to be couragious.

i wonder how the next few years will turn out for us, at the music faculty.  but one thing is for sure- the things we get to explore in this tattered building, often enable us to see beyond the daily grind. how lucky are we.


blue monday 2016

the city of 2.615 million
minus one



cold wind on red nose
warmth in heart on way home
spring in steps on way to work

dinner getting cold as
it taste of nothing
wolfing down every scrap in the fridge
because it is improbable that
nothing taste of something
but that it is

the world through a filter
bit of a joke
so hipster
blurry filter imitating the old days
artificially aged
as if
if the days are actually old
old enough to be transparent
like apparition of leaves
once green and alive
now transparent golden bristle wings
wings that arent attached to anything
time flowing without reference
dulled senses
days and nights rolling into muddle

trying to hold onto the beauty
that everyone's pointing at
may be an anchor

perhaps a dream
a desiccation
a shell left behind


with great gusto, hello 2016!

mousie from winter 2015 winter journey up to northbay!

hullo 2016.

there are many posts from 2015, sitting half-done, yawning.  i am holding back in hope that i can tame some of the wordings that may be too provocative, too condemning, too.. whatever. because, after all, the aim of expression through this blog is to explore, rather than defy or repel others.

so perhaps i will stick to simple thoughts.
today: consumption.

i had not such an expensive christmas and i am grateful. i didnt go out shopping,agonizing on gifts, or went on a seasonal whim on surprise found-things. not because i want to be a scooruge, but because there wasnt a need for it. and i was lucky to be able to do so, because people around me are also quite chill about seasonal consumption. thank the lord. i did get a few things for a few people, but it was not necessarily connected to christmas- just things that people needed/wanted and that i wanted to give.

we did spend a bit of dough going up to north to bury ourselves in quiet winter snow. yes, snow, while yyz stayed green and fresh! that was worth the efforts. also renting a car abled us to take my 92 years old granny for haircut, bit of starbucks and dinner while momdad's away in korea- now, that's worthwhile!

we made a few nice dinners at home and met lovely people. spent a bit of time on local LCBO's craft beer shelves, having a good time. if not, well, drink more, i suppose.

it's not so often i think: i need '___.'
many times, it's: i would LIKE '___.'

and hey, im no saint. i do spend money on certain things heavily, such as travelling. the idea of june trip (andalusia or amsterdam?) and july trip (thailand or scandinavia?), have started rattling in my head, as the annual '52 places to visit' from nytimes rolled out coupla days ago. argh. haha. such a terrible vice!

money does not guarantee happiness.
lack of it certainly will bring unhappiness.

money can be spent or kept.

money can buy some lovely things.
lovely things are the things that allows one to experience something beyond its existence.

ex. lovely shoes:
by wearing shoes, you feel good and the perceived sense of happiness then enhances one's image and self-satisfaction.  however, with just two feet, there must be some sort of reasonable number of shoes one could possess.

ex. silk sleeping bag liner:
by having such nice luxury in what could be a harsh environment (usually with dirtback camping for me), my life is ELEVATED instantaneously with warm silk cover and dry socks, as i roll into the sleeping back. groan in pleasure.

money can also buy lovely things for others.
i tried regular donation to various causes, once a month, starting mid-year last year. and it did take a bit of time to figure out WHO i want to give money to, but it is always a good feeling to know that i abled something greater than me to make the place a bit better.

money can also buy time.
as freelancer, part-time musician, oh i know this so well.

money, by itself, isnt anything too special. it's a physical manifestation of an idea, 'currency.'
what is currency?

currency (n.)
1650s, "condition of flowing," from Latin currens, present participle of currere "to run" (see current (adj.)); the sense of a flow or course extended 1699 (by John Locke) to "circulation of money."

so it is supposed to flow. and if it flows, like water, there will be things that one cannot hold onto.
two books stick out in my mind on this matter:

1. sandel: what money cant buy
i always make a point to tell a friend when making a reference, that since sandel's well and alive, if you like the premise, buy a new copy, so that he will benefit from the sale :)

2. ridley: the rational optimist
this one, also worth paying for a new one. i quite liked it. it gave me hope that yes, we are getting better as a society. book's got a bit of challenge regarding wealth division and perhaps it's bit too rosy but hey, it's always a good day to have a hope!

while you ponder another purchase, a free article...
the world is full of wealth.
i hope your consumption this year, and mine, brings much joy and happiness. resources are limited and yes, it is definitely possible to be happy through spending! happy new year!