sweaty hugs and a good bye

it came with a little 'ding' from the phone. i scratched my eyes to see what the day brought already! it was only about 7am.

from mom. on a cheery yellow background.

'... and i called big auntie and she said yeouido auntie has gone to heaven. it wouldve been around night time here. she was asleep. i feel a bit lost for words.'

my mom has many siblings. and as kiddies, we didnt call them by names, like proper little koreans. we called them by nicknames. the first, the eldest aunt was called big auntie. her second sister lived in fancy house in yeouido (thats gangnam style for you, haha).  then there's the only boy in the mix, so he was just called uncle. then pharmacy auntie (she operated pharmacy and is certified eastern traditional medicine practitioner), then bupyeong auntie (who lived in bupyeong).

when i was little, we were quite close. dad being the only child, most of our family activities were with mom's family; dad had cousins and stuff, but i dont think they were quite close as mom's fam was.  i guess that's the distance that relationships build by definitions.

on major holidays and other random days, whenever we get together, men gathered to play some hwatu: that infamous korean card game, on the mat that was pulled out. there would be bottles of weak korean beer and strong soju.  many small, medium and large talks were made across the floor. they really did get along, i felt. food made and carried in and out, constantly, by aunties and cousins. there were lots of laughter and since it was mostly at big auntie's house (who had househelper ladies), thankfully it was not as pressure-crazy as it couldve been. that kitchen was magically churning out amazing stuff...

because mom's the youngest, we three (bros and me), were considered mostly useless in practical sense (ex.not trustworthy with hot bowls of soup), and so we kinda hung around and did 'cute' things.

to stay out of busy aunties and gaming uncles, the usual options would be :
1. being highjacked by girl cousins (who were already getting married and was in university/highschool, etc), and was made to be a play doll (makeup, hair things etc), which i hated,

2. go stay with boy cousins, and was made to watch endless bruce willis or chow yun fat movies, which was also equally terrible.
so i often ended up sitting by the hwatu matts.

my yeouido uncle was a loud man. he talked big, he laughed big. so i would sit by him usually, and then...

yeouido auntie would come, from nowhere, i swear. and she would lift me up, bury my face in her chest, and she would even bite me on the cheek when she was being expressive:

there was no way around it.

so you know. breath squeezed out. stuffed hot in someone's bosom. cheeks filled with kisses, and often these bites.  YOU ARE TOO CUTE! COME AND LIVE WITH US!

see, yeouido immo (auntie) only had two boys. she always wanted to have a little girl, so whenever she saw me, the youngest of my generation, i was open target for her affection.  her and uncle would often talk 'openly' about their abduction plan, how they will take me away from home and i will be a princess, that i wont need any of my snotty brothers EVER.

i liked this ritual. i liked being special in her eyes. i felt loved and that was probably the only reason i tolerated being bitten on the cheeks. they lived in a fancy house with big stereos (uncle was a proper well-to-do architect with his own company); they even had an egg chair. of course, whenever we visited, we were carefully and nonsubtlely reminded to NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING by momdad and the househelper lady. lol.  especially the LPs. not the LPs!!

we left s.korea in 1992.  i first and lastly returned to visit in 1997. and i felt like such an outcast, i havent felt the need to go back yet.  in summer of 1997, i did spend much time with family, but as i grew and got busy with life, especially after the trip, my extended family became something of a memory- like potpurri, it's there and sometimes, with random change in room temperature or wind direction, it pops up into your nose.

i last saw her when she visited toronto with other auntie (may be one more?) on a packaged tour of northeastern america; we went to their hotel and spend an evening.

but when i read text from mom, it all came back. the crushing hugs. hot, stuffed house full of relatives. the obligatory oppressive kisses. the proposition to go live with yeouido auntie and uncle, the delicious option of ditching my brothers at momdad's.

i tried picture her face. i could not.
i have some digital pics mom sent in her last trip to korea.

but i did not want to take a look at those photos.

as they are not what yeouido immo is, to me.

for me, she will be that big hug that obliterated the world. enveloping me and covering my eyes and ears, with her body enveloping small me. she was the warmth, softness, and of course, bitey kisses on the cheek.

i think it's not too sad that i cannot draw her face in my mind.

i think it's nice that she is more tactile than anything i could think of.  she was the warmth. every family get together. with muffled voice above my little head: we are going to take you!

i will put on a sweater today i think. at 21'c with 84%, it is probably an overkill. but i want to.

i will probably sweat a little bit, wearing too warm of a thing for the day.
and i will probably chuckle. at my own effort to bring her back once again, in my mind.  that slightly too warm, too big of a hug.

i love you, yeouido auntie.
i know you did love me too.

ive heard it in our internet phone conversations last winter.
but most surely,

ive felt it. and i still do.


giving thanks with strength and making my bed

california desert super bloom, from WIRED mag*

tis the canadian thanksgiving weekend.
how did we get here already?
79 days till christmas, if you are counting
*slightly uncomfortable.

it's been a questionable, brutal, demoralising and difficult summer to autumn transition for the world.

las vegas shooting. the biblical hurricanes. persecution of rohingyas in myanmar/bangladesh border.  yemen cholera and starvation. north korea military conflict. crackdown by spanish government on catala independence vote.  continued military assault in syria. complacency around my own community. biases that are so deep that one cannot see it themselves.

it is easy to feel dejected. defeated.

even here in toronto. the comfortable and wealthy six. yyz. home.

(i understand i live quite a sheltered life here in toronto, as i tend to work in the section of the city that is very wealthy and stable- university education is not cheap, and therefore this community has so much unseen wealth that even if individuals may feel the economic pressure, i am going to state that as general, we are the rich, privileged population.)

*the other spectrum is the work that i do with the legal aids- that gives me a good perspective
whenever i am wrapped in illusions about 'my' world...

the tragedies- objective (daylight homicide, robberies, shootings, etc.; the ones you access on news channel), and subjective (individual difficulties that is monumental to sufferers- illness, rejection, failure, etc; the ones you hear from your network of people), they seep through the cracks.  they make my feet soggy. that dampness that one cannot escape, because one is standing in the middle of it.

i make myself read the articles and the opinions. i force myself to pay attention. though, sometimes, i run away and look at memes, read a book, waste energy on treadmill that does not go anywhere. 


because it's already so full.

sometimes it seems all so futile.

but then there are the little things.
here's a video of a speech i appreciated recently, by admiral william mcraven.
*i still dont understand how the us military training at top levels can be so rigorous and disciplined, yet they must be governed by the congress, which is... well, im not going there today.

i come back to this speech regularly.
probably because i can at least make my bed. everyday.


because- well, what else can you control? what else can you do, beside try to become disciplined?

i believe that the world at large, has its own discourse and direction. and that very few individuals can actually change such courses.  the individual empowerment, remains mostly insignificant until the momentum reaches a critical mass.

but that's what we have. and that's a great way to look at life-

individual empowerment-
the world may break you. but no one can actually take it away from you. you may relinquish it. you may surrender your will to your context, and give up for a bit. but as long as you have tomorrow, it's not finished. and there is the possibiliy of tabula rasa. every seed holds blades of grass in its heart.

it is okay to be dormant. it is okay hide for a bit. after all, no human can turn into a non-human. it's just different degrees we trod on. it's okay not to be great. it's okay not to be loved and cherished by everyone. IT DOES NOT FEEL GREAT but IT IS FINE.

so i make my bed.
so i read my news.
so i bang my head on the wall.
so i look around my peeps and see what i could do.
not because i am so capable, but because that's the only thing we can do. that i make my bed and may be i can be useful if someone else also tries to make their bed. that, we can do. everyday.

it is fine to not feel like giving thanks.
but if there's tomorrow,
there's always a chance, once one is empowered, one can see the world around,
that a true thankfulness will come through the heart,
like a fresh new spring, breaking ground.
it seems bleak at times, but it does happen.

even in the desert, rain comes.
and life flourishes.

desert is not dead. it may be dormant, but it surely lives.
and it is okay, to not be so great. to feel that people are hard on you. that everyone's out to get you OR does not give a rat's ass. whether it is not true or not, the sure thing is that rain does come to a desert.

it will. again.

here's a great article to add to the end.
self-control. i hang onto you with white knuckles, because well, the news makes it hard to smile and enjoy the day sometimes!

here's to making a bed and stuff, eh.


*about the picture, i found it online on wired article, but cannot figure out how to actually find a way to credit the photographer. if you know, please send me a message. it is so beautiful,


when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are...

aleko and zemphira by moonlight, chagall

recently, in montreal, a promising young, bright man have ended his life. we often associate such death (young, beautiful person's) with shooting star, bright.

ironicially, shooting star also symbolizes luck, that you must close your eyes and make a wish.  in the old testament, it was associated with light of christ, and the angels and heaven.  and you must, must, must, keep your wishes secret if you really want it to come true.

this particular news has shaken many people to their cores. a few people have been in conversation- mostly texting (suppose that makes it a bit easier, as it's quite distant way to communicate, for a delicate topic), and they are sad, triggered and deep in grief.  i am slightly concerned, as it seems that this event have brought difficult feelings- of fear, resentment, envy and (therefore) confusion.

one kiddie said he is trying to create some sort of comfort, from the situation-

etymologically, the word has interesting origin:
comfort (n.)
c. 1200, "feeling of relief" (as still in to take comfort in something); also "source of alleviation or relief;" from Old French confort (see comfort (v.)). Replaced Old English frofor. Comforts (as opposed to necessities and luxuries) is from 1650s.
comfort (v.)
late 13c., conforten "to cheer up, console," from Old French conforter "to comfort, to solace; to help, strengthen," from Late Latin confortare "to strengthen much" (used in Vulgate), from Latin com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + fortis "strong" (see fort). Change of -n- to -m- began in English 14c. Related: Comforted; comforting.

a source of relief. to strengthen. to be strong.

may be it is okay to be vulnerable. to be weak. to be uncomfortable.

one of the kiddies acknowledged that though with significantly distressing to herself, that she may be envious. because he's found a solution of some sort.

i thought may be it's not distressing. if one's been on the depth of 'that' place, waiting for resolution seems worse than the end.  especially if there seem to be no solution, but of time. time does not cure, time just passes. and as one passes through, the event becomes a memory, a recollection. and it fades- sometimes becoming less and less vivid, though sometimes it becomes hyper-real.

i wonder what we all look for, what we can actually acknowledge.

i wish upon a star, that i be strong and knowledgeable. i would like to be kind and generous, and i wish i was better.

better? better of what? how better?

in the world where we constantly told that 'what we are is okay' vs. the general obsession with constructivism, it's not too surprising that most of experience the point of explosive incomprehension.

nothing. makes. sense.

therefore. i. am. not. worth. it.

what. it. is- does not matter.

we tread through. or we fall. sometimes people wish to help. though there's very little others can do for another in that situation- one can patiently wait, passively. as no one can take another's agony away.

siddhartha had to leave the world to achieve the meaning of existence (highly recommends hermann hesse's siddhartha, 1922). 

jesus had to cry alone in getsemane before the crucifixion. before leaving this world.

though hypothetical, saint-saens, after death of his children and consequent collapse of his family, one day simply left his holiday hotel, and wrote to his wife days later, that he wont return, and they never saw one and other again (he died 40 years later).  no one really knows why.

there are so many stories of people just 'leaving.'

we go to funerals and think of ourselves, i think. i certainly did, when gabe died. when i think of my 94 years old granny, i am really thinking about my life without her. what she would think at the point of her death? no one will ever know.

we often envy  the dead. and feel guilty about it (many of us do). we often look at our failures and think we arent worth anything. that we are embarrassing. that we are imperfect. not good enough. uncomfortable.

may be it's being uncomfortable.
that it is okay, that it is normal.
life after exiting the womb is a journey toward the end, and that process has only surprises. with beauty. with ugliness. immorality and repulsion. of elegance and grace. all of that in one life time. in one day. in one instance.

leigh harlineand ned washington wrote that:

... fate is kind,
she brings to those whoe love,
the sweet fulfillment of,
their secret longing...
(when you wish upon a star)

what does the fate bring?
life, then death.

we need the strength, to be com+forted, because we are vulnerable.


i think of the days of our lives, filled with reflections of others' lives.
and i think of people who feel helpless and depressed.
we are here with you. we are in the same boat.
hold my hand. im holding onto another's hand.
we will get through, and we wont get through.
but meanwhile we are here, we are together.

good night, world.



i baked a cake for you

ive known you for 3122 days.
youve been around much longer than that. when i was squinting to see the first daylight of my life, you were kicking around, a young man with many thoughts in your head.  we were at least 8 time zones across; even now, majority of the year, we are, on average, 5 hours apart.

weve been to many places together and seen many sunsets together. but honestly, much fewer sunrises together, hehe.  youve drank many pints while i munch on something beside you. we did laundry together, pulled on new linens on be together. who could possibly make a nice bed all by oneself? well, not i.

you saw me sobbing thinking about my lost brother. we talk about your mum, once in awhile, whenever she floats to top of our minds.

considering the distance, the time, and oh so grand, the universe, we float together, magically.

but is that magic? i dont really think that.

many people fall into synchronicity. and sometimes, like all the phones that are connected to the atomic clock network, they expect to stay parallel. always.

sometime people have an idea of the 'other,' of how they should fill into your life, to that weird game of expectant telepathy, regardless of the definition of the relations they are connected through- family, friends, colleagues, etc.

we certainly arent riding on automatic gear. we fudge the gears sometime. occasionally, we have to make things fit, as if making a jigsaw puzzle from many different materials. and we do. even if we sigh, kick, and give a cut eye. haha.

and you are there, outside of me. whether you are on the other side of these amazing smartphone machines, or in warm bed sheets, or crowded and hot budget airline seats with tempers flairing up, you are there. outside of me. but with me.

we work it out together. sometimes not- sometimes one 'informs' the other, what is to happen. luckily, we havent exchange a physical blow, though a comical image, perhaps, of banging someone with sack of oranges, do come up in conversations.  sometimes we throw our hands in exasperation, not so secretly thinking that the 'other' is wrong. and that's also fine.

so with all of that, i baked a cake for your birthday.

if an alien saw a cake, they would go around and gather crumbs to build a cake.

as cake batter has nothing to do with how cake looks like at the end!

i put many different things in the batter. eggs. liquor. butter. flour. chocolate. salt. all things that are not so spectacular on their own. some ingredients are no fun to eat on their own- especially baking powder, so bitter and astringent.

i whip the batter with elbow grease. after all, i only bake once a year or so. an old balloon whip will do just fine. the same whip that makes your birthday cakes for last few years.

this year, with the hectic schedule, i thought may be we should buy a cake.
but there we were, 11pm, on the first day back from another 10 days trip, you licking the whip, and me parked by the oven, as if i can stare at it to order it to rise. thank god it did.

house smelled of chocolate, sugar and butter.
you drank your birthday selection of supermarket beer on small chair in the kitchen, while i wrinkled my brain about jazzing up the frosting.

so there it is. a cake to take to work.

and in that batter, many things went in. the days of our lives together and apart. the thoughts that were expressed and thoughts that were scrapped from the table, to protect the other. small complaints and compliments. the jabs to the ribcage (for fun and not for fun), spilled coffee and hair on the bathroom floor. the small things that makes a 'day.'

and cake rose. as recipe promised. and you were so giddy excited to take it to work. steps with balloons on ankles.

happy birthday dear minnow.
i bake cakes, only for you, pretty much.
and im thankful everytime it turns out okay.


home. homes. my. our.


some summers are long and some are very short- how silly!

but as i look out of the window and chinley's gently showered with small, little, light raindrops that doesnt make any noise, along with bbc radio 3 chatters, i think about packing for next few days, once again.   we will float through london, oxford, bilbao, san sebastian and santander before getting back here, a small dot on a map, even invisible from the google map's street view (you can see the 'entrance' for this short street but not the houses themselves)-

and once we get back, it will be another few short days till heading west, to yyz. and that is home too, back perched on 32nd floor in bustling city, flashing with lights and ringing with sirens all day/night long.

instead of making slow roasts and sewing hop bags for beer brewing, it will be quick 20 min prep dinners and walking back from midnight movies to home.

im the same person in both places. but depending on where i am, my context changes constantly and i keep finding slightly variations of myself. alone, with people, along other people, even belonging to a group- sometimes.

sometimes when i talk of 'home,' people arent sure 'which' home im talking about. and i chuckle and explain.  when people were talking about incredibly hot and muggy yyz summer, for instance, i had no idea how it went (as i was roaming probably east of north america); or unexpected snowfall in uk (as i was probably freezing in yyz).  and i hop through different backgrounds as necessary.

but the best thing about this is that i still have a definition in my mind, what a home is.

home is where i look in and find the people i listen and crave. home is where i can lay down and fall into a happy sleep, not having to toss around to find the right 'spot.'  where i can stumble into the bathroom in pitch dark, half-asleep, and know exactly where everything is. a place where i can pull out last minute 'treat' that i have bought eons ago. a room with a favourite chair, or rather, a chair that pulls me over, like a magnet.  i flop down and it's home.

i know my pots and pans. my spoons and chopsticks. where i put down soaps and spare toilet rolls.  some obscure adaptors and cables. the old cold medications that i put away while humming through finally clear sinus. the nooks where all the dust bunnies and dinosaurs congregate

where it smells like people i like. people i live with. familiar shoes and jackets in the sight, hastily hung somewhere. hotels and lodgings and other people's houses always have slightly unique smell.

right now, chinley home smells of fermenting young beer- sweet and slightly yeasty. and when i walk over to the shed, there'll be two hop plants, climbing up the lines, slowly and surely.

toronto home may smell like neighbour's fried eggs in the kitchen. that always cracks me up.

bathrooms that i pick up hairs after shower, without being irked. a tub where i can lay self down and hum along with bubbles. places where i hid some fancy soaps for 'later.'

as i slowly make another list of 'packing,' (packing everything into a 28L bag or less, always takes a bit of addition/subtraction in the head) i look out and see the familiar scene of drizzly british summer rain. and wee bird call. rain must be lifting a bit.

if the rain lifts a bit, i will put my shoes on and carefully tread to the shed, trying to avoid slugs as much as possible (dont like them, but like it even less to step on them... making me a killer!), as i do here. back in yyz, i would put on my almost 20 years old blunnies and walk to avoid gums on pavement. different objects to dodge around.

im wistful to leave home. this summer has gone super fast. a month in stans, then guest for 2.5 weeks, then proms, and it's NOW. i havent got into a wide mental space this summer, where i often get into a new projects such as mastering pizza making from scratch, or learning to brew water kefir with silly scobies, as time ran through the calendar.

next morning, we leave home, and then when we come back, it'll be a new month, and it'll also go fast. so i better go make the most out of my home. cuz i love this home very much.


conversation with summer 5 pounds

i make some amazing roasts here.

tis summer, and it's a hot one. with loads of sunshine (comparative, in uk, anyhow) and time (ah, the luxury of contract worker lifestyle, lol).  like squirrel with plenty nuts in the holes, i take the summer mostly doing nonconsequential things.

when a friend came to visit me in chinley, he mentioned that my life in the two places are so vastly different, it must be a culture shock, everytime i go back and forth. and i chuckled, because it is true!

the pace of life does change drastically. coming out from the bustle of the end of second semester in the music school calendar, i go into days of unstructured freedom. gone are the days of tight schedule, back to back and running around, sneaking in a quick run to keep myself sane and light on the feet. usually minimal eating, at the end of the day, except for an occasional cold snack or two during the day, lunch happens around 3pm. sleep is also quite skint. but i am happy.

then comes summer. especially this summer, when the stan trips (uzbekistan and tajikisitan) involved hot blazing sun and super slow pace of life, i was stretched out in the old ancient silkroad, like melting piece of gum on the road. that did set the pace for this summer. SLOW.
ive been following a friend's fb post. she's a dear friend and recently she's been writing about her struggle with keeping up with the lifestyle- mainly regarding staying active and healthy. this made me think a bit, each day. then comes floods of people in bikinis in sunshine, beefcakes in glistening sunshine, very carefully sculpted girls smiling with too-many-blinding-white-teeth.

see, in the summer, i always put on a bit of weight. living is good and i have the time to sit and have six meals if i wished. i graze, read slowly, go out on walks-not runs. my runners, which usually covers good 20-30 miles per week, now covers may be an hour of leisurely walk in the rolling hills.

i go to different places, and they all have their delicious food and drinks. yes, even in tajikistan (HAHA; more on that on another posts perhaps...). and like a true enthusiast, i tuck in.  did i also mention im looking forward heading to northern spain later in the month, especially san sebastian, where glorious pinxos and beer/wine flow freely? lol.

i look myself on the mirror. and mirror shows how i am. no lies.

some days i wonder whether i should re-reign myself and go back to yyz-self, keeping self busy, running, watching my weight, watching everything, trying to be grounded.

i grab my side and chuckle at my 'handle.' i must be a good five pounds heavier.

then i remember the days of being a child, a teenager, a university student, a young adult. until i reach 'today.'

being a fat kid as a child wasnt easy. i know the world treats you differently, not even knowing so. and with constant bombardment of 'eating healthy and being active,' which, in my ears, is a disguised push to be that 5% on the top, to be thin, which usually means beautiful, to be uncommon (barbie figure is uncommon, however you cut it), to have lots of hair, to have perfect teeth, great skin, etc., even in the quiet small house out in the peak district, i doubt.

should i return to running? should i go on a fast? should i lose these unnecessary weights? does this make me lazy? failure? unsuccessful?

but i like having the time to make food? to take the (one of the greatest) pleasure of making dinner for me and minnow and guest(s)? to relax and let my belly hang a bit out?

i know that i go back to yyz soon enough. so i tell myself it's really okay to have that extra 5 pounds. it's perhaps a fight back to my other self who wishes to be more competitive, 'successful,' to keep up with the rest of the world.  and i do, so predictably, have been, and probably will, lose that extra bits within the month. it's a cycle. somehow, the yyz monkey does not tolerate that.

meanwhile, i sip my tea and write this musing down. because i want to be able to read it later. perhaps it's my little shoving-off that messages of fictitious, nameless pictures of the summer, where i should be thin and beautiful, sipping on a drinkie outside somewhere, showing off my ribcage lines.

after all, im in late 30s. it's taken me this long to be able to tolerate such indulgence.  it is so easy to say 'enjoy life,' but actually turning blind eye to social pressure isnt too easy.  it does help, however, to have good friends who arent fanatics, haha. so here's a cheer, and im going to go make some breakfast.

i am who i am, even with the extra weight.
and i do live in my skin and it's all going to be okay.
and what would england be without a hot cup of tea and a toasty sausage roll?!


suicides and zombies

with sudden suicide of chris cornell, im quietly left to think, in the little bit of empty period between mad working period and over three months of 'unemployment,' about tolerance for life.

cornell was immensely popular singer and one of the biggest entity for the grunge era; my high school days are literally full of his music, along with few others. and so many of them from my teenage years are now dead.  scott weiland died of overdose (likely), kurt cobain shot himself, jeff buckley drowned, elliott smith stabbed himself (likely), layne staley overdosed, the list goes on.

of course, there are many who continue to live on, doing things, but this sudden realization that eddy vedder is now the 'betty white of the grunge' does crack me up a bit.

as public frantically re-focuses on tragedy of suicide-ridden pop culture, i cant help but to think about the average people, like me, who might already be dead one day, but continue to 'live on,' as if nothing happened.

this is not to glorify suicide culture. or to reiterate the point that there will be a few people in every population group, who will die soon, but just from watching the homeless problems gaining intensity in my 'hood.

the downtown bay corridor quickly became the new condo belt in last ten years. and now it's yonge street. so many buildings are shut, sold, waiting to get their building permissions to dig and build up.  the unexpected side effect of that is the rise of homeless population in the area.

as the first levels of these empty lots have bit of nook that people can 'claim,' many homeless gather in the area during the night through early morning. unlike liberty village or little more swanky southern corridor, or the resident-packed annex, the lack of neighbourhood culture in this area, in conjunction to not-too-much-money (when the area is super wealthy, there are never any homeless; they are either kicked out, or leave voluntarily as there is no 'sharing' in the area), and close distance to former problem areas (moss park, regent park, etc) and many different kind of shelters, along with limited yet real access to public facilities such as toilet (big grocery shops, fast food restos etc), LCBOs and relatively cheap food,

these are my speculation for incresed homeless population in the area.

but once condos are built and that security guards come around, they will leave to somewheres else, in probably 4-5 years, max.

they are usually sleeping/pretending to be asleep during the morning rush. and by midday, they are up and gone to tend the day. the weekday mid mornings, between 10-1130, is when they can be confrontational and violent (i had 3 run-ins in less than 5 minutes in two-blocks distance the other day).  and i gather it's because of morning rage.


you woke up, from uncomfortable sleep, if you slept, that is. you may had run-ins during the night- may be someone tried to steal your stuff. or beat you up or physically and/or sexually assault you. it's not terribly cold that you 'had' to stay in crammed shelter. but nevertheless, you are hungry, tired, and you try to shield yourself from all these 'lucky people' who are heading to work, for their fancy jobs.

may be youve saved a few bits from night before for the morning- may be a cig, bit of drugs if you are a user, may be scraps of food.

but generally, not much.

not much, to look forward to, for the whole day, may even endless chains of days.

we worry about 'mental health,' we 'try' to talk about it. though it's a valid effort, i cannot shake that feeling that it is mostly for the middle class and up. what about these people, on the street, who live with mental desert, where not much can grow or to be fostered? are we creating this new sub-class citizens, the homeless-zombies?

with bursting news about connell's death, i cant help but to think about my own street.
what can be done about it?
if suicide is bad, what about structured mass homicide?

may be more 'artists' die because of their sensitivity toward the world.
but what about sufferings of others who are resilient (ex. continue to go on), but without any real hopes? how is that any better than finite death? and why do we feel remorse about someone's suicide but hostility towards others who may be suffering, just as much, if not more? if 'lesser' people suffer, are they suffering actually 'less?'  if 'they' have not given 'me' something worthwhile (in case of these singers, they gave 'me' plenty!), then should 'they' be expected to suffer with no help from me?



letter to a composer

last night, when i got home, first thing i did was take the score out from my backpack. whether i had time to look at it on the given day or not, ive been carrying it, because it was the 'new' thing, bit like 'new' seedling. cliche, isnt it. but just like a seed, it didnt necessarily 'resemble' what it was to become during the process. being a city kid, when i first saw potato plant in dirt in kindergarten farm, it didnt even make sense to me that potatoes had leaves. WHAT.

and i genuinely was curious to put this 'thing' away. the physical act of 'moving on.' i was rather 'sad' ( ? ) to take it out and put it away, as it meant end of this 'project,' which i enjoyed thoroughly.

going back to fav movie of 2016:

i was fascinated with this alien language form. grown up korean, i learned to write/read korean, basic 1000 chinese letters and then had to work my butt off once i was dropped in english as we moved to toronto when i was 13. i took latin in high school to vent my frustration against mandatory french education (because no one was really ahead in latin...). i started to travel and got basic feel of the romance languages, and so far, the strangest language i encountered first hand was icelandic, couldnt even pronounce any.

and all these linguistic experiences (with passing interest in etymology), i am aware of the role of linguistics in a cultural composite.

western classical music has not changed much in notation, i dont think. or perhaps it's my own familiarity with the notation that i encounter, that i dismiss western classical music notation as 'simple.'  may be it's that im a typical piano player and therefore my vision remains quite narrow.

so when i saw your mixed-bag of notations, the first question was: when you write down these sound events, what were you hearing? for instance, one of the pieces i adore is jolivet's suite in concert for flute + perc 4tet.  i looked over the perc parts many times. but then i never find out: did jolivet knew exactly what he wanted? but doenst it deviate from the performance to performance (human factor, instrument access, etc)? of course it's all approximation (even on a good day), but what are you writing, and how does that translate? isnt this weird, as player would have to form a some sort of super intimate relationship with another conceptor, but largely through a secondary plastic medium...
writing/speech/language do shape and generalise a culture- and if so, where are you coming from- what do you like to do, where do you live, how do you speak and what do you read?

*this comes from my recent reminder from a friend during baroque harpsichord-strings recital, that most italian words has accent/lean on the second syllable (ex. ferrari, spaghetti, etc), so even though the beat falls on strong beats, never to neglect beat 2 and 4, as that's where things actually do happen (supposed to land on 1 and 3).  where are your notations coming from? what kind of soundscape are you in, normally? do you separate your aural space from your creative vs. observant-normal-daily space? what kind of person are you to write this way?

oh dear, that sounds like a personal challenge. haha. im sorry. im just curious. everyone who speaks a bit differently, usually have a narrative or two. im just curious about you as a person, as the sounds you prescribed are interesting to me.

*BTW going back to the arrival, here's an article i enjoyed much.

second point:
when you write such intricate music- especially for near silence threshold but super dense, some of it reminded me of luigi nono's music, i assume that you rely on the human connect that the player(s) will build with the instruments as well as one another.

in this i had to draw my ears closer to my brain and heart, not only to my 'stuff,' but to perc-piano stuff (as they are intertwined so closely), at some points, players will connect and lean onto one another, to a non-normal level. for example, i didnt 'look' at the perc, but i knew he was 'watching' and so was i.

you, as the composer, have curated this scenario.  but once it's in motion, you are actually not part of this 'intimacy,' how do you feel about that? do you ever feel that you are actually in it with the performers? do you ever expect to be part of it? isnt it weird?  during the perf, i felt familiar, even though my head was rushing a bit, with hoping to execute, observing failures, etc. everything all at once. even the familiarity of 'going through the course of time' with all the variables.

there are few more thoughts but this is plenty long, so i think i may fold it for now.
thanks for taking the time to read it, if you did- perhaps the best thing i can say is that i actually did miss not 'practicing' or 'carrying' this piece in my backpack today.


a note to a silent brother

driving from west van to your last loadstop, 03 aug 2015

how is it to lose something and never get it back?

how is it to lose something that was never yours to begin with?

how is it to lose something if that 'thing' is always with you?

seven short and long years ago, in middle of the night, 2-230am, you went off the cliff. into the dark sky where the cliff, in its terrifying height, set you off gravity free. your body rattled against the hard metal frame of the car. your skull broken in places.

they say by the time youve blinked, you were no longer there.

i am glad.

i continue to project how life could have been if you did not die.

perhaps you were to be fine, your bright self, witty humour and slight puppy wag to your steps. or may be, you could be a family man by now, having a child or two. recently, ive ran into your old friend at a supermarket. he was with his wife and two young children. may be you wouldve been bringing the children together for a hangout. or perhaps, this accident couldve left you sparkless, bounded without freedom, or may be with a limp or two.

truth is, i do not know.

only thing that i do know is that i continue to speculate. for no specific reason. you tumble into my mind when i do not suspect. every time i sense a full moon (which is EVERY SINGLE ONE haha) you are in it. i remember looking at the first full moon after youve died. it was rather white, cold, crisp and bright.

i still google your last GPS location. on google map. did i tell you that two years ago, in chilly last day of august 2015, jules and i drove through it, to take a look at it? we started the drive from west van. i drove straight from morning rain, and by the time we got to your deadly corner, sun was bright and okanagan was beautiful. though it rained shortly after we got to kelowna.

we talked of you last night before dad's leaving back to korea tomorrow.

dad said may be it's time to forget.

i dont think i will.  nor him. it  is just different, i think.

when you were born, we were 2 years, 2 months, 22 days apart.
that's 814 days for us to be apart.  i was the closest living marker for you. and you were for me.  now, it's been 2557 days since 26 apil 2010. in total, 3371 days without you in my life.  i have lived 13842 days. it's almost quarter of my life days that i live without you in it. 24.35%

i was there, 100% in your life.
from your birthday. till the day i went to pick you up, burn you in a pyre, bring you back home and lower you to the ground. lower you to the depth of the heart.

i run these numbers, looking at varying relations between the dates, markers. birthdays. deathdays. my life. yours. my life with yours. my life with you in it. somehow. even now. and probably continue to be so.

you are like a cat, living in my mind. i draw a box and you get in it.

i miss you, i think. but how could i really miss you if you are still in my heart?


whose loss is it

The Scream shows Indigenous children being taken away from their families by the Catholic church. (Courtesy of Kent Monkman)

qiksaaktuq  (grief) was premiered last night in toronto, as first concert closer of the toronto symphony new music festival. as part of the whole 150 years anniversary of canada, there are some real fun celebrations planned across the country, and i was happy to receive my parks canada pass, and to attend various projects, including this series of new commissions.

and while we cut the cheery white and red coloured cake, and me, who will be travelling with the brand new passport this summer, i am aware of what canada is made out of-

which is more than what we bargain for.


when tagaq won polaris prize in 2014, i did overhear some dudes attributing her heritage for 'making the list' in kensington market hipster bar. i poured my beer on their shoes and left.

i wasnt surprised, as, well, kensington market, as we all love it for what it is, has not been THAT place for class-less, bohemian sanctuary for a long time. it's a theme park for many of us, who wishes to be briefly immersed (perhaps a wet toe in the ocean?), without taking any real risks to explore social marginalia.


does this look like work without merit?


seeing duncan at school is always refreshing to me. classical music world can feel so safe and established at times, especially in school setting. it is nice to see someone being herself, fearless, with true confidence, doing her thing. yep, no more, no less. doing her thing. some people forget that school is also for 'trying it out,' 'growth and exploration' and that bartok and stravinsky is  no longer out of the box. i love the old beauties, of course, they are beautiful, but wasnt school also a place for newer things as well?  we certainly dont call it a museum...  

so i went down to the show, excited. almost sold-out hall. how refreshing. then came the last piece for the evening.

jean martin wrote this piece- grief.

the vulnerable,violent, beautiful and emptiness of loss came about. the five stages of greif: denial, anger, baraining, depression and acceptance.

what have we lost? who lost? who is to lose?

i have seen a few people who has lost themselves, especially doing the refugee/immigration translation work.  i have seen people who are so broken that they are at the absolute edge of themselves. they got out of oppression, dragged themselves across continents and oceans, and now, at the door to canada (as we try to shut out who does not meet our own rich criteria- yes, we do send back refugees, deny applications and hold them in immigration jail in canada), they no longer have the energy to bargain. they mix that despair with the inevitability, often ready to sign to withdraw their claims and go back to their certain deaths.  often, they are living in acceptance of anger and depression, for how long, i do not know.

the recent exhibition at the university arts centre, kent monkman's shame and prejudice,
perhaps wasnt exactly the wall-hanger that we all hoped to see, along with our beautiful park passes and artistic celebration - the losses.

they are still real. as so many of our beautiful canadian residents- yes, all citizens, immigrants and visitors and transients, tends to look at our own beautiful images, it is true that these losses still ring deeply in our community. we are the ones who decided to become deaf.

was qiksaaktuq a beautiful work?

and was it supposed to be beautiful? for whom?

who are we to be so certain that we are no longer continuing our crushing march of colonialism?  who are we to be so proud that we are 'open' to others? are we?

tagaq's performance was uncomfortable and therefore super relevant to our current time- the non-G20s are exploited, man-organized famines starve the have-nots, we have alternative facts and  mourn for losses in paris while drowned migrants and refugees are well, simply inconvenient.

whose losses?

as tagaq herself was slammed for the sealskin coat photo incident, are we, the average canadians, while we eat and drink the lives of the lesser-world citizens, as seal hunt is absolutely barbaric and therefore, cleansed by the western colonialists?

she totally owned that stage yesterday. it was smart music, sure. it was impacting.

it was real. raw.

and so here we are.
with our indigenous sisters and friends four times more likely to be murdered, with the desperate people knocking on our nation's door being turned way,  as five stages of grieving leads to acceptance, which does not equate to recovery, replacement or amnesia.
of ourselves, our comrades- the marginalized people- women, minorities of all kinds, who has been stepped on, robbed and raped, and are forced to live on in shell of themselves, as they grieve as to live.


invisible neighbours

i live in a student-heavy tall apartment building. my neighbours come and go and i dont really know any of them. the walls are concrete thick from 1970s build and we live in quiet isolation.

but the air vent, that's how i know of my neighbours.

for about a year, there's that young couple who like rave music blaring during day time.
for about three years, there's that journalism student, who is beautiful. she has an itty bitty puppy, which used to have a good temperament till she started her co-op. long abandoned hours, the puppy now yelps through the door whenever there's someone by the elevator.
for about six months now, there's that dude who smokes pots, then orders pizza. if i see a pizza dude getting onto elevator and press 'my' floor after 10pm, i know where s/he's bringing that pizza.

for about two years now, i have a neighbour who eats lots and lots of fried eggs in veggie oil.

usually in the morning. but sometimes in late evenings as well.

i find it oddly comforting to smell that post-fried-eggs scent, once in awhile.

i also wonder how they know me. what i am to them.


end of chocolate dream

omg look at that shipment on left corner...
6-7 stacks high...

often i feel as if i have somehow extended my childhood right into the present.  despite of all that education (haha), i still dream about doing and learning something new, especially the things that you cannot and will not learn in formalized schools- such as stone paving/yard work, making pizzas at home from scratch, etc.

and this winter, i took a look at my life and thought:
1. i could use some extra cash for dental bill,
2. i never done retail work.

and as fall term tends to roll in slow (till point of avalanche in winter term), back in october, i dropped off my resume at lindt and a shop-display (like shopping mall santa display) building shop.

the building shop, i thought it would be super cool to go back to working with power tools and build something in reality. sturdy, heavy things.

why chocolate?

i wanted to learn something from immensely popular and successful international corporate. and in my mind, chocolate had much similarity to classical music.

1. no one really needs it.
no one will die because they dont have any.

2. not everyone likes it.
i dont like chocolate, for instance.

3. you can pay from free to expensive.
just like concert/record prices.

4. people do consume it quite frequently, for pleasure.
as no one really needs to 'buy' of 'need it to live.'

5. it does not last.
experiences, or ahem, a extra poundage might though.

on my interview date, i was totally sure that i totally bombed the interview. i was sure that when i got a call back, the only reason i got hired was that i 'seemed' punctual. HAHA.

working in retail industry during christmas high season may sound like a sadomasochistic experience. some days, it really was (mostly to do with people who forget that workers are also people with their own lives); some days, i dragged my feet to get to the shop for 6am call for shipments (did you realize those chocolates come in pellet packs, like kilos and kilos of them at a time? i didnt!). some times i was happy to make someone happy. some times i wanted to slap them on the face with dirty shoes (i managed not to).

i worked there for duration of 104 days, (first day on 04 october), and just had my last shift on monday, till 2017 holiday season (i wrote that i would love to come back, and they wrote to let them know once im back for the fall! yay)

i spent about 35% of my earnings at the chocolate shop on gifts for others. funny enough, that is also our standard rate of employee discount (35%).

i met a few lovely people who comes in regularly.

i also met a few super cheapos who demanded samples, pressured to make returns (because we sell food items, we dont do returns), yelled at our faces because of... something, and people who continued to steal stuff, day after day...

but the most impressive were my co-workers. their dedication to doing it right, really impressed me.  being on time, being responsible, being graceful in the face of self-centered-customer-melt-down.

in music world, i hear (including myself) often complaining about our 'values.' mostly about how we dont get paid enough.

most of my co-workers at the shop, im sure, of course, just like all of us, would like to earn more.  but i really did not see anyone with less-than-perfect dedication during their shift. this was eye opening, heart-touching. so many times, during my shift, i realized that it was me, who needed attitude adjustment- to be kinder, real and reasonable...

so much thanks to them.

im gonna visit them in near future with a few gifts i think. i learned a lot. and i got to practice what i learned. humility. grace. and toughness.

and their dreams, i hope all their dreams will grow one day, so that they may grow branches further towards the sky. they really are lovely people.

thanks, lindt. see you in the fall 2017!


practical suggestion: memorizing music

in less than a week, univ peeps are facing the annual event: concerto competition.

as i worked with many different people in different levels, the one common difficult that arise to the top (always) is 'memorization.'

i personally feel that the requirement of memorization is old and antiquated, but as it will stay probably for another long while, it would be foolish to talk about its de/merits... sigh.

however, about the memorization process itself, though there isnt a simple way that fits everyone, i do think there are certain principles that helps to memorize music. so here's a small architectural approach.

1. divide your music in large to small chunk:
so all music, like stories, will have sections and sentences. break them down and look to see what their 'forms' are.  if it is an allegro-sonata form, see if there's any extra bits, such as coda(s), or extended cadences in unexpected places; for instance, extended instability in development is expected. however, an extended instability before the coda or return of the counter theme may be a surprise.

look carefully when the structure involves medium-sized cells in quasi-repetition, something like a rondo, where each fragment(s) is recognizeable as their own 'chunk' (if you hum it and you think it feels like a verse, then it's probably a section.

then in any variations of rondo or small binary-composite work, check for regular OR irregular repetition of the chunks.  sometimes, things can be organized as composite of binary and tertiary paris ( AA BCB AA, which breaks our expectation of AA BC or AA BB etc)

when there are differences, figure out what exact difference there may be- for instance, if the 'same' bar was used first time to return to the same place, then it will HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT to go to a different place the second time around. what is it? is it harmonic change? or melodic change? rhythmic? rhythmic phrase change?

2. move away from your instrument and SEE if you have them memorized.
i advocate making a blueprint of the score. here's an example:

that is a super-detailed one, but you get the gist.
get a long sheet of paper and start diving it up structurally so that you can actually compose the time-dependent model of the piece. if it can be scaled to reflect the duration of the phrases, even better.

once youve done it, go back and compare with the actual score. get a different coloured pen and be ruthless. then construct a new improved version.

see if you can practice from it. while you do that, record it. then listen to it with actual score, mark the discrepancy and fix weird stuff.

3. rather than focusing on the 'start' of the new sections, practice the hell out of the tails of sections. we tend to remember what happened in the first presentation of a thing 'A,' but it's the end of thing 'A prime' that will get us to B, for instance. most people practice in sequence, so naturally, one's impression of original form of A is stronger than A'. so practice that. then practice how A gets into B. and these are going to be rather short units, may be 4 bars or 8 bars.
do them slower than you want to. do them slow that it feels even boring. if it feels boring, see if you could attach some sort of biofeed back (as certain intervals and chords, shifts and fingerings will feel different, try to remember the 'feel' of it).

*this is a super 'frou-frou' version of analysis i did for a class. it's bit flowery, but i can still play that section looking at this. AHAHAHA.

go back to the blueprint on no.2, and see if you can consolidate the different of 'reading' the section change and 'playing' the section change. make up connections if necessary.

4. if you have similar sections, especially in rondo form or small-cell-composites, do simple analysis of both. you could do this simply by photocopying the section, print them out, tape them side by side and mark exactly what's different (use colours if you want; i do).  see if practicing those sections as 'first thing' of practice be any use, rather than staring from bar 1 or cadenza. you are freshest at the beginning of a session. use it to advantage. if you have the time, put the metronome on 'stupid slow' and use it as warm-up (intonation, articulation, bowing, breath exercise, chordal practice, whatever)

5. practice on your non-specialized instrument; i highly rec on piano or singing. singing cuz you can do it without one more 'thing.' if you do have access to piano, go through the piano part slowly with metronome (once again, on stupid), and sing your part. playing all notes is not important, but knowing all 'direction,' especially regarding directions of melodic/harmonic intentions will help you greatly (and it will also help with intonation and phrasing, articulation in top of sheer 'memorization.')

or listening to a recording (if you are playing with piano reduction, i may suggest that you listen to a 'lesser' version with a reduction, as standard reductions will have 'certain details' put in/ommited). and mark on your score what you HEAR as a relevant key for your part. often people mark from orchestral rec for piano reduction and sometimes, it is of no use as they didnt make it, or is impossible.

6. pick a time in the day, play through your thing and record it. sing through* all your rests if poss. and if you CAN, play the 'lead in' for your solo entry (in time please), this will help you realize what you 'depends' yourself on for the entry, counting rests* is different than singing through it, because counting and playing music uses separate (yes related but separate) part of the brain, and you will lose time as it will take time to reconnect those junctions. it's much easier if you sing through or silently play through the rest sections (than dead counting), as you will 1. still be in music (which will eliminate the 'dead face' during a tutti, and 2. singing is easier than counting.

listen to the recording after you went and made tea. make pact with yourself to not be so unreasonably angry with self. after all, it's just music. calm down. no one has know anything that happened in your own private session.

listening, make notes. where is the inaccuracy? if you video-tape, it's even better, as you can 'read' your own body language of 'uncertainty.' where you trip up is very unlikely the actual place you tripped. likely, it happened a few instance before that, and that has pushed you into losing balance, then to the eventual fall...

7. be nice to yourself.
if you dont like it, why are you doing it?
memory is repetition game and it does improve.
but simple repetition is a low-return gamble. yes. gamble. you are hoping for everything to go right.  dont gamble, plan. it's safer, easier and you will therefore play better.

here's album of sample analysis from my past and hope that helps.


new year's musing

so the festivities has left us and the world already experienced fair share of faith-shaking- it's only 7th of january, too. barely a week-old new year.

there has been a few posts that i have started but have not been able to finish- as they meander.

and i wonder if that's the true nature of this world, anyway.

with the useful and familiar format of information packaging, writing guidelines and forms, outlines and limits of informatics, it is easy to believe that the world works in linear fashion and it's always between the opposing poles of some sorts.

which leaves us all the extra-dimensions beyond 2-D to be forgotten. click. just like that. on or off.

i am having a kinda nasty sinus cold and somewhat trying to ignore the voice of the 'ghost of the self.'   perhaps it's the diminished physical state that brings up the 'bad' psychological state. or they are not related at all. perhaps it's lack of 'running' that is accentuating my messy mind.

ive been reading posts about 'blue monday' and importance of openness towards mental health issues. many people have pasted the pro-talk status on social media, and states that they would gladly open doors and make time to talk, etc.

perhaps im cautious or jaded, as these statements tend to add further confusion for me.

im what they call chronically depressed. i had that label on as long as i can remember.  i have seekd solutions and most of the time, i can rig enough variables so that im highly functioning.

but when things do take a dive, then i lost, especially when there is no major change(s) that may explain the dive downward to the dark water with no sound.

then i wonder if that's the way everyone feels, and that it is normal to not be so 'elated' all the time, as we are led to believe in so many different projections of life.

do i have a dream? do i need a dream? do i need to be passionate? is it simply not enough to be tolerating? are we supposed to in endless and life-consuming pursuit of something? for whom and what, for why?

i should may be take up the blank offer of 'talk' near blue monday. but i highly doubt that

1. im actually abnormal,
2. it will provide (a kind of) solution,
3. what i perceive as reality is different than the average (ex. depression vs non-depression).
*though, this may be a greatly skewed view, as theoretically, i have a chronic condition.

in the past, when things get mucky, i sometimes resorted to cutting, because at such point when nothing makes sense, cutting made just as much sense and it did snap back my physical self into an immediate focus.

the downside of it is that the ritual does lose its effect and that every 'next' time becomes more physically damaging in order for it to 'work,' and that is unsustainable.  like all addictive process.  so that's a no-option. it took such a long time to get to this point and it is mesmerizing and stupefying at the same time...

perhaps it's the sinus cold. from what i read, the entire city of toronto is snooty and wheezy, so may be it's only fitting that under the big swingchange to start a new year, that one feels lost.

or like most of my own experiences, this 'episode' may just leave, one day, like that. it does happen as well.

my benediction to all creatures big and small, conscious and barely, capable and beyond capable, to stay safe and sane enough. winter can be tough, and our voices in the head can be so cunning, without reason.  long nights ahead.