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May. 20th, 2011

Future Life

After completing Mass Effect(the game), I had one very interesting and intriguing question. For us, our ideas of the future are infinite: all that limit us is our very own imagination. My question then is: if I find the future so interesting and enjoy playing games like these(because it allows the imagination to run wild), what kind of games will the people of the future play? Will they also play games such as Mass Effect, taking place in the future? But if in the future technology is developing at such a rate that there is less room for imagination, will there be no "futuristic" video games?
Is it similar to individuals who might have, during the Middle Ages, imagined "games of the future" and thought: at a certain point there won't be any more imagination? Our capability to imagine...will it falter?

We as humanity define and categorize, simplify and even at times mock the one thing that keeps our connection to other life open: imagination. Imagination allows us to forge ideas from the unknown. Can anyone honestly say what "aliens" might look like? How advanced they might be? What they might to do us? Look at what society's "powerful" imagination has given us: aliens who have big heads and small bodies. Aliens who spit acid and lay eggs in your chest(only to explode while you eat pasta). Is it not interesting that nearly all forms of life we have come up with has taken on a humanoid form? That our so-called God is made in the image of us(and not the reverse)?
Even in our most imaginative bursts of creativity, we can only come up with the idea that aliens perhaps have no nose or mouth with which to smell and speak and instead communicate through brain-waves. Or perhaps they are giant fish. Maybe just floating masses.

All creativity has centered around the very boundaries of humanity: appearance, communication, culture and technology. Yet, how can we imagine more? How can the blind see colour? How can the deaf hear music? We have been gifted with 5 senses. The fact is that these 5 senses are not the be-all end-all of life everywhere in the universe. There must be more: more than we can possibly fathom.

I sincerely hope that one day humanity can begin to understand the alien, the unknown. Our generation was gifted with more knowledge than the last, as it was with them before. When white met black met yellow, we discovered there was more. Pray we live on and have the ability to do so again. Would it not be wondrous to touch life come from so far away?

It makes me wonder.
It makes me question the fabrics of what reality is and how it is determined: perhaps not by our intellect, but by our circumstances.

It also strikes me as ironic that we are constantly wondering and dwelling upon what came before and what might come after. With a universe as large as it is, with the infinite and uncountable amount of life to have lived and died and transcended, what use is history?
What is time to a star? What is the greater meaning of time in a universe which blinks in trillions of years?
Humans live and die. Civilizations rise and fall. Stars grow and burn out. The universe itself has been predicted to one day come to an end. Then what?
Will it be born again, like it has? If so, as karma would suggest, then is time infinite? With it, life? Civilization? Culture? Power? Purpose?

The absolute weight of a simple idea can be crushing: everything and all comes and goes, never to be remembered forever. Who am I?

Am I important? What is the meaning of life?

I truly believe that life should be measured not by the infinite; not by religion nor belief, but simply by the boundaries in which we have been placed in our very short 100 years. These 100 years, should we be so lucky to live so long, is our chance to simply "be". And when the time comes for us to cease, life shall live on. Perhaps not here on Earth. Perhaps not even in our galaxy. Yet somewhere, it burns on. And sometime, somehow, more life will emerge: transforming and evolving, rising and eventually...falling.

Is this cycle not unimaginably beautiful? No longer need we fear the end of what we know. No longer do we need to convey importance in such sweeping finality. Humanity is simply one in a trillion. We are not special; we are not gifted. The truth is even were our planet to crumble to oblivion, to fall into the darkness of a nuclear winter: hope is not lost. Not for life. Not for what happens after your time in this body is completed.


We are never-ending. We measure time, and yet...we, life itself, are the measure of time: eternal.

Mar. 22nd, 2011

Politics

Recently, due to the uprisings throughout North Africa/the Middle East, a lot of news has been focused on China and whether or not the same kind of situation could occur here. Furthermore, from all the postings I have been reading on Western websites, it's easy to tell that most Americans and Canadians think that a Chinese revolution could "free the people from the traps of evil communism." and hence would be a fantastic thing.

I know that we Westerners love thinking that we are the epitome of inspiration and that all other countries who don't have the same level of "freedom" as we do must certainly be envious. There are definitely times when a "peaceful revolution" could be beneficial to the populace of a more hardliner nation, but why the constant comparisons to China?

Back during the Cold War, everyone pitied the U.S.S.R., China, Vietnam, Cuba and any other country where the leaders maintained power through a use of force. Once the Iron Curtain fell, everyone rejoiced: they now have freedom! They can now live as luxurious a lifestyle as us.

So here we are in 2011 and Western people still feel an inner aggression toward one of the last remaining communist powers. About 30 years ago no one really gave a shit because China had no real pull in terms of world economics. Yet now that China has become a rival to America, it is constantly viewed as a threat simply because it has a different form of government.

Undoubtedly there are times when I can't stand the censorship and the blocking of certain webpages. I want to read up on a movie on IMDB; it's blocked. Facebook? Twitter? Youtube? Blocked. It certainly frustrates me at times when I know I am not viewing any "harmful" sites. However, now China is once again facing scrutiny for blocking emails/websites linked to the "J_smine Revolutions". A bunch of old Chinese protesters left from Tiananmen Square are saying: "Shit, this is a good chance to bring democracy to China. We don't really know why it would be beneficial, but we're a load of washed-up hasbins who want to regain some glory of our former days.".

The 1989 affair failed; people died, shit happened. Most importantly though, the government learned its mistakes and REALLY fucking cleaned up their act. If there's one government in the world that I actually enjoy living under, it is definitely the one run by the CCP. It frightened me when I first arrived because of all the stories I heard as a kid and growing up in a world where democracy is the good guy and everything else is bound to get you killed or oppressed. But when you live here and you see and experience with your own two eyes what life is like, you'll really start to reconsider all those old stereotypes which you grew into.

The people here DON'T want a revolution. They want cellphones, cars, houses and a good lifestyle. Everyone is too busy trying to upgrade their life that they don't care what the government is doing, as long as it continues to provide them with opportunities. People here are HAPPY. They have a chance at a better life, even when things are hard. My girlfriend went from growing up in what foreigners would consider an abysmal location to being a Human Resources Manager at a French consulting company in smack-downtown Shanghai in the span of less than 10 years. What other nation could provide such an opportunity? China is the place where if you have a will, you will certainly have a way. There is still a massive migrant work-force and rural work-force which has miles to go before catching up to the lifestyle of city-dwellers. Yet, has anyone considered for half a second how amazing it is to have gone from a country where 99% of people were making a few cents a month to a place where now more than half the country(1.6 billion people) are driving BMWs and eating 500$ meals for lunch? Can you seriously blame them for loving their own country?

We constantly see the statistics in the news: China has overtaken Japan as the world's 2nd largest economy. Yet, has anyone actually grasped what that means? With a country as massive and as populated(as well as geographically diverse) as China, it is as much an impressive feat to have achieved so much in so little time as the Egyptians building the pyramids.

If one word could sum up the past 100 years of China's history, it would be "change".

Now why then do people find it so absolutely, astronomically "bad" when China has social issues? In their 5000 year history, they have experienced more turmoil, more disasters and more difficulties than a young country like Canada could ever imagine. Wouldn't it strike you as immature if a 16 year old looked at a 480 year old and said "You're doing things wrong."? Because that's what we've been doing: we are literally 30 times younger than the nation we are accusing of being unjust.

Long story short, I find it absolutely frustrating to see Western countries sticking their nose into China's business when there is not even as close a problematic situation as there is in the Middle East. Yes, China has a long way to go before there won't be any difficulties. However, since when is life NOT filled with problems? Canada has it's Quebec. America has it's Iraq. China has it's minorities(over 70, but I bet most people wouldn't even know that). In a country with as much cultural diversity, history and people as China, I find it absolutely amazing that a government could transform a backwater, agriculturally centered country into a near-fully developed nation in the span of 20 years. Instead of constantly getting on China's ass for protecting it's interests, I say it's about goddamned time that we kept our nose out of their shit and let them do what they need to do.

Nov. 30th, 2010

Hockey Night in China

I found a hockey league run by Canadians here in Shanghai. Playing as goalie(my second favourite position), you get all the equipment rented/supplied to you for free. You play for free. That is a fucking deal of the century.
I haven't played in 10 years, so I am god damned excited right now. Starts in January.
It also happens that the first Canadian I've met/talked to in China is from Kemptville.

Fucking eh!

Nov. 25th, 2010

Lessons

This week I gave a performance for all of the foreign students at the university. There was about 20 of them and it was my first time performing in front of anyone aside from my teacher. Regardless of how many hours I had put into the song I played(渔舟唱晚), I still made several huge mistakes as well as forgetting where I was half-way through the piece. Although the performance wasn't serious and I had a good laugh(along with everyone else), I still took the time to evaluate where I stood in terms of my ability as a "musician".

First off, everyone thought I played fantastic. They said I created a very tense atmosphere and brought imagery to their minds. In terms of presenting properly, that is the single most important thing to do. The girl who presented after me clearly did not create an atmosphere and it was apparent to anyone watching the audience. Interestingly enough, she did not make any mistakes and she had been playing her instrument(the erhu) for more than 8 years. That confirms my ideas: I can be successful as a musician because I can play MUSIC, however I just need to work on it.

Secondly, I realized that I will definitely need to take the opportunity to give more performances before my entrance exam in February. I need to get rid of the nerves and get used to the idea of performing under stressful circumstances. In a few weeks I wish to go to a local museum and ask the management if I can perform throughout the day.

Thirdly, I realized that although I have improved tremendously quickly, I have so much more to learn. For this reason, I have practiced tuning my instrument by ear for over 15 hours in the last 3 days. Many people claim that tuning by ear is a process that takes many years to do: I disagree. I simply sit down and memorize the pitch of each note; tuning and re-tuning the instrument approximately 50 times a day. I figure by next week I can get the pitch exact. As of day 3, I can already tune with extreme precision.
Moreover, I have begun listening to as many versions of 渔舟唱晚 as I can: only that way can I understand the many ideas the song wishes to convey.

All in all, I am very happy with the realizations that have occurred to me this past week. Although I consider myself far from being a musician, I can see that I am working my way there faster than anyone could imagine.
Learning music as an adult is definitely not an easy thing to do: but it can still be done with enough practice and the right directions.

Nov. 19th, 2010

Atmosphere

I have always known that creating music is an easy thing to do: yet, creating perfect, beautiful and atmosphere-inducing music is quite another thing all together. I feel that for the last month or so I have begun creating music with actual heart.

Just a moment ago, I had quite the epiphany.

When playing the famous traditional piece 渔舟唱晚, I kept noticing that no matter how I tried to make one note louder, another note quieter, the bend on one note stronger..the songs heart was just not coming through. I've been playing the same piece over and over for around two weeks and it's been a struggle to make the piece transform from simple notes on the page into an actual song. Even playing with my own heart and listening to the music intently, it was not developing.

While sitting at the guzheng and thinking about the travels I want to pursue in my future, I had this image of a fisherman in guangxi province slowly rowing his boat down a river at dusk. It was an absolutely beautiful scene, full of nature and yet quietly removed from the hustle of modern day life. When I was thinking about how peaceful the fisherman must feel, it hit me: I must play 渔舟唱晚 while picturing that scene. I must put myself in the place of the fisherman, "singing" what my feelings are conveying as I row my boat down the river. Giving it a shot, I felt the music in the guzheng absolutely start coming to life. It's as if each bar, each progression was no longer notes, but lyrics and sentences in the song I was singing.

It has made me realize that I can't take a song and change it according to my own wishes. Instead, I can take the idea of the song, the emotions of the song and ask myself: how would I sing it? How would I feel? Only then can the spirit of the song truly be brought to life.

Aug. 13th, 2010

Immune

I thought I would make a quick list of all the times of gotten sick since arriving in China:

2008:

Traveller's Diarrhea, bronchitis, cold(X2)

2009:

Traveller's Diarrhea, Gastroenteritis(X2), cold(X3), flu, Appendicitis(removed through surgery), heatstroke

2010:

Traveller's Diarrhea, Gastroenteritis, cold(X5), stomach flu, pneumonia, strep throat, heatstroke, sunstroke


I've not listed about another dozen things that have affected my body such as major headaches and what not.


But honestly, what the fuck is happening to me? My immune system is 95% fucked! When I was back in Canada for a short break, I was not sick at all. For 2 months. So I know that this is not a "long-term" condition or something that is considered chronic. But since February, when I got back to Hangzhou, I've been sick on average once every 2/3 weeks. It's one thing after another. In the last two weeks alone I've had food-poisoning, heatstroke, a cold and now strep throat. I practically live in the local hospital.

I cook all my own food, I eat extremely healthy(fruits, vegetables, meats), I take vitamins, always exercise and clean on a daily basis. Yes, loads of vitamin C.

My only guess is because of the fact that I spend so much time around children I am a magnet to their sicknesses. I know 100% that I caught pneumonia from a student and I'm certain I got strep throat from another.

Add the pollution, searing temperatures and the fact that my body is still getting used to China..I guess there's not much I can do.

I just keep waiting for it to get better..

Aug. 5th, 2010

Lights Out Asia

I usually don't advertise music, but I felt that in this case it was necessary. Everybody has a differing opinion on what music is and what "good" music is. For those of you that want an alternative to classical, baroque, etc, I would highly recommend listening to a form of post-rock. Yes, they are completely different: however both are intended to give the listener an atmosphere, a thought-provoking or thought-settling reaction without using vocals as the means of communication. Although the name suggests that the music contains essence of rock, that is not always the case; in fact, some bands/groups in that genre are more founded in electronics.

I feel that in the last 400 years, music has slowly come to focus on the voice of humans. Singing has become the main means of communicating emotion in our music. That isn't to say that in the last 5000 years there were no vocals present in our music: it's to say that instruments, with the exception of the guitar, have all been seen as "back-ups" to the lead singers starting in the late 1940s.

The reasons why I would like to mention this is to remind everyone that music is a very complex being with many different make-ups. One make-up, which is of the "instrument only" kind, has not seen a popularity since the era of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
Their music contained little to no vocals and managed(still manages) to evoke the strongest emotions in a person, ranging from happiness to contempt.

Yet over the ages, even with musical instruments being developed, genres being merged and new genres being developed, there has been a lull in "instrumental" music. In the 1990s you had the "New Age" movement, led by singers such as Enya. Even though it incorporated nature into its music, it was still dominated by and centered around vocals.

Since the 2000s, we as a people have a new thought emerging in our minds: we are living the future. For a long time, mankind dreamed of "the future" and has struggled hard to pursue the achievement of creating new, breathtaking technologies. That time is upon us, and so it has begun to reflect in our culture.

Returning to the point, the group named "Lights Out Asia" is also classified as "post-rock". But to be honest, I would classify it as "organic music touched by technology". It is not ambient, it is not rock, it is not techno, it is not classical. It is a taste of the future which uses the same technique to evoke emotions as did classical. Their music is long, epic and it will take you on a journey. If you are looking for some quiet music to listen to during that long trip, these guys are for you. If you are thinking deeply about the philosophy of your life and want some music to focus your thoughts, these guys are for you.
Their music is casual, yet penetrating. Even when zoned out and not listening, your brain concentrates on the essence of their sound. The emotion it conveys is complicated, deep and mysterious.

After listening to all four of their albums(their 4th will be released shortly, but already available by download), I highly recommend EVERYONE to download their first CD "Garmonia" and their latest release "In the Days of Jupiter". Listen to it when you have patience and you will truly be rewarded with an unforgettable experience.
"In the Days of Jupiter" is an absolutely beautiful, yet subtle creation. It is that magical feeling of walking into an empty, mysterious forest when all is settled and quiet. The dim light is shining through the canopy and the path ahead is endless. You don't know where you are going, but it feels right.

"In the Days of Jupiter": *****

Favourite tracks(still on first listening, number 07 being the best):

02) Except Europa
03) Attempt No Landings There
04) All is Quiet in the Valley
05) 13AM
07) ***Great Men From Unhealthy Ground**

Jul. 14th, 2010

(no subject)

I passed HSK(汉语水平考试) level 4!Fuck yeah! I am now one step closer to Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Jun. 25th, 2010

Music

The more I play the guzheng, the more I read music theory, the more I learn about music, the more I feel that I'm truly doing what makes me happy.

Although I've just turned 21, I know that my age is not a factor. It is only a factor if I want it to be.
With enough perseverance, hard work and commitment, I can make it into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
I feel that this time I've made my choice and it's unbelievably exciting.
I have no idea where this path will take me, but I know that I will not regret it.

These days I've been listening to everything with new ears. I know that for a long time I've been listening to music without truly listening. It's difficult to understand without an example: imagine looking at the Mona Lisa without thinking about it, wondering about what she could have been smiling about.

I've been hearing the beats, the rhythms, the small intricacies I had always noticed but never delved into. It's a truly humbling experience to understand that I will be taking up a field in which so much beauty has been made; a beauty that I myself will one day hope to create.

I don't know if I am making music or if it is making me. I do know that it speaks to me and to all of us, with a different voice for each. It is amazing that we have one universal language, without barriers, constantly evolving that allows us to most accurately translate what we all desperately want to: our emotions.

May. 12th, 2010

Sirens

Nothing is more jarring, exciting and terrifying than when the apartment building you are living in hits the city-wide emergency sirens(think bombing of Britain, WW2) as a practice drill. Or, when the entire city does it at the same time and you're not sure if it's a drill or if Hangzhou is about to become rubble. Especially when it's 10:00 a.m. and you're sleeping. Scares the shit out of me in an ethereal way every time it happens. It lets you catch a glimpse of what it would have felt like for our grandparents experience the war.

Apr. 30th, 2010

Anniversary

As of yesterday, I've been in China for two years. Time really does fly.

Apr. 20th, 2010

(no subject)

I was sitting here all afternoon thinking, why is it so quiet? Why does everything feel so calm and settled? It's a strange feeling, when you concentrate on silence instead of sound. It really makes the world seem so empty. It's as if there is nothing but deep space.
I realized that it wasn't the world that was quiet, but my own mind. It's amazing how much talking our minds really do: it's just a shame we rarely hear a day without it.
Silence is wonderful. It's the most penetrating feeling, one that just vacuums up all hope and worry. No past, no future, just the simple, quiet present.

Mar. 23rd, 2010

Zheng

Having decided to introduce the guzheng into my life has been one of the happiest things I've done.

Feb. 7th, 2010

Nom

And so, life goes on.

Cheers.

Jan. 29th, 2010

Dreams of Future Places

It's been decided.

Jan. 27th, 2010

Inspire

I burn to see the world.

Jan. 23rd, 2010

Circle

There is no other moment more defining of our characters than in those few seconds when our hearts truly betray themselves to honesty and vulnerability, fumbling into the watching eyes of hopeful reciprocity. Whatever the outcome, whatever the aftermath, it is in that defining instant in which we so boldly declare: "This is me and I ask you to take me for who I am." that we can truly understand the strength of love and its ability to tie us together for here and ever more.

I want to remember.

Jan. 15th, 2010

Electric Feel

1. I made a last minute decision to get rid of windows and opted for Ubuntu 9.10. Seems to be working decently so far. Needs a lot of tweaking, but hell, freeware has come a long way. I'd highly recommend giving it a shot if you've got the patience.
2. Seems like I'll be waiting until September to get into the Environmental Resources and Urban and Planning Management progam. I don't mind, considering the fact that if I do things right in terms of the HSK(getting level 4, even though I already have level 3), I'll be getting a full scholarship. Seems like a great deal.
3. I really miss driving. I'm still pissed at having my e-bike stolen, but I know for a fact that in the future I'll be getting my motorbike. There's nothing like the feeling of fresh air on your face while you're driving through the mountains.

Jan. 7th, 2010

Observations

Fiction: Men will never understand women.
Fact: Men can understand women but will still not agree with their opinions.
Conclusion: Either these men can not make sound judgment calls, or women are crazy. Considering the situation, I have a very hard time trying to be content with the fact that I'm either stupid or my girlfriend is crazy.

And we all talk about life being full of choices.

Dec. 25th, 2009

Advice

By all means, feel free to skip the following pieces of advice:

1) If you are ever going to rent an apartment, make sure you have a signed contract with all the details(as small as they come). Make 2 copies, one for you, one for the individual doing the renting. Make a photocopy of yours and scan it onto your computer.
2) Take photographs(a couple) of the apartment when you first arrive for proof to show the state that it is in.
3) Make sure the apartment can actually be rented out by the individual who is supposedly renting it out(check their boss).
4) Specify the dates that you will arrange payments, whether monthly or not.
5) If the house is perfect, but the person renting it to you is an asshole, don't take it. Trust me.
6) If you haven't done this already, make sure to cover as many apartments as you can before selecting one.

I think that's the main lessons I've learned from living in 5 different apartments in the two years. If you've heard stories about people getting screwed and don't believe them, then just take my word for it. You can really, really, really get screwed.

Good luck and happy apartment hunting!

Oct. 30th, 2009

恋恋不舍

如果我离开的话..
有一天我会回来.
但是我需要问自己: 这是最好的方法吗?
我真的不要去! 我天天考虑, 每天改变.
来二月份过, 要是我不在飞机上向中国,大约会后悔了!
前面有两条路; 我不知道怎么选.

Sep. 28th, 2009

(no subject)

真恋恋不舍。

Sep. 11th, 2009

Interesting

1. Although I am not an expert in any way, why does it seem that the government of Canada is like a perpetual chicken running in circles with it's head cut off? It seems that when the Liberals take power, they do nothing with it, make lots of false promises(never deliver) and piss a lot of people off in the process. People get tired, vote in the Conservatives. They come in, spend lots of money on lots of shit that you don't know about, rack up the debt and overall do nothing for the economy or the country aside from staying in power. On the side, you have the Bloc who take sides when it's convenient and try to sneak in a little bit more independence and power for Quebec. The NDP never gains faith from either the "Liberal" or "Conservative" voters because they can't trust the party(they can only trust Jack Layton).
In the end, my question is as follows:
Why has this seemingly repetitious act gone on for the last 20 years and not one individual has stepped up on some area of the "political spectrum" and said: "Guys, what the fuck are we doing here?".

2. This month has been a rough ride. With options popping up and bridges burning down in quite the fiasco, it's been hard to find the right idea. I think I've finally got it though: instead of returning to Carleton to finish up my degree quickly, I'll be working towards a great alternative. This alternative requires me to undergo my undergraduate education in pure Chinese, 4 years of my time and majoring in something along the lines of a) Environmental Resources and Urban Planning b) Land Management c) Undertermined. The scholarship would give me an annual tuition of 5000 yuan a year(equivalent to 800$), great job opportunities and a large number of travel possibilities. Seems like a good deal to me so far. However, as is everything in China, nothing is clear or 100% determined.

3. I love cooking Chinese food, but I can never seem to buy cheap pork without the skin still on.

4. I know I'm still Canadian when I think it's really weird that a man will be coming to my home in about 30 minutes to check up on me and see how I've been lately. Why is it odd? Because I only met him once for about 20 minutes, not to mention he's the friend of a friend. 中国人真的好热情!

Sep. 3rd, 2009

(no subject)

Might as well make it short.

1. I'm looking forward to coming back in December with Annie. I'm going to make sure she gets a visa.
2. Even though I won't be up and around for the next month doing what I used to, at least I won't have to worry about getting my appendix out in the future(was a nice surprise). And the time in the hospital here was more or less full of interesting stories(as is everything over here).
3. Another "school semester" is starting and I don't care. It feels nice to not give a shit about going to class because it's a waste of my time(my situation, not others). Too much work, too much to do, not enough time.


A final note: Culture has not yet failed to astonish me with the surprises it brings. With language comes knowledge and difficulties; with friends comes opportunities and challenges to live up to; with love comes maturity and strength of character. My life, regardless of the situation I've been in, has been wonderful. I'm excited to see what the following months will bring. No doubt, more surprises.

Jul. 3rd, 2009

生活的桥

Away in time:
一日千秋; 一日千里.
Surging currents:
前因后果;来回来去.

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