Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Among other things I did while sorting through all my stuff. . .

I also sifted through scads of old photo negatives, and got London Drugs to scan the best ones, the keepers, onto CD, so that I could preserve them in digital form.

Here are some of the best ones.

Matt's new haircut in Japan

Me with my favourite class ever -- from my first year in Korea.

Me in a field of dandelions.

Me in a tree in Stanley park.

I hid a camera in my sleeve, and took a picture with my university's president as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, at my university graduation.

Kids playing at a palace on Korean Thanksgiving Day.

Dancing with an old lady. Full story here.

One silly Christmas: finishing a roll of film with mom, Deb and Dan.

At an airport in Ontario.

My second favourite picture of my mom and my nephew. (The favourite one wasn't in my pile of negatives. Dad has it somewhere.) I think this one really shows the special relationship my nephew and my mom had.

Hope those pictures made you happy!


Monday, July 30, 2007

Look what I found!

Highway 22 in Alberta is also known, appropriately, as the Cowboy Trail.

Here are some pictures from google images. (See? Who needs a camera, really?)


I have mentioned before in this space how I have no luck with cameras.

I always either lose them, forget them at home, or forget that I have them, and so fail to take any pictures. Any way you slice it, the end result is that I finish my trips with few or no pictures. It always seems to go the same way. The pictures in the posts below were all taken with my cellphone camera, which I had to turn on and wait forty-seconds before I could use it, so many of the prettiest views I had in the road never got photographed, because they were gone before I could take a picture.

Here are the pictures I wish I could show you.

___ the mountain ranges that kept seeming to turn up exactly at the spots in the rockies where there was a passing lane, so that I was always so concerned with passing or being passed, and navigating corners safely, that I never got around to taking pictures of any of the snow-capped mountains footed by mirror-still lakes.

___ Highway 22 Northbound from CrowsNest Pass, Southern Alberta. If you ever get a chance to drive around in Alberta, you need to just get on Highway 22 and drive as much of it as you can. It runs parallel to Highway 2 (or Queen Elizabeth Way 2), the main corridor from Lethbridge to Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton; however, instead of having towns and gas stations all along its roadsides, it has huge foothills covered with yellow grass and cattle ranches, fences enclosing giant acreages, and the occasional deeply rutted river valley, steep-banked, and widened by floods.

___ The shores of Long Beach, Vancouver Island. The vegetation here slopes up like the front of a race car, razed down to that shape by terrifying winds and storm weather that washes entire trees ashore during the winter. Climbing on those logs was like being a little kid again, and watching the giant waves crash in (best surfing in Canada on Long Beach), then seeing what those waves did during the winter (huge piles of tree-trunk-sized driftwood right up next to the forest) was humbling and elevating at the same time.

___ The picture I'm glad I CAN'T show you: Banff downtown (previously one of the prettiest, cutest main strips in any town), all under construction as they expand it to fit Banff's growing tourist industry (sigh. so sad)

Imagine taking a highway exit expecting, looking forward to this:

And instead getting this.

Quite a let-down, unless you happen to have a fetish for heavy machinery. (Which I, categorically, do NOT).

___ I wish I could show you pictures of my friends. Especially Mel and her two wonderful little boys (you can click on the link to her blog on the side of this page and see that), and pictures of Tamie and me in Lynn Canyon, and me and Anila and Antaya watching TV together, as cozy as kittens.

Here's a picture that almost perfectly recreates my first experience in Agassiz since October 2005.

Along with my camera curse, I have a sunglasses curse.

Every time I travel, I lose a pair of sunglasses. The trip where I danced with some crazy old ladies was the first trip that started this trend (I'd finally shelled out for a pair of shades I quite liked, and they broke. Shouldn't have sat on them, I guess), then I bought another pair in Japan, only to lose them in Malaysia. I bought another pair (with playboy bunnies on them) in Malaysia (you can see them here) but one of the tiny little nuts holding the glasses part onto the frame came off, so you know it's only a matter of time for them. Well, at a random gas station with my kid sister Antaya, I saw a pair that I quite liked, bought them, and used them all through the sixty-plus hours of driving I did in July, but then, on my last day of driving, I think I took them off to use an ATM machine, or to put Irish Cream syrup in the gas station coffee (didn't help the coffee, either) and forgot to pick them back up again (the same way I lost the camera I got with my university graduation present money, except that time I was climbing a mountain, and changing out of sweat-soaked clothes). So I'm back to my usual cursed, sunglasses-free self, thinking about just wearing a hat all August, rather than getting heat exhaustion from the criminally hot sun all month long, and needing nine hours of sleep a night.

My usual policy with things I keep losing, breaking, or otherwise seeming to have bad luck with, is just to give up. I will no longer buy expensive cameras or sunglasses, because I'm just throwing my money away. Of course, there are some of those kinds of battles I WILL continue to fight -- for example, I will continue zipping up any slippery flies on any cursed pairs of pants I may one day own, but I certainly won't get myself frustrated buying cameras and sunglasses, when they just get lost, and I prefer journals and hats anyway.


More about Canada.

Driving to Creston was really pretty.

But Vancouver Island, where I saw Matt's older brother Joel get married, really took the cake. We travelled all over that island, and every corner held another gorgeous view. Really, I just can't get over how pretty Vancouver Island was: I might just have to spend six years there at some point in my life. :)

In Creston, I gave Becca's kids a clown nose to play with. They really enjoyed playing with it. Carrie-Ann smiled and laughed when she saw it on her brother Matthias. . .

Bethany had a habit of taking it out of Carrie Ann's hand so she could play with it.

But once she finally got her hands on it, she knew what to do.

This is one of my favourite songs right now. More about my trip to Canada soon.

Warning: it's noisy.

That's "I'll Believe in Anything" by Wolf Parade, the song that's been cropping up on every mix CD I make these days.

This is another one of my favourite bands these days. The White Stripes rock. They have a new CD out.

This is noisy too.

Rag and Bone

This isn't noisy. I like it too.

Scythian Empire

Even Mel, who hates when I talk about music, liked this guy when I played him for her in 2005.

His name's Andrew Bird.

Back in Korea Safely!

This was funny.

This one has a bad word in it, but when I sent it to my brother, he said "Yeah, I laughed because it was exactly your sense of humour." It's true. It's basically the video I'd make if I had the know-how and needed to make an ad for a fictional product.

Power Thirst

The cicadas are buzzing outside. That's right: I'm back in Korea. I borrowed my brother's car and buzzed all over the Pacific Northwest -- it was sick how much driving I did, from Red Deer Alberta, to Agassiz, to Portland, Oregon, back to Langley, up to Comox (Vancouver Island) ALL over Vancouver Island, to see Matt's older brother Joel's wedding:

this is where Joel had his wedding. Around the corner and down a trail is a heart-stoppingly beautiful waterfall, beside which he and his wife Emily exchanged vows. The country in Vancouver Island is just so beautiful, I don't even know what to say, except that I sure loved driving around it for three days.

And the Finlaysons are a wonderful family, and I know I'll always have a home there in Comox if I need it.

After that I drove back up to Abbotsford, then to Comox to see my sister Rebecca, and finally back to Red Deer. Altogether, I logged more than 65 hours driving around the Pacific Northwest. Sick. I think it put off my owning a car for another two years. Not until I own a cabin by a mountain lake.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Two things.

1. I took it all away! I can't believe it!

I had twelve (count'em, twelve) boxes of stuff left behind from my time in Canada, that I'd basically asked my dad to store in my old bedroom closet when I left for Korea in 2005. Problem is, then Dad went and moved, and I had no more place to keep all my stuff that I might, possibly, maybe need in the future when I go to grad school, have kids, or feel a hankering to read my old university textbooks.

Well, thing is, I spent so much time storing it, but I couldn't even remember what I had in there anymore -- must not have been very important to me!

Plus, I had no more PLACE to store it, as my family'd all spread out and moved on from our Agassiz times. My brother was kind enough to keep all twelve boxes !!! for me while I planned to come back to Canada, but also included the proviso that I MUST do something about it when I DO get back to Canada.

So this week, my main task has been to go through all that stuff and find out what's REALLY important, and what's just staying around for no good reason.

I finished. Four boxes of books and old clothes, a bag of trash, and probably one box I'll have to send to Korea, and one box Dad said I could send and have him keep at his house -- for some of the keepsakes that are irreplaceable, like Mom's baby diary of her pregnancy with me, yearbooks, etc.. It's amazing, when you think about it, how much clutter people generate in their lives -- living transiently, moving around, sure simplifies what's ACTUALLY important and what isn't. Today I loaded old clothes and stuff with "memories" (not very spectacular ones though) onto a truck and passed them on at value village. By the same token, I brough a whack of photo negatives to London Drugs to have them scanned onto CD for me. It'll be good to have that when I've passed on a lot of the other relics.

I feel freer now. Less encumbered, to be rid of so much stuff. Stuff. Yech. Now the trick is just not to think about it, so I don't start second-guessing the choices I made about what to keep and what to get rid of. Oh gee.

But really, the stuff isn't home. There's not really any such thing as home, other than the place where you feel safe and loved. (Watch Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events for more great thoughts on home. Or listen to Tom Waits.) Having that stuff around doesn't make me more in touch with my past, and getting rid of it doesn't unmoor me, because I know who I am, and who I was, and I've already learned what I had to learn from those times of my life.

Still, it was strange taking it away to the Value Village deposit.

You know the stuff that everybody says is "great" but it just doesn't resonate with you? Like when somebody says "You HAVE to see Braveheart! It's, like, the BEST movie EVER!" and you watch it, and it just doesn't do anything for you? These days, as much as everybody loves Bob Dylan, I just don't dig it. I'd rather someone go for clarity than obscurity in their lyrics. His singing style is very expressive, and his best (Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks) holds up with anything ever made, but I just don't find myself reaching for my Bob Dylan CDs very often.

And then the other stuff that people sniff at, but that always makes you happy? As lightly as he's regarded by many, I just can't stop enjoying Cat Stevens. Beyonce also always makes me smile, and by gum, what's wrong with having Hanson on your hard drive? I like some of the classic stuff too, but not because it's Very Influential in the History Of Music, because it's friggin great music, enjoyable and worthwhile! Maybe "Desolation Row" is deep, but "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (and "Wake Me Up Before You Go") make me want to dance!

Isn't it funny how we can feel self-conscious about other people's ideas of "greatness"? Now I'm guilty of doing this myself -- as a music afficionado (which is a music snob's equivalent to a cynic saying "I'm not a cynic; I'm just a realist"), I sometimes put on airs and say sniffy things like "Yeah, that's not bad music. . . for its intended audience" or "No, if you listen to it a few more times, it'll grow on you"

But I've recently decided to stop listening to music because somebody said it's great, and only listen to it if I enjoy it. I'll still listen to anything, but there are some styles that just don't make me really, compulsively listen again and again. And I'm OK with that. I deleted "Songs in the Key of Life" and Pink Floyd from my hard drive, for the same reason I threw out my "Chaucer" book -- as impressive as it looks to have it on the shelf, I don't actually read it.

If it turns out I miss it later, I can always replace it, and then I'll know there was more to it than I thought.

By the way, everybody reading this should find out about a singer from Toronto named Feist. I'm not saying it's great, I'm not saying YOU'll like it, but I do. Also, an album called "From Here We Go To Sublime" by The Fields.

bye now.



Saturday, July 07, 2007

My dad gets married tomorrow.

A good counsellor, a good listener, and a good conversationalist will allow a person to set the terms of the conversation, rather than guiding the conversation to his/her own personal conversation comfort zones through too much talking, conversation manipulation, or leading questions. Good listeners get out of the way, and only assert their presence enough to keep the speaker moving in the right direction.

I think the best poems are that way, too: rather than TELLING you what you ought to see, and feel about a particular instant in time, a good poem just says "Look." and lets you taste a little experience, and good poets will put you right there beside them, so much that you don't even notice their presence: you're just sitting there yourself, looking at the same thing a poet noticed once.

It sounds so simple to use words to clear a way for a reader's own imagination to find a beautiful space, but then, it sounds so simple get a medical doctorate: just go to school for years, and work really hard! It's easy, too, I suppose, to be successful in business: find a need, fill it better than your competition, and make sure people find out! Easy peasy, lemon squeezey!

Rilke said, "Ah, but poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines."

Here are some poems worth a lifetime of gathering sweetness, because instead of just saying


the poet just says: "I was here." or, even better, "look"

and why do the poems need to MEAN anything more than what they say, really? can't it be enough to say, "a frog jumped into a pond. Plop." (that's a loose translation of the most famous haiku ever written)

(all translated by Kevin O'Rourke, from a book on Korean Poetry I carry with me every day)

Ha Wiji:
(untitled -- but a perfect, perfect picture)

The guests have gone; the gate is closed;
the breeze has dropped; the moon is sinking low,
I open the wine-jar again and recite a verse of poetry.
Perhaps this
is all the joy a recluse ever knows.

Evening; Self Portrait
by Cho Byunghwa

I've cast off in life what may be cast off;
I've cast off in life what may not be cast off,
and here I am, just as you see me.

by Kim Namju

A sunbeam
the size of a
chipmunk's tail
on the doorstep
of my cell.
I'd like to scissor slice it,
pop it down my throat,
melt my frozen body
as spring snow melts.

(this next one is the best erotic poem I've ever read)
hwang chini

I'll cut a piece from the side
of this interminable winter night
and wind it in coils beneath the bedcovers, warm and fragrant as the spring breeze,
coil by coil
to unwind it the night my lover returns.

if you don't like poetry, tough. Maybe my next post will be about the transformers movie or my favourite foods in Canada or trucks and shiny power tools. But for now, think about something beautiful you've seen, and how YOU'd share it with the people around you.

I have to go to bed now. My dad's getting married tomorrow.



Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why I love Where the Wild Things Are

Yes, it's connected.

Tamie (in the comments to my last post) wants me to give more information on just why I love "Where the Wild Things Are".

1. The story is so simply written, yet fantastic -- in the OTHER meaning of the word -- full of fantasy and whimsy. It's melancholy and beautiful and a bit eerie but sad and great. One of the few pieces of art for children that dares to strike that haunting, slightly scary, sad tone that sticks in the mind forever, and makes fairy tales about forests and wolves so fascinating. (Others are: The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Iron Giant, The Neverending Story, the most recent Peter Pan movie, and, surprisingly enough, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - I don't know about the books, but the movie nailed it, perfectly balancing lively and sad. [For another amazing, maybe best ever, example of this literary tone, read "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman -- in an interview, the author (creator of the Sandman graphic novels) says it's a strange book because adults read it as horror, but children read it as adventure. He's exactly right.] I haven't read it, but I think Alice in Wonderland might match this tone. A world that's amazing but a little scary, too.)

2. The artwork is just SO darn beautiful.

Exactly the kind of monsters a kid would want to play with.
and 3. Max is exactly like me. (Though I'm sure 80% of the kids, big or small, in the world, would say that - that's the amazing thing about some stories. When the main character is like everyone.)
I love "Where The Wild Things Are"

But as much as any of those other things, WTWTA is one of the items from my childhood that I had buzzing through my head all through the time I grew up, but (as with most childhood things experienced before one learns to start making lists and names of everything), I never caught the book's title. I just had this little, mysterious box in the corner of my mind with monsters and trees growing out of bedrooms and wild things that were scary and funny and who wanted to play with me, and who would protect me from the other wild things in my closet, jumping out of the picture frame above my brothers' bed. (During the day it was something like a windmill, but at night it seemed to be a wolf, looking at me.) Many many years later, I was in my buddy Jon's dorm room at university, and he had a children's book on his shelf. "How strange," I thought, "that this fellow has a children's book on his shelf when he's going to a very grown up university". So I pulled it off the shelf and there it was: that strange little corner in my memory had a title! I got really excited.

There were only three other times I remember that happening. 1. the song With or Without You, by U2. I remember the bassline and the vocalist singing "I can't live with or without you" -- I knew U2 was cool because my 9th grade music appreciation teacher, Mr. Davies, liked them, and Achtung Baby was the first CD I bought, on the same day as I bought my CD player (can still sing all the words to "One" "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" and most of the words to "Mysterious Ways"), and we listened to "Zooropa" all the way across the prairies when we moved to BC, but I didn't know they sang "With Or Without You", or that THAT was the title to the elusive song. Then I borrowed "The Joshua Tree" from my buddy Geoff in high school, put it on, and heard "Where the Streets Have No Name" -- knew it from 9th grade music class -- "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- knew it. Thanks, Mr. Davies. And then "With Or Without You" came on, and it clicked. I knew that U2 wrote that song, and that they were my favourite band before I even knew their name.

2. "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens. I heard the melody on the radio once way back when we lived in Cobourg (ie, before my fifth birthday), and it stuck in my head, and always made me happy; when I wanted to feel happy in Elementary school, I'd hum that tune to myself from time to time. When I was working at the Kilby Store and Farm, Kjersti told me Cat Stevens ranked with John Lennon as one of the greats, that had that magic je ne sais quoi in their songwriting, and I was curious. I listened to my friend's Cat Stevens "Best Of", and it was good -- really good, I became a fan! But it didn't have "Peace Train" on it -- so later I bought a different Best Of for myself, and that DID have "Peace Train" and I realized that Cat Stevens, like U2, had been making me happy for years before I even knew it was him.

3. 99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger -- I didn't know who sang this song until I looked it up just now, but I've heard it a lot in karaoke bars (noraebang) in Korea. The word "99" tipped me off: I thought it was about Wayne Gretzky (see top of blog post) when I was a kid, and I thought the words went "99 Is Superstar" instead of "99 decision street. . . " "99 dreams I have had" etc.. Goldfinger is NOT one of my alltime favourite artists now. The others still are.

These days, I'd have to rank Radiohead, Tom Waits, Spencer Krug, and probably Prince, above U2 on my favourite artists list, but that's not so much a slam on U2 as praise to the other guys. Especially Tom Waits. I played some Tom Waits for #2 (see my second post previous) and she said "It sounds like he's singing straight to my heart" and she hit it bang on the nose.

Have any of you had that experience? Finding back something you thought you'd lost from your childhood? It's pretty cool, because it's not often nostalgia and discovery combine.