Gung Hei Fat Choy!

So, Hap­py New Year! Wel­come to the year of the Dog. To put things in per­spec­tive, Chi­nese New Year is the main hol­i­day of the year for more than 25% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. With one of the largest Chi­nese pop­u­la­tions out­side Chi­na here in Van­cou­ver, it’s a big deal.

Rather than cel­e­brate it by going to the parade through Chi­na­town, we actu­al­ly had anoth­er mis­sion. Or rather, I did. Today, I had my first writ­ing gig for the Geor­gia Straight. The Straight, for those of you not in this area, to quote the ‘About the Straight’ sec­tion of their web site, is:

About the Straight
Canada’s Largest Urban Week­ly
No oth­er city pub­li­ca­tion knows more about Van­cou­ver than the Geor­gia Straight. Estab­lished as the lifestyle and enter­tain­ment week­ly in Van­cou­ver for over 30 years, the Geor­gia Straight is an inte­gral part of the active urban West Coast lifestyle with a per issue read­er­ship of almost 340,000.
Every Thurs­day, the Geor­gia Straight deliv­ers an award-win­ning edi­to­r­i­al pack­age of fea­tures, arti­cles, news and reviews.
Reg­u­lar week­ly cov­er­age includes NEWS, ARTS, MUSIC, MOVIES, FASHION, TRAVEL, BUSINESS, HIGH TECH, FOOD and RESTAURANTS, plus Vancouver’s most com­pre­hen­sive list­ings of enter­tain­ment activ­i­ties and spe­cial events.
Through­out the year, the Geor­gia Straight also pro­duces a series of read­er polls cov­er­ing a vari­ety of inter­est that are enter­tain­ing and infor­ma­tive.
The Best Of Van­cou­ver — Sep­tem­ber
The Gold­en Plate Awards — March
The Straight Music Awards — June

My assign­ment was the Sun­day Van­cou­ver Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra con­cert cel­e­brat­ing Mozart’s 250th birth­day. For me, this is both easy and hard. Easy because it required less research; I knew most of the music on the pro­gram already: Over­ture to The Mag­ic Flute, Piano Con­cer­to No 23 — (that’s the one with the last move­ment that sounds like the theme from The Flint­stones — go check it out and see if you don’t agree!), Exul­tate, Jubi­late, and the Sym­pho­ny No 39 (the first of the final trio of them that end­ed with The Jupiter). Hard, because, well, what can you write about Mozart that hasn’t been writ­ten already before? Prodi­gy, Genius, Bil­liard Play­er extra­or­di­naire, it’s all been done before. Not to men­tion the fact that there have been Mozart fes­ti­vals all around the world, includ­ing some 24-hours of non-stop par­ty­ing in Salzburg and Vien­na. What can Van­cou­ver (much less I) add to the mil­lions of notes and words being played and uttered about one of the great­est musi­cians who ever lived? Oh, and last­ly, it had to fit with­in 500 words, and be writ­ten in the Straight’s style. If I get to write for them again (and I’m hop­ing I will), I’ll expound more on what I think the style (or maybe even for­mu­la) for a Geor­gia Straight review is. I think I’ve got it fig­ured out, but I’m not pos­i­tive yet. Only my edi­tor will tell for sure. The review, if they print it, like every­thing else in the mag­a­zine, will be avail­able online on Thurs­day. I’ll link to it if and when it goes up.

Yes­ter­day, we met Matt and Oana for break­fast at The Elbow Room on Davie Street, a café that cooks some of the best break­fast cre­ations I’ve ever had, served up with a side order of ‘per­son­al­i­ty’ (if your wait­ress doesn’t give you a hard time, she’s appar­ent­ly not doing her job). Nev­er­the­less, despite the wise­cracks, it’s no sur­prise that near­ly every movie star that spends time in Van­cou­ver ends up there a morn­ing or two. Like Lindy’s or Sardie’s in NYC, the place has signed pho­tos every­where and quite a few dish­es named after celebri­ties. I had the Brett Cullen, which is two poached eggs, sautéed spinach, bacon, avo­ca­do and blue cheese on a sour dough muf­fin, topped with hol­landaise sauce (Deli­cious!). I guess Brett Cullen was on West Wing this month. Pam had the Cindy Williams (of Lav­erne and Shirley fame). That’s sautéed mush­rooms, red and green bell pep­pers, white onion, fresh spinach, black­for­est ham and toma­toes, one large egg over easy on a crois­sant, cov­ered with melt­ed moz­zarel­la and feta cheese. What could be bad?

After­ward we took refuge from the rain for a while at the mall down­town (imag­ine us, mall rats!). We lat­er end­ed up at the Caffe Arti­giano, where I had one of those gor­geous Lat­tés as we chat­ted the morn­ing and after­noon away. It felt great to just hang around, and it helped get my mind off my impend­ing review, which is now, thank good­ness, in the hop­per.

So, my sched­ule (which con­tin­ues to be pret­ty full) and my new writ­ing gig have made my post­ings to this blog a lit­tle hard­er to squeeze in. I’ll put up more if I have the time, but to be hon­est, the pay stuff comes first. I hope you’ll under­stand, dear read­er. Next week is much like this past one: Game­lan rehearsals on Mon­day and Tues­day Night, and one evening event, a meet­ing regard­ing Pod­cast­ing, on Fri­day. Nev­er a dull moment, despite the near­ly per­pet­u­al dull and gloomy weath­er. Busy sched­ules are poten­tial­ly one treat­ment for S.A.D.…

Did We Move Here Too Late?

All of the news­cast­ers are pre­dict­ing a win for Stephen Harp­er and the Con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty. He’s mak­ing a final cam­paign stop in Wind­sor, Ontario, which up to now every­one had assumed was not winnable (that’s in Par­lia­ment seats, I guess). I sup­pose it would be the equiv­a­lent of Bush mak­ing a final cam­paign stop in New York City or Boston.

Some con­ser­v­a­tive Cana­di­an blog­gers empha­sized the fact that Harp­er is not Bush-lite when you ignore the scary Lib­er­al attack ads that say he is. Nev­er­the­less, I have to admit that his con­stant rep­e­ti­tion of tax cuts has me very wor­ried. That’s what got Bush in the first time around. I have to believe that Cana­di­ans are not so eas­i­ly swayed by some wad of cash waved at them that they’ll have to spend at Wal­mart. Need­less to say, I don’t buy it, and if I ever actu­al­ly got a wad of cash as some­thing I didn’t pay on tax­es, I’d nev­er spend it at Wal­mart. (In fact, I’m proud to say that I’ve nev­er set foot in a Wal­mart and don’t ever plan to, unless dragged in by force.) If Harp­er starts to do the kinds of things that Bush did, you can bet I’ll be join­ing oth­ers in a move to get him kicked out via anoth­er elec­tion as soon as pos­si­ble. Pow­er here is not as con­cen­trat­ed into the Exec­u­tive Branch the way it has become in the US (Exec­u­tive Branch? Let’s call a spade a spade: For all intents and pur­pos­es, the ‘Exec­u­tive’ in the US is a Dic­ta­tor, sur­round­ed by Mil­i­tary Regalia and pro­pa­gan­da mer­chants.) There’s a long road that Cana­da would have to trav­el down before we reached the lev­el of cor­rup­tion, fas­cism, reli­gious extrem­ism and mil­i­tarism that defines the US today.

I sub­scribe to some local events cal­en­dars, so events in dark green appear as if by mag­ic on my iCal win­dow. Yes­ter­day I noticed that Dar­ren Bare­foot is host­ing a ‘Drown your Elec­tion Sor­rows’ par­ty at the Library Square Pub­lic House tomor­row. That’s a heck of a way to find out who’s ahead in the polls. As Dar­ren put it: “I believe local elec­tion cov­er­age won’t start until 8:00pm, but you may want to get a head start on your wail­ing and gnash­ing of teeth.” If I weren’t going to be at a Game­lan rehearsal (now Mon­days and Tues­days every week until our con­cert in Feb­ru­ary — ouch!) I’d be there. Not being able to vote on this makes me feel almost as help­less as I felt in the last two stolen US Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

An Echo of the Beats

Last night I went to a fas­ci­nat­ing con­cert. Fas­ci­nat­ing real­ly is the best word to describe it. It was at the Chan Cen­tre at UBC again, but instead of what must have been near­ly a hun­dred per­form­ers the first time I went there, it were just two peo­ple: Ter­ry Riley and Michael McClure. Depend­ing on whether you fol­lowed Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry Music or Poet­ry, these two men are pre­em­i­nent in each of their fields.

Riley is acknowl­edged as the father of Min­i­mal­ism, a move­ment which began in the mid-1960s. With­out Riley, one could argue that there’d be no Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliv­eros, John Adams, or even Tan­ger­ine Dream. His best known work, ‘In C’ was one of the first pieces to use sta­t­ic har­mo­ny, or modal­i­ty, as well as a process or scheme to cre­ate the struc­ture of the piece, rather than strict nota­tion.

As for McClure, he was one of the mem­bers of the Beat Poets of the 1950s, who are main­ly known for their most famous prac­ti­tion­er, Jack Ker­ouac (although we shouldn’t for­get Allen Gins­berg, Gary Sny­der or Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti ).

Riley, and McClure, who are 71 and 74 respec­tive­ly, were nev­er­the­less extreme­ly charis­mat­ic and vital per­form­ers. If this was a trip back to those decades, it cer­tain­ly wasn’t via a muse­um exhi­bi­tion. The con­cert began as Riley, sport­ing a long white beard and embroi­dered cap, took the stage and bowed, as both would through­out the evening, with hands held togeth­er as if pray­ing. He began with a solo impro­vi­sa­tion on an Indi­an piece (I didn’t get the name). Like all of his play­ing, it was remark­able in that it was an utter­ly smooth blend of Indi­an music, jazz and clas­si­cal music (in many cas­es, Debussy and Chopin). He also sang some words which I have to assume were Hin­di. After that, McClure, look­ing very pro­fes­so­r­i­al, com­plete with cardi­gan sweater, joined him on stage, and in the same way that he used to work with Ray Man­zarek, spoke his poet­ry as Riley impro­vised. Some­times this worked well. At oth­er times, words would be obscured by a piano (or syn­the­siz­er) flour­ish, or a silence would fall in a place that didn’t make sense. At it’s best, the poet­ic frag­ments and musi­cal ideas worked well togeth­er. I wasn’t sure if this was a hap­py coin­ci­dence or some­thing they had worked out in advance. This was the first pub­lic per­for­mance of this col­lab­o­ra­tion, which was already on CDs on sale in the lob­by.

The most curi­ous thing for me was the way that Riley would every once in a while fall into a stan­dard jazz sequence, like a strange rever­sal of how a jazz per­former some­times dwells on a pas­sage of sta­t­ic har­mo­ny. Instead of a modal pas­sage in the mid­dle of a jazz tune, Riley’s music is like lit­tle islands of jazz chord sequences float­ing in seas of East­ern equi­lib­ri­um.

The sec­ond half began with anoth­er impro­vi­sa­tion by Riley. Just as this was begin­ning to be a bit too much of the same thing, the two men did a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion by McClure of a Can­tus from Dante’s Infer­no. Here the extra ele­ment of sto­ry­telling added a lot, even if if it was psy­che­del­ic (and how could the Sev­enth Cir­cle of Hell be any­thing but phan­tas­mago­ria, man). As McClure described a great beast that Vir­gil and the nar­ra­tor rode above the chasm, I had to work at not get­ting dizzy.

The best part, with all respects to McClure’s poet­ry, was the last piece, an excerpt from Mex­i­co City Blues by Jack Ker­ouac. Kerouac’s elec­tric words always worked so well with jazz impro­vi­sa­tion; that’s what it was made for. So, with these two white-haired sur­vivors chan­nel­ing the Prophet of ‘On the Road’ and ‘Satori in Paris’, they gave us a taste of what the Beat Gen­er­a­tion was all about when you wit­ness it instead of read it. I may have been born after all of that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wig to their Jam, Dad­dy-O. (Beat Poet Slang cour­tesy of Beat­i­tude: Dic­tio­nary of Jive)

Geeking Out

With this week near­ly over, I decid­ed to take a pass on the BC Apple User Group meet­ing. The rain (yes, it’s back, with a vengeance), the bus ride to the south and the fact that I’m just a lit­tle tired kept me away. Any­way, it’s good to have a night home.

I’m in a nerdy mood, even if I didn’t go to the User Group Meet­ing. I’m lis­ten­ing to KUSC stream­ing Beethoven’s 7th over the net and the fideli­ty is near­ly as good as I’d get play­ing local­ly. In fact, I’d have to lis­ten real­ly hard to tell.

As I often note, the Net has changed a lot of things, even from my last job. I take some com­fort in see­ing old friends and fam­i­ly in my bud­dy list (I’m using Gaim at work, which like Adi­um for the Mac is a mul­ti-pro­to­col chat client). So I see my AIM bud­dies as well as the MSN and Yahoo users. By the time I get to work it’s already noon on the East coast, so there’s not much over­lap as the day gets lat­er. Still, it’s nice to see every­one there, and occa­sion­al­ly I’ll ping some­one hel­lo.

If I can’t run on a Mac, at least I can make it more Mac-like. I arrange the icons like a Mac (disks on he right, trash can at bot­tom right). I also run Yahoo Wid­get Engine, which, if you set the wid­gets to appear in only ‘Heads Up Dis­play’, mim­ics the Mac OS X Dash­board that I like so much. It all requires a bit more fuss­ing and set­ting up (which I did after-hours) but it works fine and I can get about 80% of the same func­tion­al­i­ty that I get at home includ­ing the weath­er, stocks, web­cam views of the Bur­rard Bridge and Jeri­cho Beach, clocks for the dif­fer­ent time zones, the cur­rent US to Cana­di­an dol­lar lev­el and a few oth­er niceties. I can mount my iDisk, and I can retrieve work mail both at home and at work (no Exchange Serv­er, just plain old POP). It would be great if there was a ver­sion of Omn­i­Graf­fle and Cir­cus Ponies Note­book that ran under Win­dows (or bet­ter yet, they let me have a Mac), but for the time being, it’s not bad at all. Except for Visio. Yuck.

OK. Enough geek talk. Over and out.

One more Thing

Today marks the six month Anniver­sary of our move here. I was think­ing of all that’s changed since then, and how we’re set­tling in and start­ing to enjoy a good life here. While I do miss our friends and neigh­bors from Cam­bridge, we have made friends here as well. Last night we had our next door neigh­bor over for din­ner, and we’re tak­ing it easy today before the week kicks into high gear. In anoth­er 6 months, I can see a lit­tle par­ty. Maybe on the beach.