Hate on Math

December 7, 2010 § 2 Comments

I swear math is the devil. If there is one general subject which creates the most complexes the most anxiety and altogether determines a future, it is mathematics. Unlike english which is found tangibly in multiple forms and can be improved on through these multiple forms, mathematics encountered in grade school is much more abstract and is mostly tangibly found in textbooks and teachers who teach it.

There’s a kid sitting across from me in a tutoring session and the subject is high school math. They’re talking about inverses and functions and making up graphs to solve a problem  — stuff I’ve long forgotten and am so grateful that I no longer have to care about. I hope the kid in front of me is doing a lot better with his tutor than if he didn’t have one.

I was never good at math. Grade 3 and the coming of memorizing the multiplication table was just the beginning, so understand my vexation of rumours how children may no longer need to memorize them (I can’t find any articles at the moment so hopefully it was a silly rumour). Growing up being an asian who wasn’t good at math was just terrible when the great majority of your peers got it. It gave you inferiority complexes to yourself and your own intelligence when time and time again you were segregated out to the not-good-at-math category and you just didn’t know how to get out of it because the way people were speaking to you just wasn’t getting through for one reason or another,it was as if it was another language altogether. Indeed, it is language and ways of approaching things that made a difference I would later find out. Elementary school was a God forsaken vacuum where things were abouts the mediocre same every year, no wonder nothing improved til later.

Getting out of elementary school was the best thing ever at the time. The diversity as compared to the earlier years was just so much more liberating even if it was also exhausting due to it being the teenage years. I’ll always be thankful for my friends in high school, those who are still with me and those otherwise. Thank you for helping me out in math and science, for being the tutors that I needed when the language of my dad’s abilities had my eyes going around in circles.

The internet is just wonderful isn’t it? I’m stating the obvious here, but seriously with what you can learn on youtube, its freakin’ amazing. The last few months I’ve looked up makeup tutorials, how to clean wood surfaces, how to bind a book and double checking my sewing techniques to see if they were correct. I wish there was a Khan Academy when I was squeezing out blood, sweat and tears to comprehend math. A bit of a hyperbole there, but it wasn’t completely off.



November 11, 2010 § 3 Comments

I lost my poppy on the subway coming home yesterday. I’ve been fairly careful of it being able to stay on the lapel of my jacket ever since I got it, but it still found itself falling to the ground, and the bustle of the crowd prevented me from picking it up. From the moment I realized it was gone, I felt like I lost my stance in remembering the past. With it gone, I felt like just another person who wasn’t wearing the symbolic felt flower. In a flash, I was also shocked that there was a flavour of self-righteousness underneath, so in this way, I warn you for what may come next, but this is one of my webcorners.

It was probably in high school when I became more aware of what Remembrance Day meant. It was the history videos shown in classes,  the stories and lessons told, the grade 11 English class that had us watching Shindler’s list, and stories that stuck like the conditions in the WWI trenches were so bad, that your front toe would begin to rot, and rodents would come and nibble on it at night, and without that big toe on your foot, you couldn’t walk properly, nevermind running away from the enemy.

For awhile, Remembrance Day was a day of going through the motions – the school assembly, the moment of silence, and readings of In Flander’s Fields. I didn’t understand it, and slowing down to try to really comprehend it was uncomfortable. My parents who don’t make a point of engaging much with the outside world also didn’t help. Whatever happened on the outside was of no interest to them in expressing it. Instead, it was fragments of words that stayed with me and prodded me to try to continue to understand. I couldn’t forget ‘Those who do not remember sins of the past are doomed to commit them again’, and the last lines of John MacCrae’s poem had always painted a unsettling picture in the back of my mind. “If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/In Flander’s Fields.”

I remember back in the public school system years there seemed a fairly sized number of people who wore poppies, or at least it felt something like it. Remembrance Day was important enough to call everyone out of their classrooms for an assembly. It was the norm of the world at the time, to make a big deal out of it, but once I stepped out of it and the world got bigger, like so many other things such as voting, that great collective stance to care, became the minority, and you wondered why people didn’t stand up for things taught back in school that was right, noble even, and things you were told so much to not take for granted because you don’t know how good you actually have it.

Seeing poppies sprout out on other people’s clothing on the day right after Halloween has always been jarring for me. Its as if I’m being reminded of the worth society seems to put in a day that is about appearances and candy. This is not to say that I disapprove of Halloween, but there are so many frivolous things in the world that I see people would rather stand by, than what the education system has told me is good. Just because you don’t understand it and that it is in the past, and its over, everything is fine and dandy and will always be? Or because life is so busy, that there is no time to make an effort to remember and to do what you can?

As immigrants continue to come to this country, and as our WWII vets will be following the eventual road as our WWI ones, I can’t help but feel it is becoming even more imperative to remember. The reason why our country is the way it is is because of what happened in the past, and the stories of our veterans will not come from their lips forever. It is never possible to truly understand, but just the drive to want to be able to understand, may be enough.

Where Good Ideas Come From

September 29, 2010 § 2 Comments

In my last post I was venting on being in an environment that doesn’t always inspire the best in me, a little bit afterwards, I came across a TED talk done by Steven Johnson, “Where Good Ideas Come From.”

At the beginning he Johnson speaks of British society being transformed by the invention of English coffee houses, because they were a turn from alcohol. A talk beginning with coffee houses, creativity and stimulating environments? I was hooked to see the rest. Most of what was touched upon in this talk I already suspected, such as ideas do not realistically arrive to people isolated and not without past failures, but his examples reaffirmed what I already knew and were examples of how this knowledge has been applied. With “openness” creeping in everywhere from Facebook to the democratization of knowledge on Wikipedia, the talk makes an interesting proposition to connect and share, rather than to protect and patent.

I haven’t seen a slew of TED Talks, as they do run lengthy, but I find them fascinating because they bring up new ways of thinking about things that do, or do not run parallel with convention. But of course, the ones arguing against convention are the more interesting ones. So, following the encounters that are shaping my thoughts and opinions I just wanted to share this. It runs 20 minutes long, but if you don’t have time for that, I’ve practiced my summarizing abilities by giving you a synopsis of the talk, and the original video is linked at the end as well:

Steven Johnson is interested in looking for shared patterns for creativity, and argues that conventional mindsets about ideas are not accurate. The eureka moment, lightbulbs coming on, or epiphany moments that come out of nowhere, did not come out of nowhere isolated. He argues an idea is a new network of neurons that have never been formed. The question becomes how do you get your brain to successfully create these new networks. An interesting note he slides in is that network patterns of the outside world mimic the inside world. How they mimic isn’t elaborated on though. Through stories he fleshes out his thesis that ideas are more often than not cobbled from what we have. The conversations that were had, and of past failures where stories are combined, make up a great environment for innovation, the liquid network. He also speaks of incubation periods or slow hunches before the Eureka moment that can take years before the one breakthrough loose-end tying idea comes out. Because of this nature in ideas, he proposes that instead of shrouding innovation in secrecy, they should be made open so that others may further build upon them.

Conducive Environments

September 17, 2010 § 5 Comments

I’m spending a lot of time at home these days, and will probably be keeping this up for this school term because I don’t have a packed school week.

The main challenge is keeping to a favourable schedule at home. One that have me motivated to do something, but perhaps also varied so I don’t burn myself out with boredom. One of my main problems is waking up early. Early enough to take advantage of the stillness or the morning, but not exactly at the hours that would be required of me, had I needed to get up for a morning class. There are always things, even if small, that I want to get done but the comfort of sleep is a bitch of a temptress. Like last year, I’m trying to adhere to an attitude of the more you sow, the more you reap, but this time, I’m not journeying downtown everyday to pay my work ethic dues. Whereas last year it was most definitely necessary, it isn’t this term. I also do not have the convenience of having my own space at school and I don’t really wish to live the life of a book hole hermit – doing everything in the stuffy library.

As most Generation Y-ers, what matters to me is an environment that allows for efficient thinking – a challenge living in suburbia. I am relatively lucky with what I have, including a library close to home, but it’s still small and come 3:30 PM or so, it gets swamped by elementary school kids and their online games.

I love public spaces, somewhere where you can be out in a collective casual public area. Removed from the tangles of clutter a personal space may have, yet providing the essentials for the support of work material, seems to free you to be able to focus on what is on hand … yes, my partial reason for my enamor for coffee shops for reading and writing.

While my immediate area isn’t too bad, its still frustrating to see land wasted. I often ask would the energy of this place be more dynamic if the strip malls were more multi-functional and contained more than 1 level, add a few more multi-leveled residences, and combined, would people be more inclined to walk? Would living be more convenient? How about more coffee places? Yes … and no, right? If you know where I’m talking about, this area of real estate isn’t that cool, hip or trendy of a place to be in, so whatever that would crop up probably wouldn’t be that ambitious. Hell, that big name pizza place, Pizza Nova recently moved some streets over to be closer to align itself to a more “It” place. These are sad moments for people who can’t drive cars and are craving for pizza.

None of this is new, suburbia’s problems have been known for awhile, but I always come back to these thoughts when I ponder environments that are conducive for brain activity.

The suburbs are so dull, they’re so disconnected from the heart of what city living is, yet they are still considered a part of the city. They’re so inconveniently planned – requiring one to waste time travelling through wasted spaces. True, people don’t always like subway lines because of the dense activity they typically bring, but in the end, it is everyone’s home and land. We collectively raise future generations, traverse through it, and together are affected by it in the end through political, economical and social issues. The transit lines of other major cities allow for far more efficient commuting, so how can we want to be a great major city that wants to serve and get people where they want to go, when our arteries and veins are so dinky? Many of our major roads I’ve been exposed to only lead 2 lanes one way, and our freeways aren’t much better considering the traffic that moves through. The transit map of the subway system is such an embarrassment when I compare it to major cities that Toronto no doubt, wants to be amongst, such as London, New York, and Chicago.

As housing construction has already touched the far reaches of roads like 16th Avenue and Major Mackenzie, there is a demand for housing, large personal space à la Rob Ford; but we also do not want to be heavily inconvenienced when making plans and there’s no car available, but can we have it both ways? What does that great city we dream Toronto to be like? As new suburban areas are being developed, I can’t help but get worked up how ineffective patterns of development are continually carried out. The market works with demand however, which leads me to figure that there must be a demand for replicating boring suburban neighborhoods. Its still in the minds and hearts to aspire to own that brick house with two cars and a white picket fence at the front where you would get your fix of freedom and boundaries by driving in and out.

I guess it can’t be helped though, and I can’t say that I haven’t fantasized living in a cookie cutter, pastel-coloured brick house, and zipping to and from in some mid-priced stylish sedan. Reality shortly prods me however,  it isn’t sustainable, and such a safe detached world isn’t what I would want, but many still do. Is that why these neighbourhoods are still propagating? Are our personal ideologies actually rooted in entitlement and excess?

somewhere. here.

September 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

My calendar says that on Thursday the reception for my show Somewhere will take place at the OCAD Student Gallery. It’ll be up for a month from September 8th -October 2nd and I’ll be in attendance, mingling, shmoozing, and/or social butterflying at the reception on the 9th. We’ll see how that goes.

The other artists showing will be 2010 OCAD metal winner for Drawing and Painting, Vanessa Maltese, Dianne Davis, Dylin North and Janie Reed. All are really great artists, and are worth checking out.

I took a leap of faith on applying to the gallery – it was last minute, and had been haunted by indecision, but the strength of my thesis work, positive feedback and getting into the also last minute Mercedes-Benz Financial/OCAD Show told me that it couldn’t hurt.

I hammered out my schedule for the new school year on the same day that I installed the show. It feels strange to be on the brink of no longer attending school. All the ads and newstories about back to school feel distant, and even the stories covering the return to universities and colleges don’t feel like they quite relate to me anymore; but I’m still going back.

I’m finished one thing, but am returning for something else. I’m more clear on what I’m after this time,  but I can’t help but still feel the jitter of nerves for next Monday. A new generation of faces and personalities to navigate through, and the task of scouting out new friends and allies. I want to be done with learning in an institution and just start living on with life. Whatever its like on the other side, I’ll still need a little bit more help getting there.

Finding My Place

August 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Since my final year in my BFA I’ve been pining for a space to just go to, a place to be mine, to be able to think and focus on things beyond the limitations of my household, to be reminded that I need to stay alert, curious, inspired and alive for my own sake of being alive. My home is a cramped space. Those of you who are aware of this have heard me vocalize this – and more as of late, its just becoming more difficult living in the place I grew up in. During the the last school year, my downtown studio was a place that I had to go – day in, day out; but it benefited me greatly. It was a place away from home, it was my place, and it gave my art, space for the very first time and it finally developed a voice and personality that I was satisfied with. It wasn’t distracted by unrelated obligations or concerns.  It was allowed it to be.

In life, there are great possibilities to seize, but all of them will be missed while distracted in slumber, it is something I am terrified over – letting myself slip from the person I am. It can start out benignly, a little nap for staying up late the previous day, perusing things on the internet in the name of ‘staying informed’, or indulging on some cheap sweet for a thrill, only to have that habit to take hold of you. People, of course also matter, and how you find place with them, and what collectively takes place to shape you. How dare limits be placed on what a person should be, or what they should do, but unfortunately the majority of the offenders being people or patterns of living, don’t do it intentionally.

Every decision is made with a particular mindset. A cluttered mind will produce distracted decisions and a distracted will to live, this is my fear of staying in sheltered suburbia. While my area is above average when it comes to suburbia, having a few places to escape momentarily from home, I’m starting to feel is vital for preserving my sanity. Places like the park feels lonely at times, but man made nature is enough company sometimes. Writing, painting, drawing, reading, and observing one’s surroundings, also preserve, for they are all activities that are associated with what I enjoy doing. Finding a place or activity that allows you to transcend earthy concerns I believe is transformative. Maybe perhaps it won’t make you wealthy, but maybe its enough to realize that you need something more than what is immediately close by, and the world needs something more than what it immediately is.

“Hell yes, or hell no.” GalaDarling wrote was the trend of her more recent decisions, “Do everything without regrets.” should follow those words.

Yet, for all the possibilities I am aware of, and yearn for, I am equally aware of living just another existence in a suburb in obscurity. For all the spark that I feel I am and could be as one of those 20 somethings, it probably wouldn’t be surprising to still be end up just ordinary, for life follows trends. An ordinary life would be fine, as long as I would be living an existence true to its roots of who I am and want to be.

Human-Clad Monster

August 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

This past summer has seen Miyavi come to Toronto for the first time for his Neo Tokyo Samurai Black World Tour. Despite having a vaunted multi-cultural population, having annual anime conventions, and being the center of the universe, Japanese bands have barely played any shows in Toronto. While I was drawn to go see Miyavi, the concert location, cost and only a curious interest in him, I decided not to, wondering when the next act would come. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait very long. During the last weeks of school, my interest in a well-known Japanese rock band was growing and I learned they would be coming to Toronto for the Human-clad Monster Tour. Equally fortunate, I was finally able to befriend someone at school who was no stranger to Japanese rock concerts, and we made plans to see D’espairsRay at Mod Club. Cameras were not allowed, so there won’t be many of my own pictures.

This would be my second time at a concert without seating, and I was worried if I would be vertically disadvantaged. As the evening started with lining up outside the venue, my fears were quieted down when I saw a predominately short Asian line. Platform boots, Lolita-like tops and DIY-esque Japanese fashion, quite a few of them would’ve completely blended into an anime convention. They didn’t look fierce or threatening, with the exception of a few plus-sized ticketholders behind us.

Monsters cover

While in line outside, we noticed movement from the window above and noticed one of the members of the band was peering through the clouded glass. One of us waved, and perhaps to our starstruck astonishment, he waved back. From that moment on, we couldn’t help but periodically look up to see if anyone else would be looking through.

A band called TheSet were our openers and they got on stage some time after 7PM, way after. We had to wait until 9 when our headliner would come out. The spots we staked out were close up to the stage, couldn’t have been more than 10th away. There were a few taller heads in the front, but I soon found out how these places would not be set in stone.

As a more impressive lighting set came on, not long after, D’espairsRay finally came onto the stage. As in support of their new album, Monsters, their first songs were DEATH POINT, Dope, Love is Dead and Devil’s Parade; but the setlist did include some older tunes such as Garnet, Born, and Abel and Cain. The concert went by in a blur and whereas previous concerts I had been to (albeit only a few) have been more passe, taking it in like a bird waiting to be fed some delectable grub. This one I had to actively fight for my place but also weaseled my way up closer. I got more out of this in the end, as being more physically involved, the more that effort contributed to the experience of being at a rock concert and also showing enthusiasm for the band that was visiting Canada for the first time.

The crowd got increasingly pushy, so early on I decided to shift more to the left in case I would find myself pushed out (yes, I worry too much). Eventually, I used it and found myself 4th row in the middle and between Karyu and HIZUMI. Mmm vocalist and guitarist! but not to worry about missing the bassist, ZERO would spin-rotate with Karyu to make a visit. Needless to say however, drummer TSUKASA was unfortunately stationary.

HIZUMI, in accented English, thanked us a few times for coming out and to make noise which we happily complied with. As I had seen in some of their live clips, he announced when it was their last song. On several occasions he also tried to get us involved by clapping and rawring. The former more longer lived than the latter. I was curious what the interaction would be like because of the language barrier, and does it matter that we’re Canadian? English words or phrases are dropped a lot by Japanese bands, but I’m not sure how fluent this makes the musician.

After the concert there was an autograph session for the posters sold at the merchandise booth so I HAD to get it. For all the Japanese speech I’ve been exposed to, it was sobering to be aware that there couldn’t be much to be said, even if such a situation isn’t meant for long conversational exchanges.

As usual, t-shirts and tour booklets were being sold, but also so were cds and hand held fans the band had designed. I had been hoping to see cell phone straps for sale, but those and anything else that wasn’t on display were sold out.

My signed poster!

I am definitely still enjoying a warm afterglow of the show, and nothing compares to the energy and passion exhibited since, least of all, a homogenized suburban mall where part of this entry has been written in. Nothing short of amazing was it to see Karyu’s light coloured contact lenses in person as he crouched and loomed over us, but such a reaction would be predicted when prior to it all, I was simply excited to see the guitars being set up because they were the recognized ESPs one had drooled over on the website. Nor was it short of amazing to reach and finally touch HIZUMI’s wrist, or to be splashed on by the water the band sprouted sprayed forth from their mouths and water bottles – almost reminiscent of a Jesus experience, but let’s not go there.

Just figuring out how to display them now.

As it is seeming to be the trend lately for East Asian pop culture to be infiltrating the West with its actors coming out, English albums being released, and albeit weakly adapted anime movies, perhaps it is safe to be optimistic for other cultural imports to be making rounds around the world, and not just those from the US. Yoshiki of X-Japan recently was featured on ABC News for the band’s appearance at Lollapallooza and ambitions to take the West. I am definitely hoping to see D’espairRay again soon and any other foreign act, especially since after my show, Zero tweeted “Today was Awesome!!”

Great show guys! Come back soon, your fans are already waiting for you to return!