June 30, 2011

Tango

You know what is really hot? That's right, it's the tango. You know what is even hotter? Let me tell you, it's when two men dancing the tango together. In Argentina, it's called Queer Tango. The videos I am about to show you do not focus on the romantic same-sex relationship between the dancers; more likely, I intend to applaud the freedom from the hetero-normative codes in ballroom dances.

Men Tango
My dancer friends at Goucher are probably more knowledgeable than me about the aestheticism of ball room dances. I like ballet, ballroom dancing and dance composition and all, but the whole mechanistic minimalist modern dance sometimes performed at Goucher just didn't claim its place in my heart. I don't want to have a fixed prejudice against any art form. If I did, I would be in perpetual lamentation whenever an aria is sung and I wouldn't be risking my life taking the ghetto bus to go see old opera shown on a screen at the local movie theater. Anyway, There is a ball room dance class at Goucher, which is always in dire need of dancing guys. I decided to take the Jujitsu class instead, and I regretted my decision till this day.

Excuse my digression, the men in the clip below don't execute the common tango moves I see in the ballroom, yet I love the music very much. It's La Cumparsita, authentically tango, interpreted through modern dance - the good kind.



As you can see, the more the merrier. I like the staging here, you can play around with the Yin-Yang ideas, good vs. evil and the whole cornucopia.



And finally, when you decide to bring the dance out of the stage onto the street, and it's New York city. They are brothers, by the way. What a sumptuous visual experience.



Totally hot, I know.

11 Rules of Bill Gates

Can the Rules of Living be found
in these books?
I was doing some MCAT passages when I ran into Bill Gates' thought-provoking rules. Apparently, he "talked about how feel-good politically correct teachings have created a generation of kids who have no concept of reality and how this lack of a concept sets them up for failure in the real world." I see truth in his ways of thinking, so consider this a reality-check. Sugar-coating reality is quite lethal, don't you think?
  • Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it.
  • Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
  • Rule 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone, until you earn both.
  • Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.
  • Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
  • Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parent's fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
  • Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasite of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
  • Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades, and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
  • Rule 9: Life is not divided into semester. You don't get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. You have to do that on your own time.
  • Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
  • Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. 
I realize myself doing or not doing certain aspects proposed by these rules, which are quite practical and applicable to me as a young adult freshly out of college. I don't think these rules only work for a certain population at a certain age but should be considered universally to everyone. At the moment, I still can't believe that I graduated. Indeed, I still call these months my summer breaks, which makes me startled every times someone asks me about my plan post-grad. "Uhm... after the summer break, I'm taking the MCAT this September... uhm... probably find a job somewhere before applying to the med school." I'm still scared though. I want to get on my own feet taking care of my future before I can take care of anyone/anything else that needs me. Sitting at home studying might sound stagnant but dear World I am getting out there. *sigh*

June 13, 2011

Chopin Piano Concerto No.2 in F Minor Op.21

Frédéric François Chopin
I love the second movement, which makes me feel so peacefully pensive. I was thinking about Evgeny Kissin's rendition, but I decide to post Aimi Kobayashi's instead. She has a very distinct vivacity that is quite exhilarating to enjoy. I find her expressive nature genuine, not hysterically histrionic like Lang Lang. Ugh, maybe he deserves a second chance, who knows?

My MCAT prep is quite physically draining. I found this studying schedule some guy posted on the Student doctor forum, and am trying to catch up with it. Basically, it tries to squeeze my entire career of science undergrad in three months. What a bitch. Consider that the test is allegedly the only thing that stops me from obtaining the entrance ticket, I shouldn't be complaining.

My sister saw a ghost in the hallway this weekend. She diverted her fear to merry-making quite skillfully by poking fun at me since I am forever haunted by that movie The Hills Have Eyes (the remade one, I haven't seen the original, and I don't ever want to.) The story is that we got lost once in Nevada on the way back from Las Vegas to Orange County. I refused to leave the car as the household went into this sketchy gas station in the middle of the nowhere-but-the-desert to ask for direction. I was literally screaming and hissing and begging them to leave that god-forsaken hell-hole even though the car was running out of gas, the air conditioning system stopped working, and my infant nephew passed out from the heat.

Anyway, to calm me down, here is the beautiful Second Concerto. Enjoy.

[Update 05/03/12] The clips were removed. Please savor Mr. Kissin's rendtion!

Movement 1: Part 1



Movement 1: Part 2



Movement 2



Movement 3

June 7, 2011

Chopin Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor Op.11

Frédéric François Chopin
Garrick Ohlsson and Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit, from Chopin's 200th Birthday Celebration Concert at the Polish National Opera, Warsaw, on the First of March, 2010. This is such a stupendous performance. I'm not savvy enough to interpret the playing and analyze the nuts and bolts, but I really enjoy the experience. I've never heard of Mr. Ohlsson before this, but he is getting on my list of favorite pianists. I find Lang Lang very irritable to watch, so excuse me if you think he's entertaining.

I have this strange sensation whenever I listen to music in this period. I feel like there is a cluster of  hidden sentiments churning down from my stomach, incubating into this undulating mixture of very conflicting emotions rising up to my throat - and I realize that I am holding my breath listening to the music, fixing my eyes at the musicians without a blink. I wish Chopin could have written more concertos like this. He was such a bad ass: this piece was among the only orchestral pieces he ever wrote, of course to honor the beauty of the piano. There are also chamber versions existing somewhere, I've heard!

In a piano concerto, which one do you think is more important: the piano or the orchestra? Which one enlivens the other or they are there equivalently to make sweet love to each other and spill the orgasmic juice in your ears? Ah! I must be thinking about that movie already, you know what I'm talking about, yes, Jane Campion's very poetic The Piano.

Okay alright, enough rambling, enjoy the magic, y'all.

[Update 05/03/12] Well, obviously, since the "YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement..." blah blah blah, I have to post another performance instead. This is Daniil Trifonov with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

June 3, 2011

Three Colors Trilogy: Blue

Juliet Binoche
It's the time to talk about Kieslowski's Blue. The first installment of the trilogy aims to celebrate the concept of freedom through the life of Julie Vignon, beautifully portrayed by Juliet Binoche. It is a journey of self-redemption and forgiveness following the death of both her husband and daughter. The color blue serves as a medium for contemplation, of memory and of getting in touch with the nature and magnitude of suffering. The soundtrack, composed by Zbigniew Priesner, also plays an important role in the movie as a spiritual and emotional guideline.

Complete detachment from the past is the way Julie chooses to liberate herself from pain and suffering. She adopts an indifferent facade as if she merely carries her corpse around since her soul has died the day she loses her family. She withdraws herself from the world and completely shuts off everything that reminds her of the tragedy. She even throws away the music script for the concert her husband supposedly was working on. It is not the music but her own guilt that darts out and petrifies her:

video

She also tries to disconnect herself from human interactions. She seems to obtain certain degrees of relief from such practice yet her suffering is still there. It is an ignored wound that she neglects to take care of. Her failed effort to numb her feeling manifests itself in many ways. Her false sense of redemption is best described below:

video

As Julie relishes her brief freedom from suffering, an old woman struggles to get by her life. It is acceptable to spend some time to nurture yourself after a crisis, but remember that the world is still revolving around you. There is many other struggles, there are miseries greater than the one you experience. Reposition yourself in life in order to live again. My friend Batya introduces me to a great saying of Hillel the Elder:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?

Julie certainly has the answers to these questions. She wouldn't want to live in a perpetual state of numbness, of spiritual death symbolically equivalent to her mother's Alzheimer disease. When she reaches out to others who are also affected by the death of her husband and daughter, not only does she redeem herself but also touch their lives profoundly. She finally comes to term with her loss, accepts the reality, and lives again through her act of forgiveness to her husband's mistress and ultimately herself. Isn't it a coincidental irony that the song she finally completes is for the Unification of Europe? It is true that no man is an island. I believe that there are bridges connecting each man's island. For Julie, two of the most important bridges of her life have collapsed but isolating herself from the rest of mankind is not the solution.

It is also important to emphasize that the act of reaching out to others must occur at the same time of taking care for one's self. Whatever change must come from within first. We see Julie's effort to come to term with her loss is highlighted every time she swims. The blue water represents her emotional flow. The swimming pool is Julie's meditative haven. Every time she arises from the water, she reaches certain realization critical to her recovery process. In the following scene, notice two important elements. First, the recurring music keeps on haunting her. Secondly, she recoils into a fetal pose as if begging for a new beginning:

video

There's a bit of a religious undertone in the movie. There is similarity between Julie's rising up from the swimming pool and baptism. Even more prevalent, which religious figure do you think of from these elements: the blue color and the sorrowful mother figure? But I don't want to get there. I will save it when I talk about the Mr. K's Decalogue. Anyway, the old woman disposing the empty bottle is seen throughout the trilogy and also in The Double Life of Veronique. Mr. K's film is so packed with symbolism that you can make a meaning out of almost every details of his films. For Blue, I particularly enjoy the aspect of rebirth and forgiveness. I find so much hope and peace at the film concludes. In the last glorious scene, a tearful Julie is shown looking outside her window. Those are not her tears of anguish but of peaceful acceptance as she moves on with her life.

video

Life is more meaningful in suffering, only if you survive and live on, of course.

Doctor Comic


I ran into this comic today, from the Three Word Phrase by Ryan Pequin. It's hilarious and yes it is so wrong on so many levels but I love it.

Ideally I would be going to medical school this coming fall, but since my spirit has been *insert puppy-eyed excuses here* so yeah... it won't be happening right away. But I will do it, y'all. 

I have got all the material I need to study for the MCAT. I want to make it my little bitch and tap its ass. I got a bootleg version of the famed Berkeley review, the much-acclaimed ExamKrackers, and access codes for practice tests. Starting next week y'all, I will start studying again, or shall I say, make it my little bitch and tame it till the day I ride it majestically straight to med school. Focus Focus and Focus, of course. With no "bad poop in my butt," I can do it.

June 2, 2011

Bacon

I shiver with pleasure the moment I sink my teeth in you. Yes you, bacon you.

Coming straight out of the oven. That pepper is spicy and that grease is sweet, y'all.

So yeah, I blame my love for bacon on the sketchy brunches I had every weekend at Goucher college. I approached bacon with hesitation and wondering since there is no bacon back at the 'Nam where I came from. What started as a school-girl amazement now turns into some sorts of (un)healthy obsession. Well, I know it's bad for you, blah blah blah, but when you lather a cup of brown sugar and two table spoons of mesquite seasoning on it, put it in a 350 degree oven for half an hour, and listen to the bubbly noise of the caramelized sugar making sweet love to its crispiness, you know you can't resist.

My friend Rob and I used to have this ongoing joke about the love for bacon. One of my favorite has to come from The Oatmeal's 6 Reasons Why Bacon is Better Than True Love. Anyway I made a batch of the baked bacon mentioned above to feed my mom for lunch yesterday. I freaked out so much thinking about how much weight she would put on devouring so much bacon all at once like that. I felt obliged to make her green tea to calm her down after such bacon euphoria. I remember sending my friend Rob bacon chocolate bar with a side of green tea chocolate bar to neutralize the effect. Wow, I am so considerate. Oh, I dated a vegan kid several months ago. He fucked the last half a year of my life, so what works most effectively for vengeance? That's right, y'all. It's the bacon. I wish I could de-veganize (is this even a word?) him by stripping him off naked, forcing him to wear a bacon bra, and beating him up with a bacon whip. 

I got this awesome bacon bra from this guy's Flicker.

June 1, 2011

The Double Life of Veronique

Technical details of this Kieslowski movie can be found at the IMDB website. Every frame is a picturesque feast to the eyes with an ethereal score composed by Preisner. This is one of those movies that stay in your mind long after that speechless awe you experience the first time you watch it. I watched it twice and each time I gain some refreshing perspective not only about the movie itself but also about life. What would you do if you are to have a second chance in your life?

How about a bit of that glorious opening sequence to get you in the mood?


I particularly love the green color filter used throughout the film. You can crack out many meanings associated with such a color choice, of which Kieslowski was the master. Check out his The Three Colors: Trilogy, also my favorite, and I'm thinking about writing about them sometimes in the future. At the mean time, I'm watching his Decalogue and it is a religious experience for me.

Well, enough rambling about Mr. K's other gems, now I can go on and on about how much I love Irene Jacob, ever since I first saw her in Red. The camera simply loves her and she did quite a good job portraying the Polish Weronika and the French Veronique, two similar yet profoundly different human experiences that one can live. Having heart problem, Weronika drops dead pursuing her dream while Veronique sacrifices her career to preserve her life. Weronika lives more fiercely while Veronique appears more reserved and contemplative. Having an allegedly better Veronique-self, the Weronika confirms to her father that she is not alone in this world. Mysteriously affected by Weronika's death, Veronique suddenly cries during her love-making as dirt is thrown upon Weronika's coffin.

When I was younger, I had this irrational fear upon knowing about the "antimatter." Supposedly, the antimatter is to nullify the existence of matter. To elaborate, if you happen to see yourself walking from the opposite direction toward you, it is certain that you are to vanish from the Earth. I smile uncomfortably as Weronika sees her Veronique self on the bus during the demonstration. Which one survives, we all know by now. The difference is that there is no complete disappearance, the better entity persists. The encounter can be seen below:


While Weronika collapses on stage and dies, Veronique quits her singing career to work as a modest music instructor and takes care of her health. In real life, you don't get to have a second chance to start all over again very often. You don't simply drop dead in order to live again, restarting a new self full of knowledge and appreciation of your life. All you get is this one chance, so the least you could do is to be conscious of your choice and take responsibility for all the decisions you make. If you could do so, you would feel a sense of powerful self-control that hopefully gives you enough strength to resurrect on your own if you happen to die in any aspect of your life. Talking about control, the movie proposes quite depressing and hopeless a viewpoint on the extent that one can control his life. The following scene proposes the most important philosophy behind every gorgeous frame of the movie:


That's right, y'all. There is no free will. You can do what you want, thinking you have the control over what you do and such but hell no, you are all but mindless marionettes controlled by invisible strings of an ever-powerful yet secretive puppeteer knowing all of your actions, thoughts, and consequences. Indeed, Weronika is orchestrated by the old conductor during her hauntingly fatal performance. Veronique runs around looking for her lover - the puppeteer/writer who plots her every single move. She never realizes how much she is being controlled till the moment her lover carves out her two wooden marionettes and tells her about the storyline of his book:
"...November 23, 1966 was the most important day of their lives. That day, at three in the morning, they were both born in two different cities, on two different continents. They both had dark hair and brownish-green eyes. When they were both two years old and already knew how to walk, one of them burned her hand on a stove. A few days later,the other one reached out to touch the stove but pulled away just in time. And yet, she could not have known that she was about to burn herself..."
I will leave Veronique's reaction upon such realization for you to find out. I've spoiled quite a good deal of the movie to you, my apology. Now what you have to do is to experience the magic for your self. Your watching or not has already been decided already. Whatever you do has already been planned out. However, you can still retrieve a meaning to your own existence and living in this world: just by knowing how uncontrolled you are have already given you so much power already. It doesn't mean that you will let things slide under the table and hide under your blanket withdrawing from everything; your action is also what the puppeteer wants. The consequence of your action, the outcome of whatever plan is in your hand despite the plan itself being established by the puppeteer. Give it a try, don't be afraid. 

Even if you have to drop dead like Veronika, your responsible choice will give you strength and knowledge to resurrect. Don't you feel like you've become a better, stronger, and wiser person every time you recover from certain life's downfall? If you do, count me in.

There are certain aspects of the movie that reminds me of Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World. Take a look!

The next time you drop dead, remember, it's not the end. Just like this: