Eyes ‘Trained’ On The Prize

If you were an amateur high aiming, well intentioned yet pain-in-the-ass photographer-wannabe cinematographer trying to score a movie deal with an indie project to show, you might sit up at 3 in the morning and think it’s a good idea to recreate Trainspotting.

I wholeheartedly support you and encourage you to try. In fact, I have a little something for you.

I’ve just realized that if someone of your caliber came to my room and tried to zoom in on my desk with a grainy zoom, out of focus, my desk would very closely resemble the scenes from the movie.

You’d see messy piles of grainy white among other piles of mess and an absolute disregard for a decent human state of living. From your view at the other end of the screen, I’d be living in shambles. Dilapidation is me. You’d forget where you were and wonder where you’ve been transported to, how you landed yourself in this mess, and whether you should be seriously considering this project, accounting for your own mental wellness.

Until you take the lens away from your eye. Welcome home, my failed Academy receipient. Welcome to my room. Welcome to my desk.

It’d take you a minute to get your bearings back before you come to realise that no, there was no powder and the books weren’t keeping a tab on customers (although, I do believe my roommate is into the finer arts of accounting, if you’re altogether keen,) but were just repeatedly scratched out half-assed math solutions, and those squiggly lines and symbols were not spells and ancient incantations, but were, again, failed math problem attempts (don’t think the original movie covered those) and in fact, all you can see (as far as the eye can see, for that matter) is just. And. Only. Tissue papers. Piles of them, mountains of them, it doesn’t end. I haven’t robbed a bank and got me some crack, I’ve literally robbed the dining hall for not food, but freaking paper napkins for when my nose cracks out another one and I still find the need to get more.

This flu is probably more annoying than your camera work.

And then follows a sneeze of such volumes that you take a step back in alarm. Maybe, you feel, you should be getting out of here soon for your physical health.

Oh no, honey, some of my “powder” must’ve gone in my nose. The volumes of it coming in these days… the orders just don’t stop, you see!

On second thoughts, you’re asking yourself, how soon is now? [Allow me to break character for just a second and ask if there are any Smiths fans reading this who suddenly perked up at that last line?]

You haven’t seen my bin yet! I protest. The stores in there are tremendous!

Except you probably heard ‘trebenduz’ instead. You take a step back.

You pick up your camera. You’ve had enough. You suddenly remember that big budget project you had lined up where you tape 15 hours’ worth of some rich old guy’s pet pig. “It’s for Swina’s birthday, you know. Plus, it pays.”

I want to protest. You don’t know what you’re missing. The potential in this room. There’s a fortress of tissues, a mountain of used tissues, there’s struggle, drama, frustration, torn homework assignments, my unmade bed, the anticipation, a three week old half eaten, uncovered piece of funnel cake–

But you’re already out of the room before I can complete that last line. You really have other places to be right now. You run out in terror and slam the door shut behind you; perhaps the book was a better idea after all.

I’m still behind the shut door. I can only shake my head. Strange fellow you must be, to waste such potential…

Oh well. I’ve still got the original set right here with me. Which reminds me. It’s about time I actually got around to watching Trainspotting.

Decisions, Decisions.

It’s 4:45 in the evening.

You’ve spent all week thinking about beginning to take a look at that problem set that’s due on *sneak a peak at flashcards* 27th.

Every day you tell yourself, it’s due on Friday, I have time.

You turn up at class on Wednesday morning to see, flashing in big letters on the sidescreen: “Assignment due tomorrow.”

Some math tells you that the 27th is indeed, not a Friday, but a Thursday.

You curse inaudibly and sneeze into the fifteenth tissue paper you picked up from the dining hall this morning.

You realise you’re actually going to have to do it today.

You begin working.

You’re actually starting to get the hang of things.

And then you come by this question that everyone in class has been talking about that you’ve thought to yourself, I’ll figure it out when I read it.

Turns out, it’s hard.

You’re stuck.

It’s also 4:45 PM, by the way.

You find yourself a comfortable, quiet spot after having tried to solve your sheet all day in different places, running into, alternately, burning cigarettes, noisy people, bad winds; and out of tissues and battery.

The phone buzzes.

Probably a reminder to turn my work in tomorrow, you think.

Unsurprisingly, you’re wrong.

“Music club initial meet from 5PM to 7PM today.”

 

I can either turn in my math sheet in time, or I can attend the music club meeting and try to become a member.

Decisions, decisions.

Why must life be so unfair? Why must I be so disorganized!

It’s 5:10 PM. And here I am, writing a blogpost instead, doing neither.

Tchaikovsky On Song

The mood changes from a tense, terse one, exploding with a suddenness that is unwarranted from the two relatively sedentary creatures stationed at respective opposite ends of the room. A call to arms has been sounded, though curiously, neither creature is particularly roused. One returns to trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to dream up a method to hack the system database to erase all evidences of a certain coding assignment due next week, while the other returns to the more worldly matters of business and economics. *

*The author cannot vouch for the accuracy of that last statement segment.

A dismayed Tchaikovsky lets his arms drop in despair and decides to try again.

 

This time, though, he does elicit a response, perhaps not the kind he would have wanted, but a response nonetheless.

As his red-faced, purple-mouthed band blows furiously into its various brass instruments, his cellists find a spike in their arm lactic acid levels as the cramps begin to set in and the pianist thunders away furiously on the ivory, the room of people begin to raise what was once scratches of graphite on wood pulp, breathing life and rage into it, bringing it alive, giving it a voice and a megaphone, as the great composer watches for a final triumph as he turns in his grave.

A sniffle follows shortly after, and soon, joins and accompanies the maddening pace of the orchestra, syncopating everything that the percussionists would or would not do.

Surely eliciting a response befitting my legacy, thinks the great musician to himself with the bits of his brain scattered among the generations of bacteria having made themselves home within his mind and heart for centuries in the St. Petersburg soil.

The owner of the maddening sniffle reaches out for another tissue.

A curse, followed by a sneeze is heard.

“I think I’m short on tissues.”

The great composer’s face falls again (or would, if it could), and the great composer realises that his grande finale for the day has turned into something of a mockery of itself.

I think you’re short on brain tissues, the composer sulks, realising that some brains were perhaps jut too obtuse to truly appreciate the music that was to be heard in rapt attention, with a finer understanding of the vast emotions going through the composer’s head as he scribbled, the orchestra’s bodies as they performed, the listener’s mind and heart as they sat, awed, moved, changed immeasurably and beyond repair, and not, most certainly, to be resigned to the background as one hopelessly tried to debug a ten line code with five errors.
The composer has connected with his own piece once again, the fury, the angst and immense dismay in his heart is pouring forth through his exhausted musicians, who eventually diminuendo down to a softer touch on their instruments and a much more biologically agreeable andante.

The great composer’s admitted his defeat, his remorse sings loud through his lament, a movement filled with his reflections on his failure and on this nefarious generation that chooses to… of all things, code, with him, Tchaikovsky, as mere background music. Oh, the nerve. Oh, the sorrow. It spills through, the sadness soon turning to a maddened confusion, a rage of sorts at the state of pathetic loneliness, one that resonates wholly with the band, in the hollow echoes of the brass section, the sweet, high wail of the violins; nobody understands them, nobody has the time to hear their side of things.

And all of a sudden, the great Russian composer is a child again, living through the turbulent years of teenage-hood, no different from the punk with the distorted, loud guitar, lashing out against the uncaring world while his violins gently weep, and the low notes of the cellos shake the very floor beneath him.

The tremble begins to rise, and in a sudden momentary burst of rage, angst and pent-up expression, the whole ensemble breaks out into a loud, hard shout, a last-ditch effort to grab the attention of the immovable, impassive teenagers that sit a their tables, one working, the other hunting for tissues and cursing at bugs.

For a fleeting second, the world; these teens’ worlds; are his to command, but only for an instant, and Tchaikovsky and his happy party return to their world, slowly descending down the scales, as if mapping out a return home, and then deciding to flip the other way, and break into a brisk jog, gasping for air wheezing in a high pitch, but glad for the rush of blood, now content internally, trilling in a happier, major key as they really do decide to begin their wind up, and finish on a high, their now attuned and accustomed brassy voices singing loud and strong, then taking a bow, and basking in the satisfaction of a job well done.

Well, mostly, except…

The dense creature who forgot a jacket in a 10 kph wind sneezes yet again. 

A “daarrn it,” is heard. 

“If I run out of tissues, I’m soon going to have to use my physics problem set.”

The other head in the room turns instantly. 

“You what?!”

And the poor, frustrated musical genius that was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky turns in his grave, realising, much to his chagrin, that what he could not do in half an hour, a bumbling, sneezing, erring coder had managed in what couldn’t have been any more than a few seconds. 

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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is my physics problem set. And yes, those are tissue papers. I am fully on my way to mastering back-of-the-napkin math. Yay for the wonders of science!

Situational Existential Poetry

It’s a most curious kind of bother

That for my idle brain is now fodder

It’s existential, and in a timeframe

When my work causes me to forget my name

So I turn up here and you can call me Matt

I’ll stand before you and blurt out scat

About a ghost story and majoring in math[1]

And shameless plugging about joining my lettuce appreciation frat.[2]

That giving me freedom would become a problem

Was a perpetual issue that bugged my mum

At the very bare minimum,

She figured my floormates would hear a midnight strum

Or quite possibly the new tribal drums

That I would read about in the history library,

And enrol as the lead dramatist

In the science fiction drama with a plot twist;

That I’d turn minimalist

And live and die by the ice cream stick

And my vitamins be damned

And the meal plans a scam;

And my professors’d be in for an amusing shock

To see me stumble in asleep at nine o’ clock

If I ever made it on time, of course

An upside down map being my sole source

But so far, I’ve kept myself on form

And while I’m wondering if it’s the calm before the storm, 

I’ve a most curious kind of bother:

I’m turning into my mother.

[1] A long, wonderfully written story. I may explain it someday, or simply allow you to enlighten yourself (albeit partially) with this here: embrace nirvana.
Full reveal: he couldn’t have hidden in the “angle of the tower” without his math degree. And without him, Reznikoff wouldn’t have been a legend.

[2] Another long story about a lettuce appreciation club my friend and I are going to start. Devil’s in the details out shortly. Stay tuned for future updates.

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But I doubt I’ll ever stop being immature enough to enjoy doing this.

“Only When The Time Is Right”

Ever since I walked into our shared room on the first weekend of the month with two bags badly balancing on my shoulder and a guitar slung on my back fumbling with the keys and stumbling through the door, my roommate has been asking a lot about my music habits. I’ve always replied, I’m going to wait for the weekend, late in the evening, just when people get home and free from the week’s work (Friday) or busted out from a party I’m going to blast out (whatever my music vocabulary for the day consists of), either on my guitar if I can, or through my laptop speakers.

So far, the day hasn’t come, but perhaps she’ll realise that in retrospect, that’s a blessing lazing in the middle of our room. I’ve been sitting around for the past hour (intermittently) reading through my brand-new computer science assignment and realising, once again, that my education so far (university included) has been a lie and I’m staring at pretty much my personal equivalent of coding Google from fucking scratch.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t really that bad an assignment. But it is 11:30 in the night. And I know I’d rather be crying about my ‘hard’ CS assignment due in two weeks than actually be working on the psychology assignment I need to hand in Sunday night.
Oh well.

And thus, making all the logical connections, my musical vocabulary of the day is emo punk. Or at least, what some folks like to call emo. I just call it My Chemical Romance.

This one, in particular. Fitting?

Anyway, I decided to start watching the reference video for my computer science work, and my roommate looks at me.
I’m putting my earphones in my ear. Am I just going to chicken out of blasting my music again, as I most unabashedly declared priorly? I feel I owe an explanation.

“I’m just doing my CS work, don’t worry”, I say.

“I’ll take it off when I get to blasting the music. After all, music is meant to be shared.”

“But as a rule of thumb, in CS, you’re meant to die alone.”

 

On a completely unrelated note, it’s really windy outside and I’m sitting at the window (on my table too, my poor roommate…) and it’s going to rain tomorrow! : )

 

 

Idle Observations

Today I learned 

There’s always something new

To learn

Waiting around for you

Like math

Isn’t exactly about numbers

And the concept of weekends

Remains one of the worlds greatest mythical wonders

And your alarm 

Won’t work for you

You’re late anyway 

And your roommate falls out of bed too

And varsity athlete or not

A squirrel can outrun you

As can’t I the deadline

That my physics homework’s due. 

 

Seriously, my problem set is due on Monday, and here I am, writing the trashiest of poetry instead of working on it. When will I learn?

Polishing Up The Sharps

Over the past few weeks, I have attended tons of orientations on campus: academic orientations, school spirit parades, Computer Science frosh, computer science frosh, getting used to living on campus orientation, laundry orientation…

And so, this weekend, I put the wonderful advice my seniors had so painstakingly put together for a week’s worth of sermons to great use: I ditched my Sunday laundry, ignored my psychology homework, forgot all about my math and went out for the afternoon and evening, for not one but two music festivals.

Toronto has a pretty unique music scene in that its festivals have a uniquely Toronto vibe. When you think of outdoor music festivals, you normally think of parks or farms like those employed for European summer music festivals (arguably the best in the world) (and perhaps, with the sixteen hour drives like the ones to Pilton for Glastonbury) and American music festivals in the blazing summer (like Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo, or the Warped Tour) and to be fair, music festivals elsewhere in Canada (Montréal Jazz). Perhaps you may even think of large, open air arenas and stadiums.

Toronto presents to you a different kind of intimacy when it comes to its summer music festivals (and I mean summer when I say it. Twenty eight degrees has never felt as much like thirty six and as relentless as it did on Sunday). Enter the Kensington Market Jazz festival (taking place for three days over the weekend, their packed schedule can be found here), a weekend full of jazz music (and a few stretches over to some rock and blues) on guitars, pianos and more. The festival is spread out over fifteen venues all over Kensington Market, the whole event being indoors—in shops!

My buddy and I had time only to head to one venue, having left at 12:00 PM and remembering that we hadn’t had breakfast, nor would have lunch for quite some time and making a pitstop by a Tim Hortons, and caught one set at Tom’s Place, a suit shop.

So here’s Peter Hill, on the piano, in a suit shop, furiously churning out some jazz for a seated audience (I wonder if it’s quite what he’s used to).

IMG_0155It did make for a most interesting sight!

Standing behind a mostly older audience seated so disciplined and listening and nodding along with such enthusiasm it felt slightly out of place to whip out my phone and snap a shot, so this is all I have to offer, I suppose.

But there are tons more elsewhere, for after that, we hopped on the TTC streetcar (I’m still adjusting to not calling it a tram…) and tripped down to Roncesvalles for the annual Roncesvalles Village Polish festival. Roncesvalles is known to be a centre for the Polish Torontonian community, and every year, with official patronage from the Polish Consulate, hosts this day-long music and food fest.

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Arrival!
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I can never take a decent panorama… I think a poor passerby just got cut in half in my snap! Thanos would be proud, eh?
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Giving the accordions their due in pixels
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A most sweltering yet beautiful day. I almost prefer it through the camera now.
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Books, books and more books!
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Very Polish set up. Though it must be really hot under all those layers.
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Living for the brass section

If you’d like to listen to snippets of some of the music being played around (and Polish festival or not, not all the music was lyrically in Polish), I have included a drive link with some of the videos I shot around Roncesvalles (three days, and I still screw up that spelling.) WordPress doesn’t currently allow me to upload any media that aren’t photographs.

The entire festival takes place on Roncesvalles Avenue, that’s one long street for the whole festival. A little different from the Reading and Leeds you’re used to, perhaps!

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It really is just this one long stretch of road.

And that was the whole stretch of the road.

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Wow, such empty.

My buddy and I, not quite convinced that we were done walking for the day, decided to head further up and cross the street to do some exploring. It turned out to be a lovely idea!

Cross this bridge to the other side to find the waves of Lake Ontario lapping at the sandy, gravelly shores. Welcome to Budapest Park!

And since there was water, we ran into some little friends of ours…

… silently quacking away about their shit day jobs on their way to downtown. Sunday’s the only day they can go downtown with fun on their minds. It was a well used break, or so I heard.

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Between my friend and I, we quite thought this one picture summed up our year ahead at university quite well: the first ten days, you walk along a carefully planked, well-defined path. Then as you head onto the sands, you tread through a downward curve. From there on, you gain velocity as you descend further down your path with heavier, more uncontrollable steps. There’s a sign board explaining what the various flags to watch out for are, but of course you didn’t notice that. Then come the midterms where you dive into the cold water (absolutely no reference to respite from the heat here, by the way) and try to get swim to the shores but a sudden wave arrives on the waters that honestly seemed pretty still from the admission page far. You try to salvage your record swimming through December (in the icy cold (frozen?) water too, yikes) and finally reach the stones. Congratulations, it’s Christmas and you haven’t died from hypothermia! Time to fix your mental health. You get up and walk along the top, regrouping as January and February go by, only to find that your path has abruptly ended and there are rocks under the water surface and it’s April again. The lifeguard’s off-duty today, of course! (It’s Sunday.)

Pretty apt, eh?

We decided to head back to Roscenvalles Avenue to revel in the festivity for a little while longer. Midterms can wait!

 

We also ran into some unintentional queer support, so yay for Toronto!

As we passed by a band belting out the blues, a lot of enthusiastic older couples starting waltzing (though I’m not dance expert, so don’t hold me to that!) There was this one guy, amidst them all, in a real mood of his own, dancing by himself.

That was, until a real nice lady stepped up and began to dance with him. It made for a more inspirational story than I as a university student could provide you anytime in the next half decade, so you’re gonna have to take it. I managed to get some of that on record too, and to be honest, compared to the videos, the story the pictures tell is underwhelming.

He starts out an awkward lone man dancing, ends up owning the floor, and then winning hearts. What a champion.

[That, and other videos are up right here.]

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And then that was it. We headed back home with trumpets in our ears, crumpets in our stomachs… no, I just said that because it rhymed. Keeping with the Polish theme, we had pierogi. Pretty good, and surprisingly filling!

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That sort of sums it up. Yes, this is part of my dorm room. Don’t judge me. I cropped out the sheer mess. I also cropped out the ‘Computer Science department’ sticker I’ve had since orientation, so are we on speaking terms?

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If not, then this piece of sheer madness I found at the university bookstore should come in handy.

Until I resurface!

Lessons From University

Bananas are gold in the morning, silver in the afternoon, and lead in the evening. They are also rotten by the next morning sitting in your room.

Dinnertime Blues

She turned just in time to see

What was now a familiar sight:

An impressive, green projectile

Spiralling in mid-flight.

The cause of the acrobatic display

Looked up with a face somewhat contrite

But steadfast in his belief

That broccoli was the blight.

Her face was the opera

A symphony crescendoing up with might

For her son, he had a theory

That broccoli violated his human rights

He was the leader of a revolution 

He wouldn’t stand to see such sights

He believed with an inward passion

That this was his fight

Pulling up the old psychology book

Eight hundred pages long and white,

He began reciting verses

He’d been reading before he could write:

“Kids have powerful senses,

We can taste bitter in the slight:

One part in two million;

No wonder broccoli doesn’t taste right.”

She knew she had to soldier on,

Till her son would see the light

Vitamins and minerals,

And your future looked bright!

But to zoom out of the picture,

That’s an age long fight;

As for me,

There’s nothing more to see;

I’m just tired of studying psychology.

 

(And yes, the white, 800-page long psychology textbook does exist. It’s on my desk.)

Contradiction

There’s something of a contradiction
About those structures set in stone
That stare up at the fragile egos
Of the new era from down below:
They’re modern and a mix
Of reflective and transparent
And hollow yet beautiful
As they stare up at the sky
Barely glance at the year old foundations
As the day’s work goes by
Yet there’s something of a contradiction
About those rooted stones below
Steadfast in their beliefs
Yet changing the way the world thinks
Spatially limited to two dimensions,
Or so it would seem, relatively
Yet for all its worth
Proving to truly be boundless
Never showing what goes on inside
But never one to hide
And somehow the brightest, most visible
To light up the post sundown nights
Calm in the middle of a storm
And there’s nothing uncanny about that
Just a something of a contradiction
About the grand stone structures
In the heart of town
And that’s where it’s at.