Performing

Imperial Circus of China

I sometimes have some difficulty deciding whether I prefer being in an audience or on the stage. There is a certain kind of pleasant, exciting but almost lazy charm to just sitting back and watching others entertain. On the other hand, being on stage and in front of an audience also has its upsides. I count myself lucky to have been on both sides of the performing “relationship” (audience/entertainer) in these last few years. Cultural Lion Dancing with Bergen Chinese Dragon & Lion Dance Troupe for countless performances everywhere from restaurants and parades to Continental Arena and the IZOD center; hip-hop choreography with Verse|One Dance Troupe at Rutgers for cultural shows to cotillions; even informally during previous Chinese School years, acting out “The New Year Dinner of the Gods” with my old and very amusing classmates in front of the Chinese School during Chinese New Year (good times hahaha.) Ohh, that old Chinese School class. As one of us said a while back–a sentence that struck me as quite fitting–“We’re all performers” (or something to that effect.) ¬†Surely, we are, since even back then most of us were learning Lion Dancing or Chinese cultural dancing, and in college we gravitated towards certain dancing niches…I’m still amused whenever people are surprised to hear that I dance.

Seeing two variations of the famous Beijing acrobatic shows in the past week makes me think about the interesting features of audience members who are performers themselves. As I watched the male and female acrobats performing feats of amazing dexterity, coordination, and general bodily strength, I caught myself really appreciating the show more because I can understand parts of how difficult it is to do some of what they do–one-armed handstands, all sorts of flips, climbing up poles with just upper body strength–I guess the thought I had has something to do with how knowing a bit about a skill gives one a healthy appreciation when seeing people at the top of their craft.

Having performed on stage, one appreciates all the more when one sees good showmanship, in the form of constant smiles (or at least appropriate expressions) or some kind of stage presence. This past Wednesday, I saw the Imperial Circus of China perform at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and this past Saturday I watched the Peking Acrobats perform at Bergen PAC in NJ. I had a few distinct impressions of both: while I was very impressed with the acts and overall skill level of the performers in CT, perhaps my one issue with their show (also noted by the friend who had invited me) was that the music stopped in-between acts, which seems like an easily remedied fault. In the grand scheme of things, a small gap between acts of such a caliber is perhaps negligible, but I think that because the acts are so interesting, the show itself would have been almost flawless if all the separate acts were woven together into a flowing narrative. Silence between acts, in my opinion, breaks the semblance of cohesion and interrupts what had otherwise been a captivating show. So when I watched the Peking Acrobats in NJ, I couldn’t help but to pay close attention between acts, and my thought is that whoever was in charge of organizing their acts understood what I was talking about above about uninterrupted narratives–the song from one act blended quite well into the next.

Comparing the two different but similar acts, I was happy to see that each featured stunts and acts that I had never seen before–the Imperial Circus had an act with hat juggling, for example, and the Peking Acrobats had two (very acrobatic) children as part of their acts. Watching acrobatic shows always makes me wonder what kind of training the acrobats undertake in order to become so fit, flexible, and nimble.

All things considered, I think I usually prefer to be on the stage, because of the very process it takes to get there. I love practicing and training to improve, and the bonding that comes with spending so much time with a team of committed (ideally, anyway) individuals, and the sense of unity and cohesion once we’re approaching a goal, and the almost palpable excitement–crossed with a degree of nervousness–on the seconds before we step on-stage. And once the music begins (proverbially or literally), time flies away and as performers, we’re in the zone, and seemingly seconds later we’re done and out. Hours and hours of work for our seconds of fame, hahaha. That isn’t a complaint by any means–anyone who’s had to practice should be able to appreciate true mastery all the more.

At the same time, being a performer, leaner and teacher, I like how my focus is drawn to different aspects of the show when I watch performances now. I pay close attention to how the performers move, I note when people are out of sync/formation, when they lose their stage presence–I note these things, and sympathize, because having been ‘there’ in a way, we know that it could happen to us, and that’s why it’s all the more important that we practice, train, remain diligent and focused when necessary.

From the unofficial teaching standpoint, I love seeing my students improve, whether it’s in lion dancing or hip-hop dancing. This past visit to Rutgers, I was able to sit in on a V|1 practice while they were doing critiquing of 2 pieces that they’re auditioning for…today, I think, and seeing that most of them had improved in some ways, I was so proud hahaha, even though their improvement wasn’t necessarily due to any influence of mine; it was a mother/father-bear-like pride born of seeing improvement from those who love what they do, and that’s always gratifying to me.

Oh, dance. We’ve had this funny relationship, you and I. I knew I was always interested, but didn’t know how to start; you were cool with that, you taught me the importance of what it means to throw yourself into what you’re doing, and now here I am marveling at how you’ve helped me grow.

Work, play…dance? ūüėÄ

good busy

early v-day dinner!

Friday: drive down to RU, drive to Menlo Mall, walk around and accidentally eat too much of a late lunch, drive to Princeton area for dinner at Sushi Palace (sushi buffet), searching for parking at Princeton University, watched Triple 888 Dance Troupe’s Awakening show, chilled with old friends past midnight, drove back to RU, dropped by friend’s apartment, got food from White Castle.

Saturday: attempt waking earlier, drive to Parsippany, perform lion dance, perform dragon dance, drive back to RU, light grocery shopping, shower, dinner at Rai Rai Ramen, more grocery shopping

Sunday: drag self out of bed, drive back upstate to Chinese School, jump into monk/teaser outfit and a stage performance, walk around school looking for principal, eat a bit of dinner, sit through raffle, drive home, revise resume, send emails, more work-related research and revisions.

This past weekend has been quite busy, but looking back at it now, I realize that I like being busy, and most especially prefer it to not having anything on my schedule. Even tonight, being focused on doing things to tweak the resume, researching online for work-related things, I’m beginning to feel more involved and actually into what I’m doing, which is the kind of attitude I’ve been waiting for.

February is actually looking fairly busy for a bunch of reasons, with some amount of events during most weekends.  With luck and planning, work will soon become part of that busyness! Such is the plan.

Aha. I think I realized why I’m liking this. I think this is because I’m feeling the growth that can come with change that one hasn’t experienced. I’m eager to learn, eager to perform, and eager to excel.

this could be

a beginning. an end. a somewhere in-between.

sunrise, sunset. so it goes.

The plan to sleep earlier and wake earlier has so far been defying popular expectation in being partially successful. I’ve been sleeping relatively earlier, yet I’m still getting up until around noontime. I wonder if the warmth of the bed and the coldness of the season has anything to do with that.

Sunday’s visit back to Chinese School, and Tuesday night’s visit to judo class at Ridgewood’s YW/YMCA both took me back in time a bit, given that I hadn’t been to either in a while. ¬†I’m beginning to get a sense of the importance of the connections and friendships built through the past years; I start catching glimpses of the depths of bonds and the ties of friendship; I notice, too, hints of where the limits to such bonds might stretch.

I would like to think that a switch of some sort has flipped, but maybe the change is just an acceptance of some sort that’s needed to happen. Whatever the case, I would like to keep up the upward trend, the forward momentum, because it’s surely better than standing still.

Endings. Beginnings. If this were a story, I would hope for many more chapters to go before the conclusion. But more important than the length, I suppose, is the quality of the story. I guess that’s where I’m at, where the difficulty’s always been at, and where one of the bigger challenges dwells.

Learn as if you were to live forever, mm?

year in, year out

Year of the Rabbit, 2011
2011: Year of the (Masquerade) Bunny?

It feels strange, to say the least, knowing that another semester will be starting at Rutgers University in less than a week, and that this time I won’t be going returning. ¬†Perhaps the strange feeling lies in the abruptness of it all–and yet that explanation is unsatisfactory because I knew this time would eventually come. ¬†If I had to place a name for this feeling, I might think it nostalgia, because I’m usually amenable to looking back at past happenings. ¬†But I’ve become less nostalgic over the course of the last four+ years, demonstrated to myself in the slow progress of cleaning away years of unnecessary debris from the many shelves in my room. ¬†Losing this pack rat tendency–simplifying–can only be a good thing.

So now I’m here, which is to say, out of college (I think –“) and…I find myself at another impasse, because I’m not exactly sure where I am or where I’m headed. ¬†As mentioned in an earlier long post, I don’t think I’ve found a clear purpose during my years in college, though I’ve learned much about myself and the kind of person I am and want to be. ¬†It’s past time to consider where I can fit into the greater scheme of things–that’s the plan for now.

I was going to pick a few pictures that sum up 2010, but looking at the days from January to January, I couldn’t believe how much had happened. I’ll share a few of the things that made 2010 rather amazing. ¬†Most of these have their own stories, but for now I’ll let the pictures and their captions do the talking. ¬†If anyone wants more details, just ask haha.

v|1 spring 2010, dancing in the rain
v|1 spring 2010, growing closer, dancing in the rain ūüôā
spring break 2010
spring break 2010: v|1 bonding
v|1 goes to Maryland
v|1 goes to Maryland to visit one of our spring '10 members
v|1 at Wildwood
v|1 at Wildwood: bonding at the beach ūüėÄ
v|1, Fall 2010
Verse|One Dance Troupe, Fall 2010: still bonding, still fun, better than ever ūüôā
for Noctowl
a letter from friends, as meaningful as any gift.
adventurous company
and last but not least, a friend with whom to share the adventures with.

I don’t know what’s appropriate to sum things up here. ¬†But that’s okay, I guess. ¬†May we all meet great success and find happiness in the years to come.

Cheers.

Nocturnes in R major

such is life?
such is life? is such life?

 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you¬†did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.¬†Explore. Dream. Discover. –Mark Twain

Wherever you go, go with all your heart. –Confucius

Four and one half years ago, I entered in the Garden State a University, conceived in 1776 on the banks of the Old Raritan, and dedicated to the proposition that I might emerge with a life direction. Somewhere in the years after that I might have gotten lost, to the extent that someone without a destination could get lost. Now, while nearing my ostensibly last weeks here at Rutgers, I wonder at how the years have flown and almost deposited me in my present position.

It was a week ago, during discussion in lecture for Gender and Political Theory, I was reminded of why I had been interested in the field of Political Science. The class had just watched Brand Upon the Brain!, a silent film directed by Guy Maddin that was a movie ripe for the pickings in terms of psychological analysis, and our teacher was talking about one of the plot points when my semi-realization struck. Before I mention my realization, one should know that studies of Political Science must have a historical background that examines the theories of all of those minds whose ideas formed the foundations of modern political science. Plato, Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, de Beauvoir, Mill, Huntington,

I remembered that what caught my attention about Political Science was the ways in which thinkers explained how we as humans could lead moral and fulfilling lives. So learning more about political science, I thought, would help me become a ‘better’ (more politically aware, more civically and socially engaged, more independent and autonomous, at least) person.

And indeed, after 4 years and many Political Science classes, I think I’ve only achieved part of that goal. I don’t doubt that I am more aware and much more knowledgeable than before, but what bothers me is the thought that I am not as aware and not as knowledgeable as I could be, or as maybe I should be, after these years of formal education in the college setting.¬†I have found a slight measure of internal peace in the realization, or the remembrance, of the reason for my interest in political science. The greater question, I think, comes when trying to decide how I might apply the knowledge I’ve gained toward a profession, or even toward life in general.

The other major I had decided upon is that of Chinese. When I explain that I have been majoring in Chinese and Political Science, people tend towards either the expression of approval because they see possibilities or towards the expression of confusion, occasionally paired with disdain, because they see little use for non science degrees (or some similar argument). Whatever the private or not so private attitudes of people toward my chosen majors–which, I wish more people would realize, do not dictate the entirety of most people’s lives after college–I’ve always felt that I haven’t yet found direction or a sense of purpose. Is that, too, part of what people might find in college? Perhaps that’s a rhetorical question because I would think some people find their path before college, some in college, some after, and some perhaps never.

I don’t know where exactly I want my life to go. As of now, I’ve been considering applying to programs such as Teach For America, where I could work to better the world by teaching children in underprivileged areas as well as experience more of the world and see if I might find a greater purpose. I’ve also been considering how I might be able to get involved with the Asian-American community as a whole–more research remains to be done in that area.

Participating in several college organizations while at Rutgers has undoubtedly aided me in one area or another, though I might have a hard time pinpointing the exact gains from each experience. Taking part in Reach Out and Read as a volunteer (then as an officer) in an organization with the goal of increasing literacy among children in the New Brunswick Area was a good experience. Learning, playing, and later leading the Rutgers Badminton Club were great ways to get exercise and refine teaching methods. Volunteering for the Chinese Student Association and the Taiwanese American Student Association was a good way to familiarize myself with students who would become well-known among the Asian-American population at Rutgers. Teaching Chinese Lion Dance and learning with Rutgers Chinese Dance Troupe for a semester was fun. ¬†And dancing with the Verse|One Dance Troupe during my final year and a half has been one of the best experiences I’ve had over these last few years (I’ll see if I can write a separate entry for this later). What skills have I learned, practiced, developed, and more importantly, how can and how should I be putting them to use?

Of the many professors that I have met, I can only say that I am grateful to the ones who perhaps went beyond the requirements of their positions and genuinely tried inspiring and teaching their students, whether to emphasize life skills in relation to some class subject at hand, or to remind us every so often of the importance of not just being passive audiences waiting for things to happen. I admire the teachers’ dedication to their craft, and hope that like the best professors I’ve encountered, I can similarly ignite a passion for knowledge and an internal drive towards excellence in those that I might teach.

The image that accompanies these thoughts, taken by Nancy during a trip to Wildwood this past summer, is one that really appeals to my sense of aesthetics. I think I like it because of the way in which the picture is framed (I’ve slightly cropped the original), because of the details that are captured by this particular camera angle, and also because of the untold story that I can almost feel jumping out from the photo. Where is he going? Maybe he isn’t yet sure either.

I recently saw a quotation, purportedly from JFK, that says “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” Leaving aside considerations or implications of gender inequality, I agree with the spirit of the quotation. I think that I, too, do not want an “easy” life, whatever that might be. But I think I wouldn’t so much pray as I would want to plan and especially just take action.

I guess I’ve been trying to figure out how to live, and I suppose too that it’s an ongoing process.

So..who’s with me?

armoring up

The last few days, I’ve felt like I’m gearing up for war whenever I’m about to venture outdoors for any extended periods. Leaving Richardson an hour ago, I had to put on an Under Armour turtleneck and a base layer of pants beneath my jeans before heading out, and I was still cold haha.

My holiday wishes are now mostly centered around getting better cold-resistant gear, because if I’m wearing five layers and still feeling cold, I think some of the gear’s not doing its job.

not enough layers
not wearing the right layers
  • American Eagle Hoodie: not meant for any cold weather. I’d be wearing a different one but most of the others need washing.
  • Earmuff things: they do a pretty good job.
  • Beanie: decent, could be better.
  • Scarf: solid.
  • Jacket: not water-proof, somewhat wind-resistant. Needs to be upgraded, I think.

Conclusion: ¬†want a better jacket, as I’ve been saying, preferably Under Armour, but since I can’t see the inside of them on the Under Armour website, I don’t know how it measures up in terms of pockets and storage space.

I’m looking at the Scramjet jacket ($249.99), the Laminar 3-in-1 ($274.99)¬†and a few others, but I’m upset that I can’t see the details of the jacket interiors–seeing the pockets and compartmental layouts would be a huge plus, as they already have those images on the websites of competitors like Columbia and North Face. The North Face Men’s Devereaux jacket ($449.00) looks awesome haha, and judging from the pictures, it would have enough features to satisfy me, but at its current price it’s out of the budget that I’d have for winter jackets. Also, though the white color is nice, I’d be worried about it getting too dirty.

Currently looking at Columbia’s Whirlibird Parka ($200.00), which has a design that appeals to me. The price is also fairly reasonable, if the product performs as the description says. ¬†This one is looking like a strong contender if Under Armour doesn’t respond soon…but that doesn’t change how I want an Under Armour jacket haha.

Armoring up with Under Armour…that would be good.

edit: wrote an email to Under Armour customer service with some question or other, then filled out their site survey, and then remembered more info and sent a follow-up email. I’m hoping for an actual thoughtful response, and the feature actually being implemented, but I don’t think I should get my hopes up.

wrist watch browsing

I’ve been without a watch for a while, since the battery on my watch died, and while I’m considering buying a battery for it (I have to see if I can install it myself without specialized tools), I’m also vaguely interested in getting a fancier/more stylish watch.

The problem thus far has been finding a watch with a design I like that also has features I want, and is also within a certain price range haha. I guess I haven’t entirely decided on exact specifications, but I’ve been leaning toward a somewhat cleaner design and a slimmer shape, as opposed to the bulkier, feature-loaded watches that I used to prefer.

The Invicta Men’s 2876 II Collection multi-function watch has a pretty nice design, and is kind of within a reasonable price range, if paying $80 for a watch can be considered reasonable haha–the problem I have is with the band, because I’d rather the band be a bit simpler; Armitron has two diamond accented dress watches with eye-catching simplicity (the problem I have with those is just that the watch face is a bit too cluttered…if only they had fewer lines of text haha); and Fossil’s Three Hand Gunmetal Dial watch looks fairly appealing as well. Also, the Citizen Men’s AR3015-53E Eco-Drive Stiletto Black Ion-Plated Watch has a certain appeal to it, though I’d be worried about being able to read the watch in any low light conditions, not to mention its price tag.

Fossil Three Hand Gunmetal Dial watch
Fossil Three Hand Gunmetal Dial watch
AR3015-53E
Citizen Men's AR3015-53E Eco Drive
Invicta 2876 II Collection
Invicta Men's 2876 II Collection Multi-Function watch

If I had more of an unlimited budget, I’d actually consider Movado watches like ones in the Serio series (the one pictured below is actually one of the cheaper ones, weighing in at “only” $995):

Movado Serio
Movado Serio

Hmmm. My sister’s opinion is to go with the Fossil, because in her reasoning, the Invicta is too girly, the Armitron looks bad/plasticky, and the Citizen watch…she was curious how anyone could read the time hahaha, a point which I and the reviewers agree with. She also says the Citizen watch reminds her of Batman, which I pointed out is a point in its favor hahaha.

More research is warranted. Time to gather more opinions!

semi zombie state

writing research paper
good thing Records Hall is open 24 hours.

Here are some updates from Records Hall computer labs on College Avenue, brought to you by your favorite creative procrastinating, badminton-playing…Asian? Or something like that. Please excuse any particular quirky comments I may make–at this point I just want to be done with this paper and out of here haha.

It is not far from 10:00am and I have barely begun to write the actual essay. However, in the past ten hours or so I’ve made some kind of headway on skimming the articles I need to use, and with a bit more solid planning I’ll actually be able to start. From 10:00am, I’ll have 6 hours to work until the essay is actually due.

Quick breakdown of the last few hours:
8:00pm: woke up from a ~5hr nap in an armchair at the Red Lion Cafe.
8:30pm: ate a quick dinner in the food court, went to Au Bon Pain to grab some caffeine in the form of a mocha something, then migrated to Records Hall computer lab.
9:00pm-11:00pm: messed around on computers, intending to start work but somehow getting sidetracked and ending up discovering Sam Tsui on Youtube, which led to losing at least an hour finding and listening to his music. I was blown away, for some reason, like I rarely am, as evidenced by me actually continuing to look up his stuff on Youtube. Eventually I switched computers and got to work.
~11:00pm – 8:30am: serious focus on work; shifted to a few different computers until finally settling in at the “Collaboration Station” (that upraised area with the 3 Macs and table space); occasional bathroom/walking breaks; blehh. I have rarely been so focused for such a long time.
8:30am-9:00am: packed up stuff, went to Brower for breakfast for the first time in a while.
9:15am: returned to Records Hall, same computer. Browsed internet for just a bit.
9:40am: decided to jot down this post. Feeling part tired, part uncomfortable–I really want this to be finished and the day to be done so that I can sleep. I have actually become nocturnal these last two days, staying up through the night and sleeping during the day. That’s…really not good.

Grr for missing dance practices >:O but I guess it was the right decision to not attend practices. Needless to say that if I’d planned ahead I might not’ve had to…but when was the last time I wrote/planned an essay much in advance? …I may still have some left. I think I will try very hard to start planning in advance so I don’t have to pull something like this.

ASIFJLAKJKVMIJAKSDLJFLAJSLDF~! Well, I don’t know what that means, but it’s time to end this study break and try to focus again.

I’ve really got to get these acts together haha.

I want to SLEEPPPPP and dance and play badminton and just relaxxxxx. Not necessarily in that order, mind you. But SLEEEEPPPPPP would be goood.

9:56am:  Byebye till I finish that paper.

gender & pol essay 2

essay writing
essay writing

Essay two for Gender & Politics class due by the end of class tomorrow/later today. After that, focus will be on studying for Nutrition exam 2 this Friday.

I feel like I basically slept through most of the day today. Well, wow that I’m more awake, 5 pages await writing…be still (but continue pumping), my pounding heart hahaha.

on the schedule

practicing
workwork

I’m still getting a bit of that feeling where I have little to no idea of what’s going on haha.

We have dance practice every night this week in preparation for out first performance of the semester at CSO’s CARES, this Saturday. We’re not yet ready but hopefully by the end of Thursday night and especially by the end of Friday night’s practice, we will be. The set is still only semi-clean at best, even though it looks much better than even a week ago, but that’s to be expected as long as we keep practicing.

Ah, the things we need to do. Practices these next few nights, badminton this Friday, CARES this Saturday, studying nutrition in any gaps…the usual busy mix haha.