Thursday, December 15, 2005

I visited Bethlehem...

...on Sunday and saw live camels and sheep. Witnessed Mary and Joseph's adventure in finding a place to stay, baby Jesus, the shepherds and angel, and the three astrologers--the works. Actually, the whole thing was set up to resemble Bethlehem, and visitors are treated as people coming to town for the census. Roman guards stroll around and bark at us who are in the way. Little children with cloth over their heads run around. Women show everyone how to make bead necklaces and baskets. I felt like I was one of the extras in a Christmas movie, which is strange but nice, in a non-Hollywood way. And all this near where we live! Gotta go again next year to spot the other minor music performances held outside "Bethlehem".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Christmas in November

It really wasn't meant to be an awesome day.

It starts out a normal Saturday morning at the Gilroy outlet stores. I don't expect to accomplish a lot by going there, but in the end we get everything we were looking for, plus something more. Remember to check out Harry & David's Orange Cranberry marmalade while you're there. Then we decide to head to Monterey and see the sights. It isn't our first time there, so you could imagine our half-hearted spirits at the onset. You visit "the other" Fisherman's Wharf with its idle docking boats, take a picture with the monkey, maybe sample some chowder, scrutinize and carefully consider actually buying a Monterey fleece sweater...what more could there be to do?

We then wander to downtown Monterey, and there are quaint little shops running along the sidewalk. One sells British cups and tea goods, while another jewelry and clothing. Everyone in the stores treats us "extra special" by offering us cookies. Is it because we're really special? Eventually, we wander into the Venture gallery which is packed with locals discussing art. Someone very sharp spots some food around the corner. Besides the cookies (of which I am still mystified), there are mini turkey sandwiches, and a lady is standing there offering us wine and cranberry juice! So strange. The evening chill sets in, and we walk out of the crowded gallerey--into an indoor courtyard of a hotel with seating to spare.

Back outside, we look over the shoulders of an artist at work. Beautiful melodies of harp and piano hit our ears. Then we see an announcement on the bench:
NOV. 19 [isn't that today?]
Caroling Under the Stars and Holiday Open House. 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at various businesses on Alvarado Street and Alvarado Mall. Strolling musicians will perform holiday favorites until 7 p.m. From 7-8 p.m. in the Alvarado Mall, Frosty the Snowman, Mrs. Claus and carolers will sing and give out hot chocolate and cookies. Free. 372-3158.

Hahaha. Or should I replace the "a"s with "o"s? We did see Frosty and have hot chocolate. We did sing along with Mrs. Claus, who had a Christmas tree skirt thrown gracefully around her shoulders. She was a pretty good singer. Everything unfolded out like a nice dream and it was a good feeling to take part in something traditional and familiar.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A New Life

First, I really wanna thank my brother for reminding me about this blog. I didn't realize how long I haven't blogged here. Life has been so blurry when it was happening.

Now that I think about it, God had a few surprises up His sleeve for me during the past few months. One was rooming with a friend in San Francisco for a while. I once had to take the bus home from work and didn't know what to expect. Turns out I got to enjoy the whole expanse of the SF pier just like a tourist. Pier 39 was also walking distance from the apartment, and whether I was sharing a crepe with my roommate or buying Ghirardelli chocolates for my co-workers, there was a strange sense of familiarity there. I've visited Pier 39 as a tourist but never as a so-called local. It was so relaxing to breathe in the sea air after a hard day's work.

Another time when both of us returned home, the cat Miao Miao was darting back and forth. This was because there were sounds like gunshots outside. At first we thought it was construction noise, but why did it last so long? Suddenly, I caught a reflection on the windows--spurts of colorful patterns up in the sky! You guessed right--fireworks. But what was the occasion? Ignoring everything, my roommate and I rushed out of our building and moved toward Fisherman's Wharf. The seals tried to hide in the water that night. We walked very close to where the fireworks were released so that it felt as if everything was blasting right in our faces! The momentous thundering was quite alarming but also very exciting. Turns out that the Fireworks Committee had some meeting there, and they released the fireworks as a sort of grand finale to the whole occasion. What a treat for us!

Right now I'm going through another round of living in someplace-familiar-as-a-tourist but as a local. We'll have to see how that goes. So everything's new, everything's fresh, everything needs to be dedicated to the Lord once more. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

God's timing on buses

Let me introduce Jenny to you. Jenny is not a believer, and when we talked in the past, she indicated that she was interested in finding out more about Christianity. However, when I asked her if she was attending any fellowship, she mentioned a group that is widely held to be a cult. I didn't know why I kept silent then. Probably because I didn't want to scare her by saying her first experience with a "Christian" group shouldn't even have started in the first place!

I felt so torn about what to say whenever I met her afterwards, that I asked my friend for advice. She suggested I tell Jenny that many people say that the group is a cult, so it isn't just my own opinion. However, I never saw Jenny again.

Last Friday, while I was on the bus after visiting my friend, who should I see but Jenny (whom I called Jessica--but does it matter?)! We chatted and I got to tell her to be careful about that group, since many people have said it's a cult. She was really glad I told her and was scared at the possibility of the group being a cult. It all went very well. I could tell that it was in God's plan and perfect timing all along. I don't think I would have felt such joy if Jenny wasn't on my mind. So praise God for this God-given coincidence!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

First Time A Cappella: Faithfulness

I arrived at church at 8:35 this morning to join others who were all dressed up. What were we doing at this time of day, when Daylight Savings Time had already robbed us of one hour of sleep? It was none other than to have a last-minute rehearsal for our a cappella performance. We sang "Great Is Thy Faithfulness--a cappella style" near the beginning of our 9 am service, as part of a post-Easter worship.

Praise God for this opportunity to sing praises to Him! As our first performance, I had to say we sounded very blended and did pretty well. Singing in this group felt different from past groups. Most of the people were probably untrained in singing (I may be wrong), yet their heart and innate musicality made up a pretty decent group.

It was interesting that I didn't think this way after our first rehearsal. Everyone was singing way too forcedly, and we were repeating our parts too much. The second rehearsal was a huge leap for the better: everything went so smoothly! We also had so much fun laughing over tongue-twister warmups and the various characters within our group.

I felt so calm right before getting on stage. However, after singing halfway, I started to feel a bit nervous, and I could sense that our group felt the same. We were fighting for air. Some of our end notes went a bit flat. Our director forgot to slow us down near the end. Somehow, by God's hand, we managed to get through the whole thing in one piece. One girl confessed afterwards that her legs were shaking like crazy, so she ended up not singing. That, plus the large space where we sang, plus the fact that we were singing in front of people we knew, no doubt contributed to us sounding really held-back. It didn't sound like there were 16 of us!

However, it wasn't that bad. It was a new experience for me--being part of a group in the beginning stages of growth. There's that level of uncertainty but also excitement as well.

Some friends came to tell me afterwards that we did great. I chose to be encouraged by that because I'm sure few people really knew how shaky we were. It probably sounded good on the audience's side.

And if we do this again, it will definitely be better.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Edenpics - Nature Wallpapers

Edenpics - Nature Photography, Nature Pictures & Nature Wallpapers

Nice site if you like to look at nature when you turn on the computer. The menu on the right allows you to find your desired nature category. Once you click on the scene you like, you can also download a version with a bible verse that matches that scene. This has exceeded my expectations. ^_^

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Waiting 4 Garnet Crow?

Wait no more!

After a good rest and gathering my thoughts together, I can finally present to you my initial thoughts on Garnet Crow's new album "I'm waiting 4 you". Firstly, I think the jacket and booklet design of the album clue you in on much of the music. Snapshots of the members are "taped" onto the booklet. In a sense, the songs seem to be little snapshots of nostalgia all collected into one bundle.

In other words, although this isn't Garnet Crow's most groundbreakingly original album, it manages to succeed in another way, by combining old and new elements in a fresh way. My favorites for now are #2, #6 and #12. Another point of growth I've noticed is that Yuri has taken more liberties with her improvisational singing, which adds individuality to the songs. This is what makes Garnet Crow's music longlasting and not mere babyfood to the ears. Below is my breakdown of each song:

Listen to samples

1. Yuudzukiyo
Best point: the song's lyrical piano playing interlaced with Yuri's mellow voice, reminiscent of B-sides "float world" and "in little time"
Points to consider:
-refrain borrows from miho komatsu's song; still, forcefulness adds character
-Yuri's voice slides up quickly, showing her command of the tune she composed

2. Tsumetai kage
Best points:
-the rock melancholy and overall coherence
-the high point in the refrain and the singing of "I can't see"
-the lala's
To consider: dangerous revolving nature of melody

3. Wasurezaki (single)
Good points:
-the timeless and wholesome feeling like #4 of returning home, of a happy ending, which seems to be a recent style of Yuri's
-the small variations
To consider: doesn't the refrain resemble "holy ground"?

4. Kimi wo kazaru hana wo sakasou (single)
Good points:
-conveys a sense of experiencing the expanse of the beach
-the regularity of the melody made it possible for me to set my own lyrics to it

5. U
Best points:
-the painting of a memory through "U U U"
-the stylically varied playing of the guitar
-the good English lyrics
Points to consider:
-the melody jumps into the energized and simple refrain abruptly
-the silence after "the wind caught it" = a music painting of actually confiscating the words that are sung

6. Fill away
Best points:
-excellent driving non-refrain melody
-the "old world" atmosphere similar to #7's works well
Points to consider:
-sudden transition from a minor key into a major key melody turns it into a cheering song
-4-time repeating section is calm and fast at the same time

7. Bokura dake no mirai (single)
-people have disliked this song because of its minimal quality. however, the concert/live rendition of this song is very effective
-even dropping to acoustic guitar in the middle heightens the stored-up energy of the song

8. Kono fuyu no shirosa ni
General: notes depict the scattering of Japanese flower petals and whirling sensation
Best point: the surprise ending
To consider: the gospel singing (Yuri's?) and Yuri's attempt at singing blue notes
-thought of Only Stay while listening to this

9. BURU- no mori de
Best points: a consistently cheery song filled with childlike happiness
To consider: reminded me of the Ferrero Rocher song and flying kites

10. Ameagari no blue
-this is a delayed-release piece
Best points: the sudden syncopated bit near the end and the guitar melody leading up to it
To consider: this may well replace "Spiral" as the concert-ending song for summer
-the arrangement is more held back than the concert version

11. Picture of world
General: the most pop-sounding in the album
Best point: the "yeah"s
To consider:
-the song fits well with the "white" motif of the album design
-the pic of Azuki Nana on the opposite page seemed to be the "woman" in the phrase "woman in picture of world"
-refrain sounds stylistically like Avril Lavigne and Mai Kuraki
-watch for when the piano solo returns

12. Sky~ new arranged track
-this was taken from GC's indie mini album
-I really enjoyed this on first listen
Best points: all of GC's original mystery and flavorful goodness conveyed in Yuri's quiet delivery
-the subtle shifts in the melody from loss to hope
To consider:
-do the voices in the arrangement remind you of spirits?
-I thought of the wind blowing on the grass at a cemetery on a sunny day while listening, of McMug dancing with his mum ^o^

13. Kimi tsuresaru toki wo otozure wo
-seriously, they should have switched #12 and 13, because the arrangement here breaks the tranquility of #12
-a song with an odd ascent that resolves nicely, ending in a calm finish

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"marital" spelled badly

Went to the mall today. It felt really good to be out despite the weather. After entering Macy's, the entrance to the rest of the mall is nowhere to be found. Suddenly, calm Chinese music reaches my ears as I spot a crowd in front. Peering over other people's heads, I see three men and one woman doing a taichi routine (or something like it) to the music. Wearing black martial arts uniforms with red and blue trim, they exhibit the perfect blend of grace and strength.

Turns out that they are performing right in front of the entrance, and crowded around it are people watching. As their presentation ends amidst applause, a faster tune starts playing, and two little kids (a boy and a girl) approach the floor and do their own routine, and thunderous applause await them at the end. By this time, the music has changed into more of a hip-hop vibe, and numerous other youngsters come out to show off their martial arts talents. Occasionally, I hear cries of "Ya!" and "Hoi!" from them while their toes slap against their outstretched hands.

Some memorable routines included two girls who made martial arts look like dance, two students who modeled a fight scenario, and someone more advanced who let us see how he channeled all his qi in order to bust moves akin to Jet Li.

Happy Chinese New Year!