Saturday, October 21, 2006

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog's "In The Edges" is playing as I type this. It's a mini-documentary on the gang of musicans Herzog assembled to improvise on the soundtrack of his movie, "Grizzly Man", over a period of two days. It's wonderful, this language of music, translated over interviews and footage. Timothy Treadwell's playful self-portraits are re-interpreted under Herzog's direction just by a single semitone change. Observing the musicians too is fascinating: Using only Herzog's adjectives as guides, they somehow produce these raw, yet emotionally sophisticated, pieces with no prior practice and composition time.

I think the act of improvisation occurs just above our self-regulating capabilities. We string together words and thoughts on a daily lark; it is a creative process that allows for that to happen. Obviously ignoring conscious artistic decisions, pick up any novel and there will probably exist no duplicate sentences in it.

The thing I find so impressive about musical improvisation specifically is that the simple mechanisms of the instrument are so entirely understood by the player that it appears like a secondary, transient vessel in which to formally congeal ideas. I envy that. When I studied classical piano, I never rose to the point where I felt an affinity with it. There was limited self-expression except for the rare finger flourishes I'd add to a Debussy or Peterson. I suppose writing is my transient vessel, the thing I access when my body feels too constrained.

There isn't much competence in picking up a pen though.


MArt threw a party at his place last night. About a 100 people showed up, drinking into the A.M., writing on every available surface with highlighters. Their messages glowed under the black light with topics ranging from fucking to screwing in Spanish and French. I didn't join him, watching instead the last of the UP Series by Michael Apted at home. I'm not one for large gatherings, enjoying rather the intimacy of being with one or two people at a time. This would come as a surprise to people who've come to be acquainted with me as a conversational whore.

It's not that I talk a lot. It's that I can't stop once I start. The punchlines roll off my tongue as guests egg me on to continue: mocking, flirting, entertaining. There is a bit of a power trip when, in that room, I am allowed to I push back the line of accepted decorum without being pushed back. And then I am drained, feeling wasted for the rest of the night. After two hours of flagellation, self and otherwise, I fall into a silent victory (the kind that makes you look morose) and speak only to those who approach me. MArt usually senses these mood discrepancies, from centre stage to wallflower, and tends to me. He is good at diffusing the awkwardness of my abrupt departures with an excuse to leave too.

I love the spotlight, but only for a moment, deriving no satisfaction in being the monkey for long. It is the spectator, not the show, that holds the mercy of the occasion.


So Techbiana interviewed me for a radio assignment for class, her professor recommended it to the CBC, and it's now been picked up for broadcast! Super excited!

It's a dream of mine to work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a foreign correspondent one day. This might sound out of character of me to say (and it might also be propaganda doing its job), but I do feel fairly patriotic. Born in Beijing, raised in Canada, this country has been good to me and to my family and I want to contribute something back in the future. I think my stint in Beijing this summer made me really proud to be a Canadian, helping me fully realize that the amalgamation of confused identities Canada sees itself as is exactly the kind of culture I want to live in. I mean, c'mon! We're geographically sparse, internationally connected, and peacefully at odds with America: it's Switzerland without the Saudis!

I have the potential to work in Hong Kong next year, but without a doubt, I want my opportunities to eventually lead me back home -- and the inevitable shameless corporate plug -- at the CBC.

So if anyone wants to put me to work there ...

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