Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Word A Week Photo Challenge: MUSIC

How is Music associated with an athletic event?

For this week’s A Word A Week Photo Challenge in Sue’s A Word In Your Ear (http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/a-word-a-week-challenge-music/ ), I think about the music that is heard on the race course of the Big Sur International Marathon, which is held annually on the third weekend of April. The power of music has never been demonstrated as convincingly in a marathon event as in the Big Sur.

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First the Taiko Drummers. They are like an establishment of the race. At Mile 10, athletes are beginning to climb the hill, and we all try to catch the sounds of the drums carried down the race course (Hwy One). Suddenly, there is the low hum and it is getting louder and louder. Our hearts are lifted. We pace ourselves to the beat until the drummers are in sight.  The sound of the drums and the surf provide the motivation I need to climb the hill to get up Hurricane Point.  In fact, most of us will just stop to take a photo of them or with them before moving on. (The above photo was taken in a historical year when the Bir Sur course was altered due to the collapse of the bridge. The Taiko drummers were positioned differently.)

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At Mile 13.1, there is the legendary pianist. Michael Martinez has been playing for several years now after he succeeded from the first pianist Jonathan Lee. Imagine the pianist coming out at about 4 a.m. in the morning, while the athletes are also being bused to the start line and he keeps playing for a good six hours when the athletes pass by him and take photos with him. On cold days, he had to play with his gloves on.

The harpist at about Mile 22 likes to dress in unusual costumes. However, she is often overlooked, because she is nearer the end of the race.  Athletes are getting tired and seem more attracted to the food and drinks at the water stations nearby than the music. However, I like the sound of the harp which gives me a fresh awakening to get on with my race.

Some people like to wear an MP3 to listen to music when they are racing. However, major marathon organizers discourage this for safety reasons. I never wear any ear buds. I play my music in my mind when I am racing. Better still, I look for live music on the race. The Big Sur music is the best. Together the breath-taking scenery of the Pacific Ocean, the music is luring me back to race again.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: LINES

Lines are very versatile, whether they are placed parallel to one another, at right angles or at different angles for that matter, for creating endless patterns and forms. “Lines” is the theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. (http://www.ceephotography.com/2013/03/27/cees-fun-foto-challenge-lines/

Vertical Lines (Lines of trees; they are everywhere)

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Vertical Lines (View from the rotating restaurant of Centrepoint Tower, Sydney Australia)

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Verticle Lines (Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal)

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Horizontal Lines (Steps outside the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Australia)

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Broken Lines (Courtyard for above)

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Vertical and Horizontal Lines (Another view from the rotating restaurant, Centrepoint Tower, Sydney, Australia)

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Intersecting lines, triangles (The China Bank Building, Hong Kong; Architect, I. M. Pei)

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More intersecting lines, this time rectangles (Cages at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney Australia)

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Today is Good Friday, a very important date in the Christian calendar.  The most powerful symbol for Christians all over the world is formed by just two straight lines: The Holy Cross.

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This is to wish my readers a blessed weekend.

Handel’s Messiah for Holy Week at the Knox Presbyterian Church

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The Senior Choir of the Knox Presbytarian Church in Toronto presented an impressive performance of The Messiah before Christmas last year under the direction of Roger Bergs. They sang Part I of the oratorio and ended the concert with Life up your heads, O ye gates (#33) and the Hallelujah chorus (#44).

As we entered into Holy Week, my husband and I were among the audience for the Passion part of The Messiah. The church combined the concert with a worship service on Palm Sunday, thus signally in the most important week in the Christian calendar for Christians all around the world.

Last year, we arrived at the church in darkness. This time, I was better able to take a picture of the church while it is still light outside.

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We found seats nearer the front and had better acoustics and closer view of the performers. The solo vocalists selected from among the ranks of the choir members were the same as those from last Christmas, and there were only had a few changes for the guest instrumentalists. They all put forward a well co-ordinated performance. Music director Roger Bergs was on crutches, but this did not deter him from energetically moving to the lectern to introduce the music and repeatedly standing up to conduct and sitting down to play the harpsichord.

The program began with the chorus Behold the Lamb of God (Part II, #22) and ended with the Worthy is the Lamb chorus in Part III. There were read commentaries from Understanding Handel’s Messiah by Mariano Di Gangi, a former minister of the church. They excerpts enhanced the spirituality of the evening.

Chelsea Säuer-Peckham delivered a superb performance of He was despised and rejected of men (#23) with a gentle sorrow about the pains and suffering Jesus endured, but not without allowing an inner strength to shine through. I definitely preferred this interpretation to one performance I remembered in which the solo vocalist pronounced  “despised” and “rejected” with such emphasis that it was excruciating painful (pun intended) to listen to. Säuer-Peckhem’s duet with Kenzi Yango, tenor, was also beautiful. Tenor Jason Lamont gave a credible and commanding performance in the recitative He that dwelleth in heaven (#42) and aria Thou shalt break them with a rod (#43). Soprano Anna Casurella had excellent control of her range and definitely would have given a more convincing performance given better enunciation of the words. It was regrettably a more disappointing evening for baritone Patrick Twaddle in Part II, but fortunately he regained his composure in Part III.

It was a solemn evening highlighted by the singing of Jesus’s suffering and death, but we also left the church with feelings of comfort and hope from the belief in the significance of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Jake’s Sunday Post: SENTIMENTAL VALUE (Kitchen Renovation -1)

Jake’s Theme this week “Sentimental Value” is exactly what I have wanted to write about.

We have lived in our house we considered home for over twenty years. The children have grown up and left. It is after months of talking, planning and looking around that my husband and I are finally launching a kitchen renovation, first ever since we have moved into this house. We are approaching this project with excitement and apprehension, and fortunately with a lot of support and advice from our friends who have been through similar endeavours. They all reassure us that it is well worth the money and the mess, though warning us of some frustration on the way.

Three days before the tradesmen came to tear down my kitchen, I had to clear out all the things on the counter top and inside the pantry. There were so many things that I had procrastinated in discarding or giving away and I had to deal with them now. Many of these items were no longer in use, but they stayed because I had space for them–just a little more clatter inside the cabinets and pantry. They were still here not because of my laziness, but more because of my clinging-on mentality, which is not uncommon either among fellow human beings I presume.

At the end of the day, and thanks to an unscrupulous guideline I set for myself, namely, “If in doubt, chuck it out”, I had one pile to store aside, one pile to go the the trash can and one pile to be given away to the thrift store. For now, I want to tell you more about what I have found inside my kitchen cabinets.

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When I pulled this copper pot out from the corner of a cabinet, I was totally amazed that I had forgotten about it all these years. This pot did not belong to me. It belonged to my mother-in-law, who sent it along together with her trunks containing some of her belongings when she came to Canada to join us 15 years ago. (My mother-in-law never intended to live in Canada. She returned to Hong Kong soon after obtaining her citizenship and visited us every year until she passed away in Hong Kong two years ago.) She left her trunks and this pot with us.

Essentially, this is a pot for braising soup in a water bath. Water and ingredients were put in the porcelain container, which then is put back to the copper container, filled with water and heated on a stove.  The plate conveniently served as the lid and was used to place the ingredients when the soup was made. I just love the little funnel for releasing the steam from the pot.

I felt very touched when I found this pot, because it had meant so much to my mother-in-law. She told me that this pot (and her trunks) had travelled with her and my husband’s family from Guangzhou, China to Hong Kong in 1949, just before the Communist government took over. My father-in-law made the decision to leave everything behind– and I truly admire him for his courage and foresight– and took a train with his family to Hong Kong to start a new life there. They wrote the first page of migration history in the family. They gave up a lot and made sacrifices to raise the family, ensuring that my husband and his siblings received good education. As I looked at the pot, I felt a lump in my throat. My husband and I had followed in the family footstep by migrating to another land mid-career. We did not look back, and frequently reminded ourselves not to count what we had lost, but to look at what we had gained. Like my in-laws, we have given our family not only freedom, but choices.

I don’t think I want to use the pot as a cooking vessel. It will sit on my mantelpiece perhaps as a symbol of the family history. My mother-in-law brought it to Canada and left it to us.  Her mission was complete in ensuring that her children and their children were given choices.

The other items I found seem to pale in comparison to this copper pot. Nevertheless, they also marked significant milestones of our family, and of the children growing up in the house. The basket did not contain a cobra inside. It was a padded basket for a Chinese teapot that I bought and shipped it to Canada when we immigrated. However, It was virtually unused, because we did not have a household that drank tea all day. Notwithstanding, it is  an endearng symbol of our journey to Canada, imbibed with sentimental value.

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I found some plastic cups and my three children had used them when they were little. I showed them the cups and they were willing to part with them, as long as I took a photograph for memory sake. As well, I found Disney souvenirs and Mario thermos which re-kindled fond memories of family vacations.

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I am surprised I have written such a long post. This is my first post on my kitchen renovation: Getting Ready. The contractor has told me that the work will take about eight weeks. I do not know if I am able to keep up with regularly blogging about it, and how long it will keep me blogging, since both blogging and renovating a kitchen are new activities in my life. I shall just wait and see.

I also want to thank Jake for posting such a timely theme for me to submit this post.

Weekly Photo Challenge: FUTURE TENSE

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My inspiration for this post came about as I was walking on Spencer Creek Trail which extended from Hamilton to Dundas in Ontario this morning. The air was still cold. The sun had risen, but it was struggling to creep through the clouds. The weather forecast predicted only a high of 3 degrees Celsius later in the day. This time last year, we were enjoying a balmy 26 degrees.  This is already March 23, two days after the Spring Equinox, and yet Spring to us here in southern Ontario is still in the Future Tense. I took out my cell phone to capture these images for the phoneography challenge.

The ice and snow are refusing to go away. Nature is playing a game with us. The melting and  re-freezing is a continuous tug-of-war in our outdoor world.

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When shall we see the colours of the flowers and the leaves and the green grass that we are craving for? I am tired of looking at only white and brown around me. Then, isn’t everything in life relative? And so is Time. When we stepped out of the trail, we walked up the hill to Grove Cemetery, where the graves reminded me of my future although they were also the symbols of some people’s past.

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We need patience waiting to see what will transpire in the future. Future to me also means Hope. There are finally signs of hope about the Spring yet to come. Turning into a residential street in Dundas, my walking buddy MW spotted the first buds on the south-facing yards. My heart leapt with joy: the crocuses, the snow drops and the tulips had burst through the ground.

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On the opposite side of the road, however, the snow relentlessly hung on.

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I am hopeful. Spring  will come; it will come soon!

A Word A Week Photo Challenge: ACTION

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Action during a running or walking race is most familiar to me. When I participate in a race, I do not have the opportunity to take pictures of athletes in action, except from their back perhaps. When I do get a chance of be on the side line as I discover from my photo archives, they happen to be races in the winter months. I have here pictures taken during the Boxing Day 10-Miler in Hamilton that I have written a blog earlier, and the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington which is held on the first Sunday of March. 

The intensity of the action varies depending on which phase of the race the athletes are in. The two athletes above are both in the final lag of the race and finish is only 100 metres or so away. They are looking strong and making a final sprint to finish.

In the earlier phases of the race, athletes tend to bunch together to maintain a desirable pace, be they in the front pack, and the middle pack or the back. Athletes have their own strategy to complete the race depending on their goals. Just look at the intent on their faces and you can tell how focus they all are.

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Then they start to spread out.

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Since I am a power walker, I am normally at the back of the pack with the slower runners. Our form is different but no less intense when it comes to action. The gratification is that as the race goes on, the walkers can overtake the slow runners to finish at a better time.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: CIRCLES and CURVES

There is an intrinsic beauty to circles and curves that I like. They also lend themselves to architectural designs throughout the ages. The most famous of those, in my opinion, is the Sydney Opera House, which essentially is a dissection of a sphere (a 3-D circle) and a re-arrangement the segments by its architect Jorn Utzon (see Footnotes below). Because of its curvature, I find it aesthetically more appealing than designs focusing on straight angles.

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Since an arc is also part of a circle, there are so many examples of arc forms, and I just love the Gothic and neo-Gothic designs.

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Moving closer to modern day designs, the spiral staircase inside the Louvre is a surprise element in the midst of sharp angles one encounter inside and outside the museum. The arcs of the glass ceiling also soften the lines of the overall architecture of the place.

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Finally, I want to add this pretty paved walk in Macau, because it blends in so seamlessly with the architecture of the  Portuguese style houses in this neighbourhood built during the time of colonization, now preserved as a cultural heritage site.

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Footnotes:

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John Utzon writes,” After three years of intensive search for the a basic geometry for the front complex I arrived in October 1967 at the spherical solution shown here. I call this the “key to my shell” because it solves all the problems of construction by opening up for mass construction, precision in manufacturing and simple erection and with this geometrical system I attain fair harmony between all the shapes in this fantastic complex.”