I've been back in Malaysia about two weeks, and I'm getting the feeling that my trips back - two years when I lived in Thailand, two years when I lived in the States, and now when I'm living in New Zealand - are all about reminding myself of the big picture. Not the least in that I've made some really close friends in New Zealand in a rather short amount of time - still, with friends and family here in Malaysia. Sweet as.
I remember back in Indiana when a new acquaintance showed me the local mall, as if this poor thing from the Third World country had never seen one in his life, and in that spirit asked me what I thought (read: how impressed you must be!). I recall saying something along the lines of, "Well, I guess if you take this mall, double its width and add three floors, you'd get one wing of one of the malls back in Malaysia where I used to shop until it became yesterday's news when something bigger came along."
Thankfully no one in Wellington shows off Lambton Quay like it's heaven sent, which makes me appreciate its rather quaint setting. And yet Malaysia never ceases to surprise me, most recently with Straits Quay - not really for its size (when you have a mall in KL which houses within it a theme park including a seven-storey high roller coaster, it gets hard to beat), but rather that when it advertises a picture of yachts with the words "fun by the sea", it doesn't tell you that the last time you were in this area, it was the sea. Yup, we reclaim land so quickly that as my sister pointed out, at this rate, the second link from the island to the mainland will be made redundant when we run out of ocean.
On one hand, we now have a "Penang Philharmonic", which is basically the Penang Symphony Orchestra for whatever reason not being able to hold on to the name of the orchestra it sought - and was successful at - overrunning through the less-than-subtle wheeling and dealings of state politics. And you have the Chairman's message shooting itself in the foot in the first paragraph, and then acting like Barney the purple dinosaur in the last. It's almost like having Dakota Fanning in a M. Night Shyamalan movie. That is, the screaming Dakota Fanning of War of the Worlds rather than that of Charlotte's Web, and the Shyamalan of The Village rather than The Sixth Sense, if you get what I mean. On the other hand, it reminds you that music is it's own judge in the end, no matter what name you'd like to call yourself.
I get reminded that in preparation for seminars here to really keep things basic - the problem with doctoral research is that you spend that much time with a magnifying glass that you sort of lose the bigger picture. In a sense it's an unusual place that there are particularly talented music students who can't recall who wrote the Eine Kleine, and yet you can get a random gigs paying you 200 bucks for half-an-hour's worth of music. I'm not sure what it means for long-term prospects - how long I'd like to keep painting in broad-strokes in sessions on music history and music appreciation. On one hand it's fun, and it's more affective and effective (not to mention potentially lucrative) for the gigantic pool of music students who have this as a significant missing link in their education, and on the other it would take away somewhat from producing niche research which would contribute to the field, but a field that's fields away from here. Who knows, I may be able to find an interesting balance in the end, and for now, it's just nice to zoom out, bro, and have a look at the gift of possibilities.