Poetry Corner – Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

People waiting in anticipation

For something so natural, so primitive

Mother Nature must laugh at our pettiness

A game of hide and seek

Trying to inconspicuously dip away

Not trying to draw attention to itself

Doing a poor job of it

Trying to run away from sky

Trying to escape from civilization

Away from world

Away from people

Unaware that it will return again tomorrow

Repeating the same process

Again and again

For eternity

The definition of craziness

Reflecting off the surfaces of the water

Reflecting the human experience

Sunset

-Bali, Jan 11/2017

Poetry Corner – Alone

hqdefault

Alone

I look around and I am alone
I wake up in the morning and check my phone
I realize that I have so many friends
Who I don't really know, on whom nothing depends

With Facebook and Youtube and Twitter and Line
You'd think that I would be feeling just fine
But the more that surrounds me, the more distant I feel
Now I've lost all my values, a life with no zeal

If I could go back to when I was a kid
Further back to the womb still developing id
I would tell my mom not to worry or stress
Cause I'm sure I inherited all her duress

Or just to abort me and throw me away
So I’d never have to the see light of day
And never would have to feel alone
But for now I gotta go check my phone

Upfront Reviews: April 2 is International Pillow Fight Day!

img_0797.png

Upfront Reviews – April 2 is International Pillow Fight Day!

written by Cameron Brtnik For Taipei Trends

    WHAT DO feathers, linen, and all-out-war have in common? Pillow fights of course!!! And yesterday, media entertainment group Taipei Trends proved that wars don’t have to be bloody but rather benevolent, and fought with feathers rather than bullets…This was “history in the waking.”

    On this warm April day in Taipei, about 500 warriors, spectators, and curious onlookers gathered in the improvised arena on the grounds of Taipei’s historical Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a national landmark and tourist attraction in Taiwan. There were attendees of all ages (even some brave kids!) and nationalities, making this a monumental event that brought together the diverse melting pot that is Taipei’s multicultural charm.

Gladiators donned their fluffiest weapons: pillows of all shapes, sizes, and colors stuffed with the most comfortable of fabrics from foam to feathers, fleece, fluff and faux-furs. Hundreds waited in anticipation, hungry for the taste of fowl, and the chance to pummel their opponents into a feathery pulp. At the sound of “Go!”, chaos erupted as hundreds of what looked like escaped insane asylum patients raced towards each other in some sort of narcoleptic nightmare; thousands of birds flocking towards each other on a collision course. It was “every man for himself”, and even women and children weren’t safe….

In the end, there were no casualties, except for the remains of some massacred cushions… As for me, my futile weapon met its end committing pillow-cide as it exploded upon some unsuspecting victim’s noodle. The remainder of my time spent gathering the innards of a once-cushiony sack of cotton…a tragic end, but it must know it gave its life for a higher cause, say then a comfortable night’s sleep: It contributed to bringing hundreds of strangers together on a warm, spring day in Taipei. And, in “wake” of the “Battle of Bed-lam,” for those brave warriors who are still standing, if you are feeling “down” and need a “doze off shut-eye,” “rest assured” you can get some well-deserved sleep tonight – Sweet dreams.

See photos from the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/624185041062561/

Apple Daily News: http://m.appledaily.com.tw/realtimenews/article/life/20160402/830526/

Follow Taipei Trends on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaipeiTrends/

Cameron is a freelance writer living in Taipei, Taiwan cbrtnik.com

***For your very own “UpFront Review” just send me an email at cbrtnik@gmail.com or pm on Instagram @instacam81

BLOGasides: Being ITM or In The Moment

LiveInTheMoment
BLOGasides
Being ITM or In The Moment
Ready? Let’s be in the moment together…
    Ironically, I’ve always been a loner. I’ve always thought about things and done them my own way, setting myself apart from “the group.” You wouldn’t guess it upon first glance – I enjoy being around people, love being social, and relish being the centre of attention. But yet…I feel awkward around people. I can’t just have a relaxing, normal conversation about sports, or politics. It’s not that I don’t find either of those subjects interesting (although I could care less about “the game” last night), it’s just that I find them utterly inane; unimportant on the scale of things, fleeting and impersonal. Instead of prattling on about “the score,” I’d much rather talk about who “scored” the previous night. It’s so much more personal, interesting: human. To me who our next POTUS will be isn’t as significant as who my high school Year Book Club president was. At least that individual directly affected me – I knew him personally, and he got to choose which unflattering photo of me would be printed within its pages. And when truthfully, whether you’re voting for the Year Book Club President or the President of the United States, it’s all based on the same thing: politics, power and high school gossip.
     It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good political debate. I do..as long as I happen to be following the news that week. It’s just that I appreciate the NOW. Not the score from a game that happened thenight before; not who rose ahead in the polls today; but what’s happeningright nowin front of me. Like, for instance, if the lady I’m talking to has spinach in her teeth and I awkwardly point it out, or the smart-ass student I’m teaching pipes up with a funny remark, causing not only the entire class to erupt in laughter but the teacher too – that’s real to me. It’s about creating real human moments, things I canobservedirectly.I can tell what my best friends thinking if I suggest jerk chicken (he’s thinking, Hellyes!), not what a politician is thinking when he promises reform and better healthcare.
5-poor-listening-styles-3-638
     I think I live in the moment too much. I rarely plan things and that seems to be my downfall. It’s why I’m always late, why I’m always broke, and the reason I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I’m envious of everyone around me: I call these citizens “normal people” (NP from here on out). I envy their jobs, their lifestyles, and their generally relaxed demeanours under life’s stresses and pressures. They seem to defiantly move forward, while I obstinately pretend these things didn’t exist. I tend to defuse these social situations with a sly remark, a witty observation, a funny joke, all hiding the fact I’m morescaredthan the they are (though perhaps they’re thinking the same thing). In fact, most of the time I wish I was someone else – fat, ugly, poor or rich – anyone but me. But then I try and erase that thought, afraid that I’d lose my talents, abilities, personality, and anything that makes me,me.
     Sometimes, if I take a moment to reflect (which is rare in today’s day and age), I tell myself to acknowledge the awesome things I’ve done: the art, poetry and performances, to take some time out of my “busy” day to pause; to congratulate myself in an unrelenting, and at times unsympathetic world. It’s certainly healthy to do so; otherwise we’d all walk around doing things and forgetting why the hell we did them. So, good job me! Congratulations! You’ve survived another day – You got up, showered, brushed your teeth, dressed, made coffee, wrote a blog, went to work, taught a student something new, talked to a stranger, texted a loved one, watched three episodes of Narcos back to back, and did it all without offending someone too much and maybe even brightened someone’s day who felt worse than you.
poster-live-in-the-moment
     I may be a loner at heart (the reason for all my self-inflicted problems), but perhaps we all feel like loners in our own world. I feel “unique” in this world – I believe my mom uses the term “special” – but this is a feeling I think we all need to adopt in a world that, if you don’t display your uniqueness in some way, you fade into the background unnoticed and unappreciated..and that would be such a loss to your fellow creatures. So let your uniqueness shine! Even if your uniqueness is the cause of your depression, anti-social behaviour and other issues, show the world you’re different than the rest. Read up a little on what’s happening in the world so you can indulge in a conversation that covers the basics: polictics, sports, Hollywood gossip… But make sure you’re also in theNOW:notice what people are wearing, what nervous ticks they have, don’t be afraid to awkwardly point out the mustard stain on their jacket or ask about their personal life. It’s the stuff that makes ushuman, and not just a Blackhawks fan who thinks Trump is the best thing to happen in politics since that weirdo who headed up the Year Book Club. What’s his name again?
Cameron is a freelance writer and proud loner

BLOG-Bits: Depression

BLOG-Bits

1_YUuMJ1Q2eWZFlfTJEg0Wiw

9.2.15 – Depression

I ate a whole box of O’s in bed last night and passed out. I effectively both avoided Skyping home, as was my plan (every time I want to Skype home I have guilty feelings of all the times I never Skyped home, and therefore avoid it again to rid myself of those negative feelings, therefore causing the cycle to continue) and all responsibility – I had planned to accomplish a few things before bed. WTF is wrong with me! I’m afraid I haven’t improved since I was a teenager, and I’m not sure if I ever will… I’m scared, and feeling more depressed than ever. I have a prescription for Ritalin, which helps me focus for long periods without getting tired or eating, and gives me feelings of inspiration, motivation and happiness… but those do not last. I feel worse the next day. It must be what a cocaine hangover feels like. I should probably change my prescription to antidepressants.

.

Travelogue: Penghu – Taiwan’s Beautiful and Boring Island

Penghu

Penghu

Taiwan’s Beautiful and Boring Island

by Cameron Brtnik

Penghu, September 8, 2014 – My thirty-third birthday. I’m currently sitting seaside at a port in a small city on a tiny island off the coast of Taiwan, enjoying a glass of “The distinctive flavor lager beer,” also known as Taiwan Beer, and gorging on delicious freshly caught oysters and imported salmon. I feel at peace.

    I needed a vacation – Not from work overload, but because in the three years I’ve been living in Taiwan, I’ve never left the island (except for my trip back home to Canada). So I decided to take a trip, alone, to a pretty neighboring island to the west of Taiwan called Penghu (actually a cluster of islets). Warning: This is a couples’ trip, so only go alone if you want to experience cabin fever…without the cabin. Albeit a beautiful island, there’s not much to do besides visit the gorgeous local beaches – I suppose everything’s “local” in Penghu – to surf, dive, or (like me) finally get through that worn paperback you’ve been schlepping around everywhere. And that’s about it. “No matter, I’ll meet people!” I thought. Unfortunately, I came to this isle toward the end of the Moon Festival holiday when people were already returning home. Oh, not to mention the plane crash that killed 48 people (including two foreign exchange students from France) just two weeks prior to my arrival. That never helps an already flailing tourism industry.

    Undeterred (I had caught wind of this news the night before, but I was drunk enough at the time that I accepted my destined, likely watery fate), I took the first flight out of Taipei – which, by the way, I caught the same night of my birthday celebrations, or should I say following morning after leaving Halo, the club we were partying at, bottle service in tow – still inebriated, but somehow functional. I had smartly packed that evening and took my luggage straight to the nightclub. The plane ride was short, just an hour, and I felt safe (which I can’t say for those unfortunate souls who got caught in the typhoon), perhaps because I was passed out the whole way.

    I arrived at the small airport, where I passed out for another three hours on the uncomfortable, yet somehow comfortable seats. When I awoke it was only 10:30am, and I asked about cheap hostels. Soon a van arrived to escort me, and a lovely girl named Julia, whose family owned a local hostel called “Big Fish House,” drove me straight there. It was a very cute inn, more of a Bed and Breakfast, and wasn’t very cheap – $1500nt for the night. But it was well worth the stay, with a bright, spacious room to myself, breakfast, and a scooter (for an extra $300nt) included. I spent the next two hours sleeping (still working off that hangover, or tequila, or both) then hopped on my scooter and hit Shanshui aka “Mountain Water Beach.”

    The first thing I noticed along the way was that sea smell; the salty air hitting your nostrils like it was the first fresh breath of air you’ve taken in years. I was told there’d be “lots of foreigners there.” I was optimistic, as I wanted to meet some new friends to share my adventure with. There was one – he and his Taiwanese girlfriend – and he didn’t look the sort I was interested in meeting (or vice versa). So I kept to myself and got into my book – Freakonomics, a former yet still-popular bestseller I always intended to read, but never got around to till I found myself on a lonely island.

    At dusk, I jumped on my scooter and headed into town; if I were to find any action, it would be in the heart and centre of Penghu! I was wrong. I found one bar that I recognized from the Taiwan Lonely Planet called Freud. It was modelled after a fishing boat, with the same charm and décor as any Canadian seafood tavern, but it was missing that one asset I was looking for: people. I ate the mediocre “Thai-style shrimp” and enjoyed the choice Heineken beer. The mood was dark and depressing, so I left soon before it “got busy.” I went back to my commodious, Japanese-style room, and passed out for the fourth time that day..

    I woke up too late for breakfast, but it was still available: dried up bread loaf and two choices of spread: Nutella and peanut butter. If you know me, you know I enjoyed the shit out of it, more so because it was included (although not served in a bed). Julia, the friendly hotel manager – she and her mother manage two locations of Big Fish House, and she plans to leave in three weeks to study English in Australia for six months – drove me in her Big Fish van to the north end of the island to catch a ferry to a smaller islet fifteen minutes away. Exotically called Chikan (or “chicken island” as I preferred to call it), it’s a little paradise get-away, punctuated by stone weirs – oddly-shaped stone walls in the water originally built as fish traps – and small beaches. I visited Aimen Beach, famous for its jet skiing and banana boating. I did neither, and instead collected coral fragments that had washed ashore, and that’s what the sand was mostly composed of. A nice way to spend the day, but I was sunburnt and happy to catch the last boat back to “civilization.”

    Walking along the beach I noticed one thing: I love long walks on the beach (not a cheesy dating site description). This goes back to my cottage days of walking the shore of Georgian Bay all the way to Balm Beach, over an hour’s walk, and feeling happy as a sand boy (an expression my mother often used, but I never understood. I had to look up the etymology and discovered sand boys were actually “men who drove donkeys selling sand,” and were reportedly always happy). I also noticed something else: I felt utterly alone. It wasn’t a good feeling. I realized right there and then that life is better with friends, or family, or a significant other. That feeling faded though as I thought about how lucky I was, and started plotting world domination.

    I took the ferry back across the straight, caught a cab back into town, and checked into a shitty cheap hotel. I put a generous helping of aloe on that inexorable “Brtnik Burn,” grabbed my laptop, and headed down to the port where I’m currently sitting, two tall beers in, writing this diary entry. It’s my birthday, and I’m surrounded by drunken fishermen and the feeling of loneliness. I think I’ll try and bump my return ticket to tomorrow, as another day on this beautiful and boring island may make Jack a dull boy. As of right now, I feel content, but I wish my friends were here… My friends from Taiwan. My friends from China. My friends from Toronto. My brother and sister. A stranger. But all is well, and let’s all feel lucky we’re alive and not on a plane destined for doom (God bless their souls). I’ll see everyone soon. Oh, and happy Moon Festival!

-Written by Cameron Brtnik, September 8, 2014 on his 33rd birthday

taiwan-penghu

Cameron is a freelance writer living in Taiwan and part-time explorer cbrtnik.com

Poetry Corner – China Poem Part 2

China Poem
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo."


China Poem - Part 2

Eating rice and noodles a lot

Streets lined with stroodles and oodles of shops

Teaching classes, reaching masses

of children still in teeny baskets

People sleeping, amputees begging

Young girls squealing, old bags haggling

Age is keeping, time is lagging

but never runs out so we keep on dragging

While we’re treated like celebrities

a person’s life here is never free

Sidewalks, streets are used as bathrooms

Pollution looms, witches brooms, no vacuums

Umbrellas, umbrellas – everywhere!

Shield from rain and protect from glare

On a sunless morning The Sun is scorching

Try to feel inspired but fun is boring

Feel like I might evaporate, I’m exasperated!

Need a nap or break, hot like a pasta plate

Hot and muggy, feel sluggish

Draught is coming, revealing rubbish

Old folk exercise, keeping healthy

Many are poor, but hide the wealthy

Girls get married, still so tender

Having babies, frill and slender

Starting families so young

When's the time come just to have fun?

Motorbikes racing traveling fast

“Out of the way!” Better make a dash

Horns honking, breaks screeching

Salesmen preaching, constant beseeching

My ears are bleeding!

....

Gloomy day, cloudy weather

A ray of hope holding on by tether

There's always next day to feel better

So for today, I’ll just endeavour


-Lingxi, China, 2010

Poetry Corner – China Poem

China Poem
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo."


China Poem

Everything is old and new

But new is old, and old is new

Rickshaws, BMWs, Shaolin temples

Strict laws, streets in rubble, flower pedals

Car horns, “corn for sale!” 

kids crying, birds chirping

The sound of construction men 

constantly working

Muslim noodles served in huge bowls

Rice and chopsticks, spice and hot spits

Milk tea, milk drink, egg milk, hot milk

Silk scarves, silk sheets, rag silk, not silk

Polluted river, chicken liver

Cold shiver, hot quiver

Rain, rain, rain, rain

Again, again, again, again

Sun! Humid, hot, wet, damp, dirty, sweat, AC! 

WC no seat; both feet

Good people, look feeble

Paint a portrait on wood easel

Fun times, vent rhymes

Lifetimes into bent spines

Sun climbs, then shines

Rays upon spent minds

China: Sign up!

One year, I’m stuck

But with my luck

Won't last five months


-Lingxi, China, 2010