Saturday, January 08, 2005

Yay, Plan A achieved at last. For the second time in 2 weeks I went all the way to Toh Guan Road East to drop in on K'a'rcher's local customer service centre and after a little confusion with the store clerk (he thought there wasn't any stock still, but the customer service rep I spoke to on the phone assured me that stocks had come in already), I finally got my perfect Christmas gift: a new hose for the vacuum cleaner. Fine, it's not what one might consider 'romantic,' one might even say it sucks, but it is unusual, even if it is utilitarian.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Got back late from watching National Treasure. The stories about Templar treasure seem to be much the rage now thanks to Brown's bestseller. Speculations go on as the romance of knightly nobility and the excitement of discovering the unknown or lost are the stuff popular tales are made of.

One reviewer described NT as The Amazing Race and, yeah, it is kinda' like that. The race to get to the next clue, to perform the required task and move on to the next clue as the end point draws nearer and nearer is there, though the stakes in the movie are higher than just a paltry million dollars.

Protagonist, Gates, and antagonist, Ian, are the complete opposites of each other. Both seek the treasure for very different reasons and both use methods to acquire the treasure that are poles apart from each other. Gates is selfless, patient, and uses his talented and well-informed brain to overcome problems, solve mysteries and play tricks to accomplish his goals. The villain, Ian, is selfish, impatient and prefers brute force to subtlety. Yep, opposites, all right. Makes for uncomplicated storytelling.

Then there is the value of the treasure itself. Ian and his party focus on the financial wealth the treasure can bring them whereas Ben's party seeks its intrinsic historical value and its benefit to the human race as a collective. The most telling scene must be when Ben and co. become trapped in the treasure room. Though surrounding them is an almost endless multitude of items made of precious metals and other minerals worth billions of moolah, what fascinates the party is the historical significance of the find, the opportunity for humanity to reclaim a lost heritage on a worldwide scale, and the means for people to come to an understanding of themselves as a result thereof.

The only specific lost treasure identified by Dr Chase is the collection of scrolls thought to be lost from the Great Library of Alexandria, a treasure that is worth more to inquiring human intellect than to patent leather wallet. Gates finds psychological satisfaction in making the discovery while keeping his entire party alive and safe. Comic relief, Riley Poole, is most overcome by his own perception of the greatest treasure in the room -- the exit door, the way out.

The movie is a thrill ride mostly paid for by the Tourism Board of the US of A. Locations traverse the must-see heritage sites for tourists to America, from DC to Philly to New Yawk/New Joizey, to Baastan (Boston). But the questions we ask ourselves are, what is the treasure we work so hard to pursue? what is its worth? what are we prepared to do to get it? and once you've got it, how are you going to use it to benefit whom?
Finally got to see Flirt's babies. They live outside the bakery, all huddled together for warmth and security. Four of them: 1 looks like Flirt, 2 are ash coloured (like Grandma Girlfriend, and Aunt Nabiki) and 1 a ginger-ash mix (presumable reflecting Dad's colours). We'll wait a couple more weeks when we're sure they're properly weaned before we spay Flirt once and for all. All 4 kittens are so cute. To think they might have been aborted...! Dr Casey saved their lives by refusing to operate on Flirt when we first brought her in for spaying. Guess he's their Godfather now.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

CCA recruitment drive, though today's efforts usually draw a number of sign ups, but when the 'O' results come out in March, many will leave for greener pastures. Nevertheless, NYeDC showed committment in their two performances despite some technical hitches which we hadn't had time to work out earlier. A full tech run might have been helpful though time, personnel and venue constraints made this difficult to arrange.

The company played "The Mighty Mandarin," a Sec 2 English Lit drama text in the atrium, a space without a defined performance area and lots of noisy human traffic. The script has a dumb plotline -- how difficult is is to play a trick on an idiot? -- but there are moments of physical comedy and some passable wordplay. I remember this text well as it was the first text I took a lit test on -- and failed miserably. My lit teacher was very upset with our class and berated us for our ignorance of simple literary devices, yadda, yadda. I nearly wanted to give up lit there and then. Later lit turned out to be the only subject I was good at in Sec School, hence my scintillating academic history.

We also played an excerpt from "Sing to the Dawn," a battle of the sexes vs family bonds themed text. LT4 sound was terrible, but it was also the performers' inexperience in using the mikes that was part of the problem. A few other staging kinks could have been worked out with more time, but there'll be a second chance to polish when we run the lunchtime performances in the very near future.

Also worked out the rehearsal schedule for Drama Night '05, and it's so heavy I'm going to have to write letters of apology to parents for keeping their kids out so late so often until the production is over. Considering that our script is still in its skeletal stage, I need all the time I can squeeze from everyone to get a good show this year.

Am also hoping to get the bookings for the Security Seminar '05 done EARLY this year to avoid the pre-promo exam seminar slot of last year. No more sitting on the form till the last minute. Dates are allocated on a 1st come 1st served basis so I hope to get P's signature on the booking form tomorrow. One fax later and I will get a favourable date. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Quite against what had been promised Anthony and me, while we were being primed by Vince to take up duty at Fort Canning, our actual assignment plonked us in the shopping district to look after the SAM, Good Shepherd, CHIJMES,and Raffles Hotel checkpoints for this morning's scavenger hunt. This was a pleasant surprise as we were comparing locations with Lynette who was initially promised the assignment we got. In a complete switcheroo, she went up to feed mossies up the hill instead. Perhaps Providence was at work?

Our location gave us quite a bit of choice as to breakfast possibilities. With our assigned student first-aider in tow, we caught a quick breakfast at Rocky Master, located opposite the Seah Street Deli. The cafe had some cheap breakfast options. I went for the French toast with Canadian maple syrup and Anthony had a Spanish omelette, both with a robust wake-me-up coffee for under $4 each. Our first-aider was polite and had a muffin with tea.

After eating we set up our "base of operations" in the fountain courtyard in CHIJMES to oversee the group activities that would soon follow. We yakked a bit with our first-aider, speculating on the worst kinds of injuries that he might be able to take care of. Minor abrasions, sprains, cramps, but not much more, he admitted. Not long after, I got a call: "student not feeling well at SAM." Great, some action! We took a brisk walk across the road to the scene of the emergency. Some kid must have been feeling faint, or had a headache, or didn't eat brekkie or something.

When we arrived, our patient was sitting on the floor, propped up on a doric pillar. His breathing was shallow and there was a passer-by bent over him administering some kind of treatment. The OGL who remained behind to meet us introduced the stranger as a medic who happened to be passing by at the time. The medic stood up and announced his diagnosis -- mild heart attack! That floored me for a second. Ohmigod. But the ambulance was already on it's way, thanks to quick action from the SAM security and all I needed to do was to accompany the kid to hospital in the ambulance.

En route, Anthony SMSed me the kid's personal particulars in case I had to do the admin while he was being warded. I didn't have to after all, the paramedics did all the admin for me as part of their routine. Meantime, I managed to contact his Mom to inform her what had happened. I was so glad I didn't have to relay any messages in Mandarin -- I wouldn't have known what to say, let alone say it tactfully. Vince and Anthony joined me at the hossie to keep me company and eventually his Dad arrived to take over from us.

A dramatic morning, but thankfully the doctors decided the case wasn't too serious. They kept him under observation for "a few hours" then I suppose they'll give him a few days' MC while he recuperates.

Vince, Anthony and I had lunch at Thai Express at the Esplanade where Vince had parked his car. I had a nice olive fried rice with bits of chicken thrown in. Quite yummy.

Then back to college where I and a bunch of other staff and students helped Agnes load up a minivan they called in to deliver a huge mound of donated clothes destined for tidal wave relief.

After all that excitement, I wonder what Thursday's duty is going to be like? If we're stationed at the same place again, we're trying out the big American breakfast at the same cafe we were at this morning. Deep-fried bacon, sausage, etc... Talk about tempting fate.
Returned to work wearing the college tie so that we staff could make a good impression on the new year 1s on their first day. This week they'll be in the tender care of their OGLs and Councillors, so we won't get to have much direct contact with them for a while. Same types of kids arrive at our doorstep every year -- the earnest, wide-eyed ones, the trying-to-be-cool, bored looking ones, the blur, slightly overwhelmed ones -- and the rest who are hard to tell one from another at this stage. Tried to look at individual faces in the crowd to play who-do-I-want-in-my-classes? but I drew a blank. Too many faces, no opportunity as yet to observe different personalities for myself, so one face should be about as good as another right now. Well, give them time.

Vince and Anthony "volunteered" me for tomorrow's outdoor orientation activity, a sort of scavenger hunt around the downtown civic district investigating landmarks and unearthing nuggets of historical trivia on site. I actually agreed to Thursday's duty but really I don't mind helping out on another day either since it involves a change of environment and the permission to dress down slightly to suit the "fatigue" nature of the activity. Jeans, then, I guess. Should I opt to make myself comfortable under the trees up the forbidden hill, or chill out in a swanky 6-star hotel while I keep an eye on the respective proceedings? I haven't decided yet.

But at the back of my mind I also know that the clock is ticking on a number of projects under my charge as well -- drama, NE, and subject-related just to name the more pressing ones. Already met my lecture group today to discuss our materials for our upcoming mass media lecture series, and Cikgu asking to meet this week about TD Day.

Yee also showed me the sound and light controls in LT4. Strange things happened when we played the sample CD left in the CD player... the National Anthem came on over the speakers and nothing we did on the sound board seemed to reduce the volume in any way. Eerily, even when we switched off the CD player we could still hear the anthem very faintly over the speakers. I poked my head outside LT4 and, yes, I could still hear it over the entire college's PA system as well! I can only conclude that coincidentally, the AV people were testing the PA system at the same time we were playing with the sound system in the LT. I don't want to listen to any other theories, thank you.

In the late afternoon, the Drama Club was hard at work rehearsing for the 2 CCA Bazaar items due Wednesday. They are quite dedicated and serious about putting up a good show. Today, since all 3 of us advisors were around, the cast got an earful of helpful suggestions from all of us regarding staging, movement, sequencing, motivation, enunciation, etc. A case of too many cooks? Must work out our division of labour carefully else our performers are going to be one confused bunch during the show.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

First, a word to 'nette who has suffered a Series of Unfortunate Events, apparently all on the same day: please take good care of yourself and get well soon!

Today was my last opportunity to oversleep for a while and I made good use of it. We had a simple kopi tiam breakfast downstairs so Q-tip finally got a token outing after many days' confinement.

Went to watch "The Phantom of the Opera" in the afternoon. Watching it on film is quite a different experience from the 'live' performance. There's nothing like the feeling you get when you have to dress up appropriate to the price you paid for a ticket and go to the Theatre to watch the stars singing the songs you're so familiar with in person. There is the expectation that anything can happen as opposed to expecting recorded perfection.

But the movie makes for clearer storytelling, a bit better exposition of the events taking place and in the involvement of the various characters concerned in the narrative. For example, I never understood why the chandelier didn't fall straight onto the audience seated directly below it, but the movie showed that the main support for the heavy chandelier was a length of cable that stretched from the stage to the centre of the domed roof of the theatre from which the chandelier suspended. Hence when the chandelier gave way it followed the cable back towards the stage like a pendulum rather than dropping like a stone. The movie also gave ballet mistress, Mme Giry, a more direct role with her inside knowledge of the Phantom; and some gorgeous locations like the eerily serene graveyard and the ostentatious hall with the grand sweeping staircase of the opera house.

Director, Schumaker, goes all out to make his film as sumptuously rich and lush with set and costume design, tinging the basic colour scheme of black and white, light vs darkness conflict, with glorious golds and reds. There's a bit during the masquerade that contrasts all this splendour with the rough, drunken revelry of the poorer members of the opera troupe who remain behind the scenes, invisible to the lords and ladies wearing masks to amuse themselves. There's a Masters' thesis in here somewhere, I'm sure of it.

And of course the music, beautiful, moving at times. A double-whammy for me as it evokes nostalgia for me as well, being that the Phantom was all the rage in TO in the late 80's. It enjoyed a hugely successful run at the then newly-restored Pantages Theatre. I still have memories of friends who were so crazy over the show they played and sang to LPs (CDs weren't popular then) so often they memorized the whole thing, though no one else was dumb enough to test this claim.

Right. So back to college tomorrow after a nice, long break. In the words of the 7 dwarves, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go..."
Woke up late again, too late for breakfast. Poor Q-tip is quite disappointed as she hasn't gone out for a few days already, so late and so lazy we are.

We went to Mom-in-law's to deliver her Christmas present, belated as we didn't have the opportunity to see her over the Christmas period. We also brought along 3 large cans of cream crackers for mom-in-law to take with her to the community centre where she's volunteering to help with the logistics of the donations being sent over to the tsunami victims.

Went to McD's for lunch where we acquired a white uni and a yellow aisha to accompany the scorchio, lupe and ixi already hanging out in my study. At lunch 'rah SMSed to remind me about tonight's BBQ at Rach's. See pix below...

03A2 New Year's BBQ 2005 Posted by Hello

An evening of pyromania and again too much food. 40 chicken wings, 100 sticks of otah, mounds of fishballs, crabstix and franks, 2 packs of marshmallows, and not enough of us to finish it all.

Everyone's got or is getting some kind of job to keep them occupied until the 'A' results come out. Mostly minimum wage, service industry jobs; but also the best way to inspire a desire to pursue tertiary studies as soon as the opportunity arises. Or not... who knows what other opportunities might arise while on the job? Just keep your eyes and options open, is my best advice.

Rach opened up 2 boxes of sparklers which we tentatively lit at first, then soon after greedily consumed the whole lot in a pyromanic frenzy in the playground opposite her house. Check it out! The rest of the photos are here.