Saturday, January 13, 2007

Took a chance on The Wicker Man, starring Nick Cage 'cos there wasn't anything else we wanted to watch at Sun Plaza this evening.

Cage plays Edward Maulis, a police officer who is given time off to recuperate from a traffic mishap, and goes off on a quest to find a missing child in a remote community far, far removed from urban development. Fully charged up with testosterone, the authority of a legal enforcer, and his own mission of righteousness, Maulis wastes no time making his presence felt amongst the rural folk of Summersisle.

The community has ancient roots, with animistic customs, traditions and rituals that are so alien to our modern sensibilities. Like the bee hives they keep to harvest honey, Summersisle is a matriarchal theocracy in which the knowledge jobs belong exclusively to the women, and the men just provide manual labour, or else sit around in the pub drooling into their mead. Though that description sounds like paradise on earth, it all looks like a society gone wrong, from Maulis' prejudiced perspective.

In his quest for the missing child, he charges around the village like a bull in a china shop. His methods become increasingly fascistic (typical male response when things don't go their way) as the villagers refuse to respect his authority and instead just watch him and his antics with amused detachment. They have little time for him anyway, as they are trying to recover from their worst harvest on record.

As Maulis slowly uncovers Summersisle's secrets, he also discovers the reasons for his summons to the community, and comes to realize that he is the best man for the job.

There's also a little cautionary tale there against pre-marital sex: you never know when the consequences of a long-ago tryst might one day come back to burn you.

The Wicker Man
isn't a horror movie, but more like a Hitchcockian thriller. It is slow-paced, with very little action, but there's enough going on keep the audience guessing what the villagers are really up to.

Cool, but for my taste in movies, I'd rather watch this one on HBO.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Finally, a proponent of the use of video games as an educational tool! I've always wanted kids to play Civilization for background knowledge on history, geography and politics; and to practice resource management, among other useful little skills. I found KOTOR a stimulating exercise in moral and ethical decision-making. Wildly careening down the crowded streets of the various NFS incarnations has probably honed my driving sense -- that is, to recognize dangerous driving, curb my own reckless behaviour and avoid other mad drivers while in reality-mode (though I nearly got myself, NBS and HP killed the other day. It's not infallible). In real-life, there are no cheat codes.

While video games are no substitute for proper guidance, there is a lot of learning going on without the gamer being aware of it. Although I'm just thinking of knowledge learning, Prof Shaffer is advocating using video games to train students in juggling technology in a multi-tasking environment in preparation for working life in the 21st century.

Shaffer sees even the US education system as not having changed much since the curriculum was put together in the 19th century. Today's world belongs to the innovator, not the assembly-line worker, so he's urging education to move towards the ideas market instead of remaining entrenched in drill-and-practice, the tried-and-tested method of the distant past.

So, our l33t gaming prowess is going to advantage us when we frag our job-hunting mugger-toad competitors to bleedin' giblets in a couple of years' time. Serves 'em right too! Who'd have thunk it?

P.S. Even S'pore has already moved to introduce video games into our learning experience (could they be referring to the Neopets involvement in the NE programme 3 or 4 years ago, I wonder?). It says so in the article: here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Josh introduced to us a new place to eat: Astons, serving Western food at mostly kopitiam prices. It's a little stall within the last kopitiam on the Maju Ave side of the row of shophouses along which the buses turn into in Gardens.

There's quite a wide selection of carnivore-pleasing items on the menu including steak, fish, ribs and burgers. The side dishes run out quickly, though, so go early.

I had the beefy jack, a tiny but thick burger topped with a square of melty cheese. The patty is made on-site with fresh ground beef and cooked to a juicy medium rare. The faint pink cross-section of the patty is a joy to behold. So few places get their burgers right like that.

I believe we got general approval of the food around the table, Amy and HP included. It looks like we've found a cheaper alternative to Friends and the Cartel in Gardens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NY conneX Print edition #4 delivered today, coinciding with our recruitment drive for new journos. But before anyone says anything, let's do a self critique of this ish:

#4 is certainly flawed and definitely not our best work, considering what we've been capable of producing before. For an 8-page newsletter, only 2 articles can be legitimately classified as "news" (1 written and photographed by yours truly), the rest is mainly filler and quite possibly blatant propaganda as well.

The cover page is a mess, with the main pix looking static and murky, while the beautifully shot supplemental pix is tiny in comparison. And the main headline is obviously sensationalist but with no relevance whatsoever to the article it refers to. Quite misleading, even.

I think that strategically, we timed our release too early. Being fresh out of the hols, there really wasn't anything much happening on campus to report on. The reporters, themselves, were unprepared and just scrambled to meet their deadline with whatever because they had to submit something.

We should have trusted our past issues and our website to sell themselves and reserved our money sticking to our core business of reporting the news and maintaining the quality of our product, instead of trying to kill so many birds with our one tiny stone.

With all Amy's taught me, this is what I came up with. I feel I've let her down somewhat. Sigh.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Beginning the new year with lots of ideas and a new sense of idealism for the workload ahead. No longer under special dispensation for pioneering a new subject, I'm facing an expanded timetable, and adjusting to head 2 CCAs while being credited as heading only 1.

There's nothing unusual about this circumstance: it happens in the working world all the time. Multiple jobs being handled by several people can suddenly collapse into 1 person's portfolio, and while the 1 person can cuss and swear at his new job scope, he can also be thankful that he still has a job. For me, I can also appreciate the confidence the HR allocation seems to have in me, and I'll do what I must to make it work as I see fit.

The only thing that worries me is that there is a strong work-oriented culture around me at the moment. I sense the last vestiges of mindless, spontaneous fun has left with Vince, thus bringing to a close a cohort of colleagues that made life interesting on campus. But, no, they've not left campus because they've been too playful, but because they've taken up higher responsibilities and moved on. Yup, we all eventually grow up sometime.

As for my current colleagues, they're still a great bunch and I dearly enjoy their company very much. We still make it a point to meet for meals and bitch and jest daily. They're still my inspiration for getting up early in the morning. But perhaps what I'll miss is that spark of wild, unpredictable, crazy energy that once made work such fun.

Perhaps it's just as well. It's time for me to grow up too.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

For many of us, there seems to be a serious disconnect between what we learn in school and how we live our lives once we leave school behind. We often tell ourselves that we'll never find a use for calculus or chemistry after our big exam so, subsequently, all our lessons are selectively shelved under the category of "Childhood Trauma" in the filing cabinet of our psyches, forever sealed shut with crime scene tape.

This grim, self-induced amnesia is hardly a surprising reaction, considering that the final exam is the furthest target we aim our learning towards. So we cram it all in as quickly as possible, spew it in the greatest possible quantity all over the exam paper, then mistake the emptiness we feel afterwards for freedom. No doubt our exam scores will be brilliant, but if we can't make the transition from learning to life, can we say we've learnt anything at all?

The Yanks have been thinking about this problem. The states of NH and RI are going to pioneer individualized assessments and adjust the weightage of graduation criteria so that students can demonstrate useable skills in their subject mastery, as opposed to just having memorized the right answers. Sound exciting? Details here.