Friday, June 29, 2007

Not often Lucy requests us to join her for lunch, but when she does, she picks a great place to eat. Botak Jones, Toa Payoh branch, where they've also opened Brewski Jones (as advertised on the radio). Same heap of fat, juicy burger, fries and coleslaw for a measly $6, and a bit more for additional toppings like bacon, cheese, sauteed 'shrooms. It's such good value that a bunch of sec school kids seated at the next table looked so at home, like it was their school canteen or something.

The Botak Burger's a great big mess to eat with your bare hands, but there's no better way to enjoy its in-your-faceness, literally. The fries and slaw are the steady, take your time to nibble as you talk excuse to remain seated and stretch lunchtime as long as possible.

Lucy and B-lo ordered the hand-made margaritas from Brewski, while Amy and Wayne split a Stella Wayne had a Stella. The rest of us, HP, Josh, NBS and I made do with pop and fruit juice. Dunno what Amy had to drink. But all too soon, it's back to work and to our ever slow to dwindle pile of exam marking. Guess what we'll be doing all weekend long?

Well, maybe not me. I'm currently waiting to be activated to work in the kitchen. I have 120 hard-boiled eggs to mash into egg-salad filling for 17 loaves of bread. Bro needs a delivery of our special sandwich 'cos he's catering a buffet tea tomorrow afternoon at his restaurant. That, plus a few other items on our agenda for the weekend is going to keep June and me really busy for a while...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Transformers" has to be THE summer blockbuster to watch this year. The scale of adventure and excitement goes over the top in comparison with everything else I've watched so far. For the portrayal of sheer destructive power and the readiness to use it; for the variety of ordnance and fighting styles in combat sequences; for the disproportion of the odds stacked against us pathetic humans in the face of an interstellar invasion and our willingness to fight on anyway, this movie simply took my breath away.

The plot is surprisingly tight, considering the number of threads holding the story together. There's ancient history, recent history, government conspiracy, different levels of warfare, and the human element all interwoven at a pace that just doesn't let up. What helps the story move is the clarity everyone has in their own purpose. Good is good, evil is evil, and the conflict boils down to survive or die. No further complications. You want anything more complicated, go read a book.

Left to our own devices, our terrestrial human weapons are already devastating. The sequence depicting an air-to-ground assault by US combined forces shows off the might of an A-10/AC-130 gunship strike. Our current conventional weapons can level a village in seconds, but that's what it takes to neutralize a single Decepticon invader which still can make a getaway sans a number of body parts.

As with Bay's "Armageddon", our species deserves to continue surviving because we will fight tooth and nail for the right to. While the Autobots arrive to protect our species from the Decepticon threat, we aren't simply cowering behind our defenders, but we're fighting there alongside with everything we've got. Many times I could almost hear Churchill's inspirational "We shall fight..." speech while the battle raged onscreen. And I could just sit in my seat awestruck.

For me, of all the movies of this year, only "Transformers" has so far provided the biggest emotional rush I expect from a truly memorable movie. From the crazy but entirely-human human characters to the awkwardness of the Autobots attempting to blend in with their surroundings upon their first arrival -- you'll believe a machine can have feelings -- to the technophobia-inducing Decepticons who represent all those times when our machines have turned bad on us, the conflict pitting defenders and protectors against the invaders is so epic in scale, some scenes I was laughing out loud, others I was going, "oh no, oh no...", and in yet others I had tears in my eyes was weeping openly.

To sum up, I'll just quote Mel, my seatmate: "Whoa. Yeah! Cooool!" And to think I was never a fan of the animated TV series. Thank you, Michael Bay, for preventing this year's summer releases from being a total waste!

Hmm... for some strange reason, I wanna buy me a Chevy now...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Am marking the essay, "Greed is good." Comment. A nice, open-ended question. The instruction to "comment" leaves the essayist a lot of room to explore the concept of Greed, and its effects on us as a people, and its impact on the world. But because the discussion could literally go anywhere, it's of vital importance that the essayist nails down a clear definition of Greed and use that definition as a standard of comparison in order to determine just how good greed is.

For a more interesting discussion, we might want to define greed as an extreme form of human behaviour. We are looking for a clash of ideas, else an argument wouldn't be an argument otherwise.

If greed is extreme, then greed goes beyond the desire for more, and for better -- which, unfortunately, most of the essays I'm marking tend to stop at. Everyone wants more, everyone wants better, so what makes the greedy stand out? Greed pushes the limits of what is normally acceptable, tolerable and reasonable, in terms of quantity desired, and in terms of the methods by which such desires are satisfied, usually at the expense of other people.

So to answer the question, the essay must provide yardsticks (e.g., moral or religious) by which to determine the difference between normal, acceptable desire and that which goes beyond the pale, i.e., greed.

The essay should explain why people generally take a dim view of greed, but more importantly, show that there is a direct relationship between this extreme behaviour and the harm it brings as a consequence. There needs to be sufficient supporting evidence illustrating this cause-effect so that we can draw specific principles about greed from the examples cited.

But according to the question, greed is good, so how can this be? "Good" suggests that there is some benefit to be derived from greed despite its negative consequences. Again, the discussion needs to show a causual link between greed and specific (though perhaps unintended) benefits accruing to the individual or to larger society. Again, with the use of supporting evidence to back up the claim.

Now we have a clash of the negative and positive effects of greed, but to leave the discussion like this is neither instructional nor helpful to our understanding of greed. It's balanced, but boring.

A little insight would help spice things up a bit. Perhaps we could say that although greed generally leads us to some very negative consequences, greed is still an essential trait in people because it shows us that there is more to achieve in life, to push beyond our current limitations and makes us innovate and stretch ourselves to reach that which was once unreachable. Such has been the process of human progress. It is how we have thrived as a species and have come to dominate life on this planet... But at our current level of progress, can our planet sustain any more of our greed, or do we need to find a new way to progress before our greed kills us all? (Haha, how drama)!

Something like that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In response to Taily's comment, no, I'm not bored -- not with blogging, anyway. I'm just bored. Period. I'm looking back at my recent entries and I see little else but moans and whines. It's like I've become a different me. And eventually, I got quite fed up with moaning and whining, and then there was little else to say. I needed a break, and I took one.

This past hols, I found more than ample opportunities to be by myself. People took separate vacations out of town, and there were days I literally didn't need to vocalize anything beyond a couple of perfunctory sentences to order food or whatever. As much as I appreciate the solitude as ol' Bill Wordsworth did once, I didn't find the experience particularly inspirational enough to write about. So I didn't.

I'm no people person, but I do need a few people with whom I can sharpen myself on and maintain my edge. My sense of humour depends on people to bounce off, but as you can probably tell of late, my entries have been losing their enthusiasm. Even my media reviews have become quite colourless. Boring.

Which is why I'm actually grateful the term has started. I grateful for having regular lunch company again, and I'm grateful for tonight's dinner in HP's honour, and the opportunity for light, easy, irreverent, silly chat tossed around the table once again. It doesn't happen as often these days, but I'll take what I can get.