Saturday, April 26, 2008

As a PW Supervisor, I have a particular job to do that my students have not yet quite understood. And this misunderstanding is causing lots of frustration on both sides. My role is not to APprove projects, but rather to IMprove them. So while they send me proposal draft after draft, hoping that I will at some point say, "that's it! That's perfect!", that's not what's going to happen. I will always find ways to make the proposal better. The disparity is that the students see their projects as a destination whereas I see them as a continuum. There IS no end in sight. Honest.

Why it's so frustrating is because the students tend to do what they're told. I keep telling and they keep doing and it never seems to be good enough. Every proposal gets sent back to the old drawing board, the old ogre is never satisfied, damn him! But, hey, if PW was simply about following instructions from some crotchety codger who doesn't know what he wants, then PW really should be scrapped as yet another redundant exam subject.

But the PW process is more about learning to think up a project and then think through it from the perspective of the one who will eventually be presented the project. Most students are satisfied accomplishing the former, and don't push on to even attempt the latter. Then when they receive feedback on their proposals, they think there's something wrong with themselves, or something wrong with the ideas, when most of the time, what they have is quite good enough.

What's missing is their ability to adequately communicate their ideas to the third party, and to see what they have written through the eyes and ears of their audience. This is the leap in thinking ability they have to make in order to succeed at PW. They need to articulate their ideas clearly and coherently, anticipate queries and potential objections, and project an air of confidence that they have done their homework, and competence in the area of work they wish to undertake. Some professionalism in the way they they present their materials won't hurt either.

If they could just try to read what they themselves have written, distancing themselves from their own authorship, and critique their own proposals from a third-party perspective, ask themselves the hard questions and prepare to answer them, then they won't need me any longer, and they can start working for themselves at last. Perhaps then they will see that I'm less tough on them than they will be on themselves.

Until then, it's like I'm driving a school bus and the kids inside keep asking, "are we there yet?" All I'm doing is driving, I'm not going anywhere except down the road. Hopefully, at some point, the kids will quit watching the scenery and poking each other, but instead watch me as I turn the wheel, upshift, downshift, accelerate and brake. And when they finally get it, they'll get off at the next bus stop, climb into their own vehicles and trundle off -- on their own -- towards a destination of their own choice. These will be the successful kids.

Friday, April 25, 2008

So completely brain-dead that "Superhero Movie" was the perfect weekend therapy. Full of cheap sight gags, toilet humour and frothing over with sophomoric innuendo, SM proves that the line is indeed fine between heroism and hilarity.

SM takes the basic script of "Spider-Man", though the protagonist, Rick Riker, is more tragic than hero. Brought up believing that he is destined for saving-the-world, do-gooder stuff, the harder he tries to be a hero, the more misfortune he brings to others.

Unfortunately for Riker, his sources of inspiration are his Uncle and Aunt whom he lives with. Both spout inane advice, but his Aunt in particular speaks in such cliched platitudes that her flatulence carries more authority and impact in the movie.

The moral dilemma his nemesis, The Hourglass, faces is to use his life-absorbing power on one person a day, in order to gain sufficient energy to live one more day. So his decision is obviously clear: kill as many people as possible at one time to gain immortality. Duh!

I was in the mood to laugh my guts out, and so I did. But a crucial scene involving Riker's discovery of the true identity of The Hourglass was mysteriously censored (there was a notice at the box office to inform us to expect cuts) due to some offense against some religious issue. *shrugs. But the cut is so obvious that characters inexplicably jump locations and action, which probably offended my sense of continuity more than protected my religious sensibilities.

Oh, stay to watch the clips during the end credits if you must. They appear to be deleted scenes from the final edit. Just leave your brain at the door.
Results from our last bowling session are very encouraging. Officially, the Boyz have climbed up one spot in the rankings to 15th of 16, plus we've won two special awards. Anthony got 2nd placing for his high game with handicap totalling 232 (including handicap 21), while the Team got 3rd placing in the team scratch series totalling 1811 pinfalls excluding handicap (i.e., we're overall the 3rd highest scoring team without adding our respective handicaps). Not bad at all!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The dog and rabbit "freelance police" team wraps up its second season with an extra-large helping of bizarre adventure. The usual pattern of a Sam & Max point-and-click game is to solve an initial set of three puzzles, thereby unlocking a final set of three new puzzles before the resolution. In this fifth installment, just when we think we're done, the adventure continues. After all, with a title like, "What's New, Beelzebub?", we should guess that a date with the big guy downstairs isn't going to be so straightforward to come back from and still look forward to a Season Three.

While the puzzles are still the mundane trial-and-error approach of applying different inventory objects to hotspots on the screen to see what works, it's the snappy dialogue among all the characters that drives the comedy forward. Apart from Sam & Max themselves, I especially like the 10-foot tall killer robot who philosophizes about life using only snippets of song lyrics from the '80s. And Tiny Timmy, the rat, whose every other utterance is *bleeped* out because he suffers from Tourette's syndrome. One of the puzzles actually involves finding a way to un*bleep* his dialogue because a vital clue gets *bleeped* out along with the rest of his profanities. Hilarious.

Although Episode Five can stand on its own, it'll make more sense having played the four episodes before. Episode Five ties up all the loose ends in this Second Season, including all the odd time-travel paradoxes scattered around the previous four episodes, and resolves every cliffhanger as well -- such as where the molten lava disappeared to when the volcano erupted in Episode Two. Also, all the characters from both Seasons show up in one way or another, with some eyebrow-raising developments to some of the characters as well.

However, not everyone will be able to stomach the themes of Episode Five as it goes all out to make light of our beliefs about the afterlife and the torments that await us there. Best to slap a "Not Easily Offended" label on the game as fair warning to those who might be. Then again, if you were easily offended, you probably wouldn't be playing Sam & Max anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Boyz are back on the lanes again. A last minute substitution brought back Anthony to the fold, so it was him, Victor and me today. Considering we haven't bowled in quite a while, I think we did decently well. I calculate my average to be 160+ over four games. But Anthony had to be the show-off and probably scored both the lowest scoring game (98) and an impressive 211, which after adding his handicap, could well total up to be the highest game of the day.

Official results will most likely be released on Thursday. I seriously hope we've managed to claw our way out of last place after tonight.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

This rare omen started the day for me on the opening night of Drama Night 2008.

In contrast, instead of another auspicious sign from above before yesterday's closing show, we began with a problem. M2's battery died just as Mel and I were leaving campus to go to SRT.

That wasn't good 'cos we were carrying my laptop containing the 'Admiral' soundtrack, and we still had to swing through Gardens to collect some... perishable props for the show.

But from the crisis, the small swarm of staff crowding around M2 to lend a hand, give advice or provide moral support was simply heartwarming. There was Ho, who connected Lena's jumper cables to his car's battery, though that failed to produce a large enough jolt to get M2 started. Richard rode home to bring back his set of jumper cables and the truck he would be driving later that night. Wayne lent me his AA card to call roadside assistance, Jane came over to see what was the matter and sympathize, as did EmL. Jon drove Mel to collect our deep-fried bananas and then to the theatre on time even though he'd already been there the previous night. Pau drove over his SX-4 and with his industrial-strength cable, we finally brought M2 back to life. Wayne helped me text Richard that all's well so he wouldn't return to find he'd missed all the excitement. And Gurmit stayed with me till the end of the ordeal to make sure I didn't get a heart-attack or worse.

X-departments coming together to help a fellow colleague out; our campus is truly a kampong, and I'm so glad for it. Thanks everyone!

Once M2 got started, I drove straight to the Shell station in Gardens. There they quickly replaced my dead battery with this fluorescent green one (no, I didn't choose it myself, honest). Now my engine compartment looks like it's got some attitude.

Anyway, Drama Night 08 has closed and we're a step closer to our college's professional theatrical credibility. Now that we've seen what our students can do in this venue, as Mel said, we can never go back to LT4.

Anyone wanna see the last of my Drama Night pix click here.