Saturday, July 19, 2008

Drama seniors say bye-bye!

NYeDC Seniors’ Farewell Party 08

Never any tears in an NYeDC farewell, we had a silly time at our little soiree making speeches, giving gifts, and enjoying lots of laughter at what is probably the last time the 07 batch will be having any fun at all, at least till their finals are over.

The seniors were seriously out to cause a riot, taking so much trouble to dress especially for the occasion. They were hilarious in their rented costumes. The juniors impressed with their meticulous programme, the attention to detail in improvising a dining hall from a classroom, and for once the food was really good -- catered (which we were happy to pay for) rather than self-burned on a bbq grill, which has been a standard practice for the club as far back as I've known it.

The juniors devised a nutty game to keep us entertained: a cross between bingo and a lucky dip. Up for grabs was an iPod and only those who bingo-ed were eligible to dip for it. The risk was that there were equal odds of lucky and unlucky prizes. But for the 'pod we all put our faces and reputations on the line. Interestingly enough, all the prized were "donated" by the juniors; all stuff they didn't want anymore and "freecycled" for a laugh.

As no one had won the 'pod by the third bingo round, we decided to just put our names in a pot and just draw for it. It was sweet of the seniors who wrote Mel's name on their own ballots, rigging the draw so she'd win it in the end. The 'pod wasn't in working condition anyway, but it was the thought that counted. Heh.

I'm sad to lose the crazy do-anything-for-a-laugh seniors. Their creativity, spirit and energy is so crucial to projecting an impressive on-stage presence. But their successors, the 08 batch, have also been amazing in their self-motivation, organization and planning abilities. With these assets and their desire to improve on their stagecraft, I think the run-up to next year's Drama Night might just be very interesting.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Joke

It's the Joker we want to see in Batman movies. In "The Dark Knight", Heath Ledger's interpretation is as chilling as we might ever get. Ledger's Joker is no criminal; more like a violent, wanton, sadistic anarchist. He has no agenda beyond playing the role of the bringer of Chaos, and delights in being the spoiler of well-made plans. His aim is to bring an end to social order. Every system is an equal opportunity target, even organized crime. His theory is to eliminate those at the top and the people down the line will eventually turn on and destroy themselves.

The odd thing about this Joker is that he has no "origin" backstory. Just as his face hides behind that grotesque mask, his identity is a complete mystery. It's like he has no beginning and consequently, no end either. He could be anyone, and no one. He is thus the ideal metaphor for the unknown a paranoid nation fears, freaked out by terrorists hiding in every flitting shadow.

The Joker's machinations are sadistic experiments in how far he can push the people he places in mortal moral dilemmas to cross the line. And in Gotham City, so reliant on the Bat as their protector and guardian, and so sold on Harvey Dent's grand vision to turn its crime-ridden streets completely around, the Joker wants to know if the Gothamites have it in them to save themselves when they have no confidence left in their fragile social structures and systems once he's trashed them.

The Bat, rock-solid, honourable, courageous, in possession of a social conscience, and displaying a fighting style so efficient it's almost perfunctory, is every bit the warrior-hero we expect him to be. He too is an anarchist of a different sort. He upholds justice but is not constrained by the legal system. The anonymity behind the mask and a fat bank balance helps. But as the mask hides his face, his is not the face the public can trust.

The Bat, he's the devil we know. The Joker, he's the one we don't. Maniac, unpredictable, menacing, and with serously bad hair, he's the one who hooks us with horrid fascination in this movie. The Joker pulls the strings and the Bat has to play along. With his deft manipulations, Harvey Dent transforms from hero to monster. "The Dark Knight" is a vehicle for the Joker, the raison d'etre that brings his supporting cast to life. The Bat and Dent lose so much to the Joker's insanity. What did it cost Heath Ledger to bring this incarnation of the Joker to life?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yearbook photo and LC invig

Wayne's the kind of friend who will lend you the shirt off his back. Literally. I needed a proper shirt to wear for the staff photo shoot today 'cos the one I was wearing would have looked absolutely hideous with a tie. Trust me to forget the College yearbook shoot ends today.

The photog had rather mundane ideas for our poses. They were basically police mugshots, two each of full-frontal, and left 'n right 3/4 shots. The only difference was that we didn't have to pose carrying our own serial numbers and we were made to smile like a North Korean in the personal presence of Kim Jong Il himself.

Today was also Listening Comprehension invigilation day. The radio I signed out must have been defective. In order to receive a clear signal the radio insisted that I place myself directly behind the antenna and remain completely motionless until the broadcast ended. Any slight movement I made resulted in static. Anywhere else I stood in the room resulted in static.

The kids seemed quite amused as I arranged myself in different configurations to ensure optimal reception. Standing on one leg didn't help, thank God. Eventually, the radio and I negotiated for a sitting position, both palms flat on the table, elbows akimbo, and I remained roughly frozen in place for the duration.

Oddly enough, I actually understood three of the four stories read in Mandarin over the radio. I'm quite proud of myself now. The first story was about a guy and a seashell he picked up on the beach and then some philosophy about shells being used as money and something about aesthetics which I couldn't quite get. Number two was some guy lamenting that his college buddy's standard of Chinese language was deteriorating with every pretty postcard he receives every year from him. Three was a vignette of a 4th grade student volunteer at a library who was so dedicated to his job, he kept on working there every day even though he had to move elsewhere to live and attend school. This dedicated little tyke turns out to be little Billy Gates whom we know better as an adult than as a 4th grader. The final story was this bizarre father-son bonding activity in which the father plays "trust me" mind games with his 9 year-old. The results of this bonding session will probably be analyzed thoroughly by a professional whom the kid will inevitably be consulting once he gets older.

Wonder if my Chinese is getting better or if today's paper was exceptionally easy?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Model Homeowner

Strangers merrily traipsing around my house is something I'll never get used to. It feels all the more creepy for me as the agent we engaged does all our interacting for us. He's taking our viewers around, chatting and making nice with them, while us two gormless blockheads remain seated and frozen on the living room carpet pretending to be busy watching TV. We'd like to be nicer hosts, really, but we don't trust our own blabbermouths in case we say something stupid about our house that the viewers might take negatively and use as an excuse to bargain down our asking price. So sitting there on the carpet, I feel like Steve Martin's character in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", playing his Ruprecht, the Monkey Boy role.

Or else like an animatronic mannequin posing in a showflat, supposedly enjoying his idyllic environs, being the object of envy of every prospective buyer that walks in. *click, wrirr... "my_house_is_great. wanna_buy_it?" ...bzzzt!

Monday, July 14, 2008

When strangers walk into your house and start pointing at various nooks and crannies, whispering among themselves, you know that what you once thought of as yours is no longer. In snatches of overheard conversation, people are weighing the possibilities of converting my living room into a balcony, running cable TV into the bedrooms and partitioning off my dining room and air-conditioning it. Perhaps a serious offer will be coming by our way soon?
Hellboy 2: TGA sort of echoes the human vs nature theme that we've already seen in Prince Caspian and LOTR, except the battleground is the urban landscape of human civilization. It's Nature fighting back in a small, almost helpless way, as the revolt is practically led by a one-elf army while Nature, the faction he purports to fight for, wants no part of his revolution. All Prince Nuada has is his wushu fighting style, a hulking bruiser for a friend, oh, and an evil plan to unleash the ultimate weapon that will extinguish humankind from the face of the earth.

Hellboy himself isn't much different from Nuada. He fights for a people who does not want anything to do with him, their initial admiration turning to fear and distrust when in a pitched battle a city block gets pretty much levelled through melee combat and small(?)-arms fire while they watch in horror.

The problem with Nuada is that he is too focused on a single goal, making him psychotically obsessive and unable to tell friend from foe. So bent is he on vengeance that it's all he thinks about. It's all he trains his body for, it's all his schemes are directed towards, and he no longer cares what he has to sacrifice in order to get what he wants.

In contrast, Hellboy has lots of things to distract him from brooding over his unpleasant future destiny. There's his job, his friends, his smokes, candy, booze, TV, and his girlfriend, Liz, whose explosive tantrums with him are alarmingly increasing in frequency. "I'd give my life for her, but she wants me to do the dishes", he grumbles to Abe, his fishy friend. A typical sentiment of us guys for whom women will always be the Great Mystery.

I like the movie for it's portrayal of simple, mundane humanity that stands out in contrast to the fantastic, bizarre creatures and environments of del Toro's design. Even the constant chaos of the BPRD (Hellboy's secret home base and office) is just another normal day on the job for the blokes working there. Despite our vulnerabilities and what we consider our faults and vices, it's still great to be human.