Friday, August 15, 2008

"The Littlest Hobo" leaves town

And just like that, HP's gone. Was so busy, I didn't even get to say 'goodbye' on her last day. Yes, her official farewell dinner is still to come, but there's a Space in her cubicle now where there once was a friend.

We'll miss HP a lot. She may have appeared understated, but she kept things sane within the general chaos of dNYel. She was a deep, calm reservoir of hidden strength and yet, suddenly revealing an adventurous spirit that we could not tie down. Next stop: TO, a dear, familiar city full of treasured memories I myself would love to revisit one day.

Bon Voyage, HP! We'll keep in touch via FB.

Post scriptum:
Ok, I'm sorry. After two weeks of being infected with a cyber-virus caught from the iCTLT and spouting nonsense like a blithering idiot (B-lo's new vocab of the day), I believe the embarassing madness has run it's course and I've finally returned properly to Earth.

I promise no more mindless rantings reminiscent of a novice with his first commission, all starry-eyed and empty-headed. No more talk of "change this" or "change that". I'm realistic enough to know that the more talk, the less change. So I'll stop pretending I'm working 24/7 for the good of "my kids". I'm Off-Duty, remember?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the cusp of industrial revolution

Well, there it is: the Boss is taking us into our next stage of industrial evolution. It'll be more customized towards the individual student. We're going to teach in more innovative ways and the kids have to learn to innovate on their own too. It'll be important to ground the kids in solid theory, but they've also got to see how theory applies in a way that is relevant to their lives.

As excited as I am about these sweeping new changes, I still have to keep my ear to the ground and see who else is likely to rally around this cause. This is a revolution that starts from the ground up. I'm not about to lead this charge by myself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Was planning to make a note of attending this afternoon's industry-sponsored seminar on terrorism and how the third speaker, my ol' pal Cherry-ann, made quite an impact on my female companions with his learned, yet boyish charm. But I didn't realize just how fatigued I was. Crashed and burned on the living room carpet and only woke up past midnight so that I could finish my beauty sleep in bed.

This entry has obviously been back-dated.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Swollen and puffy

Fell sick again with a nasty allergic reaction to who knows what. Apart from the usual asthma-like inflammation in the lungs, the left side of my face swelled up, and I felt puffy and irritable throughout the night. Couldn't get much sleep as a result, maybe two hours at the most.

Swelling went down a bit in the morning, though still noticeable. Went to work in my glasses and probably scared the kids showing up for class like that. Got a prescription of anti-histamines and an anti-inflammatory to help me sleep better tonight, and hopefully I'll be in a better frame of mind to interact with the kids tomorrow.

Still curious about what might have been the allergen. Likely suspects: the Pacific clam surprise in my dinner, the Japanese strawberry ice-cream I had for dessert, or Maui. Stupid cat has a new game: ambush owner from the back, sinking his claws into the skin as he climbs his way up to perch on said owner's shoulder like a pirate's demented parakeet. Underneath my shirt, I look like a scratching post. And that boy's claws aren't exactly the most sanitary things on Earth either.

Avoiding all three things tonight...

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's the guy's fault!

With all the talk and concern over our recent baby issues (or rather, lack thereof), and with the revelation that our government is initiating policies focused on putting the boot to husbands' backsides, here's an interesting counter-perspective based on a US parenting study that lends support to what I've already intuitively known: having kids does not necessarily make one happy.

Question is, am I happy now, without having sprouted forth a genetic host to transport my genetic legacy through another generation? I'd say I was fairly content. I don't know how I could be any happier, but I do know how my encounters with other people's kids have often ruined my usually benign disposition towards the human race.

Just this morning I overheard a male voice saying, "I'll give you money if you'll be a good girl." Under normal guy-girl conversation, this line would have led to interesting possibilities, but no, when I looked he was just a dad trying to convince his bawling tot to get off the cheap ride (which again under normal circumstances is an interesting proposition, but no, he was just being a dad).

In man-speak what the dad was saying roughly translates to, "why the #%* isn't this RC working? Maybe if I #*$! bought a ^~!* upgrade, it might ^*%# work better?" We're looking at a guy who has lost control over both his finances and his dignity right out in the public eye. Definitely not a happy situation for any guy to be in. If this was a scene in a movie, he'd be the one providing comic relief, losing to a little girl like that.

This isn't the first time I heard this cry of desperation. When I see parents with their kids, more often than not the interaction is of a high-tension nature, a contest of wills. On one side, there's threat and authority, on the other manipulation and emotional blackmail. Perhaps I have a jaundiced eye, but I am not encouraged to give up my current state of mental health and overall well-being for what looks like a lifetime of negative return.

It'll be interesting to see what new initiatives the relevant Ministry intends to roll out in the next few weeks. What could they possibly say to convince us guy-folk to turn in our frat-boy beer hats and settle for a life of domesticity, barefoot and pregnant?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trying to be funny on TV

Local English TV debuted two new sitcoms this evening, "Calefare" and "First Class". The former looks at the lives of the people cast as extras in film and TV shoots. The latter is about the goings-on in a secondary school and, um, not quite sure what else 'cos we didn't get past the introductions of the characters in the first episode.

I wondered about the word "Calefare". It seems to be a word used only in the local entertainment industry. The recognized term is "extra" so where did this odd-sounding noun come from? The closest etymology I can conjecture is from the French term, "le faire", which means "to do [it]", which makes sense. It is for the extra to do and die. But the "Ca" part eludes me. Can anyone offer assistance?

English drama has been pretty dire on local TV (still is) because it has never moved past playing stereotypes. And bad stereotypes at that. What English TV has yet to twig on is that TV is a very different medium from theatre. I know theatre, and I know that there is room to play with form and presentation because theatre is an inherently artificial environment. The characters need to appear larger than life, with clearly defined characteristics because much of the context (that word again) they exist in is created with a lot of fill-in-the-blanks in the minds of the audience. Theatre couldn't be 'real' if it tried.

The audience for TV treats the medium as 'real', though. The TV camera can transport the audience to real locations and 'converse' with real people. News, documentaries, chat or magazine programmes, reality TV all exploit the audience's belief in the realism TV presents. The TV camera is a mobile device that can shoot from any location in 3-dimensional space, so there is no reason for the audience to make allowances for any theatrical backdrop, or be in any way limited by the theatrical convention of the '4th wall'. The camera brings the audience to intimate proximity with the characters on-screen and that gets pretty real for us, moreso than theatre ever could anyway.

MediaCorp tends to hybridize both media, but it doesn't work. The sets are real locations -- or at least realistic locations -- but the characters are just unbelievable. They are like 2D cartoon characters superimposed on 3D space. In the pilot of "Calefare" we have a diva actor who is all diva, a wistful Bollywood has-been, a spaced-out snarky rocker chick who speaks like Raven of the Teen Titans and plays 'dead' quite well, and the usual raft of characters from any local school skit featuring 'local people'. Likewise in "First Class" the range of teacher-types and student-types is as predictable, and played to death already. No need to elaborate, you already know what I'm talking about.

Despite the promising issues that can be explored in sitcoms involving extras and school-based high jinks, if the characters don't develop any personalities soon, we'll have yet another crop of English TV drama that won't surpass the quality of a Power Rangers series, or maybe LWT's Mind Your Language at the most.

This is not to say that the use of stereotypes on TV cannot make successful TV shows. We know how popular the Power Rangers franchise is, and MYL was more than a laugh and a half, but MediaCorp also needs to mind its audience and mind its own medium if it wants to raise the level of English TV comedy in the S'pore.

I'll be watching...