Saturday, July 25, 2009

Essay mill: Piracy or sharing?

The Essay Mill is back in yet another installment! Today we tackle the question...

It’s not piracy, it’s sharing! Discuss the validity of this argument in the context of the Internet.

A common concern today, considering how agencies like the RIAA are going to ridiculous extents to set an insane legal precedent to outlaw music downloading once and for all. I think if they succeed they'll kill the Internet. I hope for all our sakes -- so that you can continue to download, read and share my lousy essays -- that the more rational minds of American Justice will prevail.

Post mortem: Essay is too apologetic and too optimistic about the sanity of human beings and their behaviour in the marketplace to be convincing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's only logical

Improvising in class again. Put the kids through an arduous session of analyzing essay questions by grammatical structure. As the classes progressed, I discovered that analyzing grammar can help render essay questions as mathematical expressions! It's all logic, after all, right?

If anyone's curious, download a sample here. Erm... my math isn't too good, so some of these equations don't look too elegant. Some may not even work! Would appreciate some help refining the formulae... or at least check the math, if anyone can be bothered.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Knives and guns

Met a new set of surrogate kids. They've been sent to me because they've plateaued out at a particular grade in GP and we're trying to get them up to the next level.

Impression we have of them is that they have writing ability, but their content knowledge is... idealistic, and they tend not to plan out their essays despite constant reminders to.

Made the following analogy for them: not planning the essay is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Knife and blade fighting can be beautiful to watch -- kung fu movies and Hollywood swashbucklers have turned it into an art form -- but unless the duelist is capable of finding an opening and taking full advantage of it, he's dead before the fight begins. That's because the essay question isn't dancing around with a blade. The question encapsulates a complete argument in just one short sentence, hence, it's a sniper's bullet aimed straight between the eyes.

The essayist has no time to make an aesthetic out of the answer. The sniper has to be taken out cooly and efficiently. That requires a bit of planning. And there, if the kids are looking for it, is the beauty of the GP essay.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long time no see

Has it really been seven years since we took in JH and his friends to stay with us, and played tour guide for them all over the island? June had the whole thing all planned out then, the Duck Tour, the Night Safari, the Long Bar, whatever we could package in three days or so to keep them entertained.

And today, we met him again, this time alone and here on business. Went traditional with S'porean dinner fare -- chilli crab at Jumbo@Dempsey. This Jumbo isn't like the other Jumbos. The setup is almost Western: see-through kitchen, very attentive English-speaking staff, square rather than round tables, and we got to eat Pacific razor clam with cutlery. Quite atas, though the dignified ambience was still no deterrent against getting physical with the truly jumbo-sized crab that wound up on our table. And despite the atmosphere, the bill for three of us was surprisingly reasonable for what we ordered.

Next stop, PS Cafe, at which we made the mistake of ordering a dessert each rather than just sharing a couple among ourselves. We were already full from Jumbo, so the desserts were far more than we could handle. That's kind'a sad, 'cos I don't like the idea of leftovers, especially if it's ice-cream based.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We walked on another world

CNN should have asked me. I would have said that "Man's greatest achievement" was our first moon landing. Apollo 11 proved we could accomplish the impossible. We set foot on another world and came back to brag about it. Not sure what happened after that, but no one has made any effort to top that accomplishment since.

Hard to believe that that was exactly 40 years ago, today. Harder to believe that in theory I could have watched Armstrong and Aldrin's moonwalk 'live' on TV. I'm pretty sure we had an old black-and-white, and I know I was already watching TV at that age (I have the glasses to prove it), but I don't know if we could get a 'live' feed back then.

What I do remember of the Apollo 11 mission was several years later when I watched an amazing theatrical performance at which the solo performer faithfully recreated each shot of the televised mission using the exact voice transmissions and, get this... his fingers! That's right, his digits were the only things moving on stage, and through them this historical event came to life again. I don't remember whose hands they were, and I haven't been able to discover even a mention of the performance online. A pity, 'cos I'd really love to watch it a second and even third time.

Essay mill's on hold 'cos life just got really busy. But hey, 40 years ago, we touched the moon. What can't we do now?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Prince" only half-blooded

For all the hype, HBP felt like just another installment in a tale that's been too long in the telling. The movie itself isn't bad. I like that the focus is character-driven, but since there are so many characters central to the plot, there isn't sufficient air-time to do them justice. There's enough to get the idea about what's going on with them, their conflicts and confusion, but not quite enough to empathise.

The fact is, I wasn't blown away like I was expecting to be. This installment felt like a set up, providing exposition for what (I'm hoping) will be a big finish. It was "Star Wars: ESB" all over again when at the end the first thought was, "is that all?" Even the big revelation at the end of HBP didn't warrant the title. I don't remember much from reading the book, but I'm pretty sure there was more to it than just a simple admission of identity.

There, see? The elitist comment was bound to show up sooner or later: the book was way better than the movie.

Not too many more summer movie releases left to look forward to. So far this year, I have yet to be impressed.