Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wrap. Print. Party!

A production still from last week's shoot. Here we see Weng briefing his talent about the coffee mug scene. Coffee looks pretty strong in this photo.

At the wrap party tonight, Weng debuted his rough cut for the entire cast and crew. I must say, although the raw footage didn't look like much, after editing and with the inclusion of the mood-setting background music the final product looked very good indeed.

Most importantly, the client was pleased as Punch with it. Said he had plans to air the final copy around the region. He can't wait to see how the regional offices will react to it.

As for my role, I had a single line of dialogue and a shot of my very talented left arm holding the coffee mug. Yes, that one in the picture.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Teachers' Day dinner interruptions

Usually at Teachers' Day dinner, our objective of enjoying our meal counters the MCs' objective of interrupting our enjoyment with silly games and activities to "enliven" the evening. At tonight's dinner, the role of the latter fell to me, Fen, YF and iLine, to deliver a programme based on the theme of the Oscars.

To be honest, we weren't all that prepared for the task even though we'd agreed to it months ago. The scripting mostly comprised a flurry of hasty email back-and-forths based on a rough guideline of the programme and coordinating MC patter in English and Mandarin. We were still scripting lines right up to our sequence run -- I wouldn't call it a rehearsal 'cos we were only running lines and not working out movement, traffic patterns, transitions and technical coordination.

Adding to the nerve-wracking situation were the many dynamic changes in programe, including a formal toast by the VIPs that was not previously scheduled. And although the programme was going faster than expected we were instructed to hurry up even faster. We ended up saying goodbye to everybody before dessert! I think that was win-win for all of us. Heh.

But this is the job of the MC. It's not theatre where there's time to figure things out and plan for contingencies (and even then things still do screw up). For us MCs, we ran lines for the formal bits of programme -- it's the formal bits that are the most scary 'cos it's unseemly to mess up people's names and titles --and here, reading off cuecards became an absolute necessity for me. My runs without cuecards were disastrous.

But rehearsals apart, most of our air-time was ad lib, going with the flow and trying our best to converse coherently between Fen and myself in two separate languages. Oddly enough, I felt more relaxed with the ad libs than the formal bits. It was fun to run the games and introduce the performances 'cos then I could focus on what was necessary rather than fret over not getting it wrong.

Fen and I had a great table to retreat to in between stage appearances. Thanks for keeping food for us, encouraging us with chatter, playing our games, impromptu rehearsing the formal toast with me, and doing some behind-the-scenes running that was necessary to keep the programme flowing smoothly. My on-stage tribute to you guys was sincere, if inadvertently cut short by an over-enthu Fen.

MC'ing for a combined three schools needed more prep time. There were many niggling mechanical problems, gaffed lines, moments of awkward tongue-tiedness, nervous voices cracking, for a functional but unpolished product. Nevertheless, we had excellent tech support in Events Architects who improv'ed effortlessly with us yet were very understated and nearly invisible the whole time. Their presence covered up a lot of sins.

Overall, I think we did ok. Not great, but a serviceable job despite our nerves and inexperience. It helped a lot that the audience was as generous as it was.

And now, I'm going to take a whole weekend off. Zzzzz...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Criminals, all of you!

Whoever designed the survey for Ipos may have arranged it such that our local intellectual property watchdog got only the feedback it wanted to hear. TNP summarises:

"IN THE real world, almost all of the 100 Singaporeans polled by The New Paper believe that stealing goodies from a store is wrong.

But they feel it's okay to illegally download copyrighted material from the Internet. In another survey of 1,011 Singaporeans done by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), released this April, about 44 per cent of Singaporeans think that illegal downloads of copyrighted material is not considered theft."

The more people appear to have unlightened views about respecting intellectual property, the more justification Ipos has for continuing its crusade. And the more reason it has to consider punitive measures, like the new 'three strikes' law, against these all these unrepentant criminal scumbags.

But take a look at the two survey questions given to the respondents:

1) Is it wrong to illegally download music, movies and shows?

40% of total said NO which shows how hardcore recalcitrant they are to willfully commit an illegal act.

If it's illegal, then of course it's wrong, hence 60% said YES. But the answer might have been more interesting if the question had been, "Is it wrong to download music, movies and shows?" Chances are, remove the word "illegal" and 100% will say NO. And since they aren't admitting to committing an illegal act, 100% of them won't think they are criminals.

2) Is it wrong to buy pirated CDs, VCDs and DVDs?

Only 26% of total said NO, which means most people DO think buying such stuff is wrong.

Of course buying pirated CDs, VCDs, and DVDs is wrong. Why waste money on pirated goods when you can download the same thing for free (see Q1)? Duh!

Ipos needs better, less confused, less ambiguous data if it really wants to act in the best interests of society. As it is, they see criminals everywhere, though the people don't quite see themselves as such. Getting all litigious isn't the solution. Enforcement doesn't make a law right, not if the people aren't convinced it is in the first place.

The industry's next leap forward

For the week I'm having, I suppose this is a good reminder why. Presenting our industry's new 'mantra' that'll take us into the 2010s: Lead. Care. Inspire. Not sure why the first word refers to a toxic heavy metal, but we'll do our best.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bolts of intellect

I suggested before that we human beings take pride in the athletic successes of world record breakers like Usain Bolt because we take them as proxies of ourselves and our own achievements. Boris Johnson, writing for the Telegraph, goes a step further suggesting that Bolt's achievements could be an indication that we are continuing to improve: "faster, higher, stronger," and because each successive 'A' Level reaps an ever increasing harvest of 'A' grades, he asks, "why not cleverer," too?

At the heart of this debate is the issue of grade inflation, and the dumbing down of the curriculum which his critics lambast him for. It's not that Johnson ignores this possibility -- he readily admits to it himself -- but he offers a more optimistic position than his critics can stomach.

In exam-crazy Singapore, our 'A' Level curriculum in math and the sciences makes my own head swim. As it is, our primary school math already makes me stare and blink blankly at the questions the little tykes have to work out. The 'A' Level timetable is a marathon sprint event, the kids being swamped with so much of revision, homework, tutorials, remedials, consultations, it's no fun being a JC student any more. Academic rigor we have... almost to the point of mortis, if you ask the kids themselves.

But curriculum and exam results don't impress me. They're a poor indication of intelligence, biased as they are to a particular kind of left-brainedness. If I were taking my 'A's in JC today, I'd probably be curled up in the corner of a darkened room awaiting my next sedative shot by the time I got to my prelims. It's the fact that our kids actually survive the stress we put them through and are still able to move on towards their next step in life that I respect about this generation.

I'd like to think our kids are getting smarter, at least for for the simple reason that more kids than ever are getting access to an education. Sure, they may not all be able to handle a chemistry paper set in the 60's like some of Johnson's respondents were suggesting, but that's because the kids taking their 'A' Levels in the 60's were truly the creme de la creme of their cohort, both intellectually capable as well as being able one way or another to finance their further studies.

Besides, the 60's generation didn't have access to electronic secondary memory systems (Google, Wiki...) they had no option but to store everything they learned within their own biological primary memory. In that capacity, they were limited to only what they had memorised regardless of how much that might have been. So perhaps they might have been smart in that sense but they could only deal with information stored within the realm of their own heads, and only if they kept updating it manually.

Public education made intellectual development available to pretty much everybody. That might have meant a bit of levelling out of the curriculum towards an average, certainly not as high-level as what it might have been before, but a drop from the top meant a raise in the smarts of everyone else.

And where Johnson's critics pooh pooh computing and the 'net, it's because they see these newfangled developments as inert, inanimate objects rather than the living network of streaming information that actually runs under the hood that our kids are tapping into. The only problems we're facing on this front is the immediacy of access due to the clumsiness of our current interface technology, and the literacy skill that we need to develop in our kids so they can navigate it.

When we figure out these speedbumps on the highway of digital intelligence, we can do away with our archaic biological memory based exams and set exams that are not just open-book but open-'net. They'll be answering exam questions through the usual Wiki and Google, but also through online forums, chats and other forms of interaction with real people (friends, strangers, idiots and experts alike) interactively and collaboratively. That'll be more realistic to the digital age. After all, what's the equivalent of an "exam condition" in the real world today? A power failure or system crash, I suppose, which doesn't happen too often to be a concern.

What if Bolt runs under 60's conditions, the critics posit? Would he still run 9.58 secs? The answer is, it's not the 1960's any more. Times have changed and we have changed with them. We have created the conditions under which running 100m in 9.58 secs is possible, and that is the story of human progress.

Are our kids smarter today? I don't know if we have got the conditions for intellectual Usain Bolts to exist just yet, but on the whole our kids know more and have access to even more useable information than their parents did and way more than their grandparents ever did. That's a good enough yardstick for me.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back in the Democratic Republic

It seemed like fun to commit to a few little extra things outside of what I'm normally doing on campus. Ordinarily, I'd be fine with these little things, but why did they all have to coincide on the same week in the calendar? Now I'm back in the DRVBGA. Be so relieved when this week is over.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Corporate video shoot

It began with a call for my "expertise". Not actually having any, I still found myself in the midst of a video shoot in an office unit with a fantastic view of Marina Bay. This would have been the perfect location to view the NDP fireworks, I thought as I prepped for my scene.

The camera, lighting and sound crews were real pros, with Weng calling the shots. The shoot was for a well-known pharmaceutical company that wants some attention paid to a little-known physical condition: Over-active bladder (OAB) syndrome. Stop laughing.

I doubt this shoot would be the one to put my name up in lights and my face on the map. My role was to be a sympathetic buddy to the OAB sufferer and offer him coffee. Of course, that's the last thing he needs and so I get a pained but polite brush off. Throw in a couple of lines of dialogue, and that's my scene. Doubt I even get much face-time 'cos the camera is kinda' over my shoulder or ECU on the mug o' joe in my left hand.

The vid's not exactly for public consumption either, it's more like for a corporate presentation. So, no, not quitting my day job yet.

Overall, the shoot was brief, intense and professional. But it was nice to see Anthony and Wendy, Weng and Gwyn again, even if it was only briefly in the middle of a busy set.