Saturday, October 31, 2009

Careful, she bites!

Happy Halloween! In keeping with tradition, a horror movie was on the cards. And since I've been left to my own devices (wife and in-laws are in BKK), my pick flick was "Jennifer's Body". Might as well be as no one I know would watch it with me.

Megan Fox plays a nasty, evil carnivore looking to spill blood and gore as she feasts on human entrails. But all that's just metaphorical as the movie focuses on her BFF, "Needy", and all the fears and insecurities of a teenage girl growing up.

Best friends are forever, right? But what if your best friend turned into a monster overnight? What if your best friend starts behaving in ways your mother told you never to? What if she makes it a point to steal your boyfriend and other boys that show an interest in you?

For the boys, there's always the fear that if an attractive girl shows interest in you, it must be too good to be true. And many times, it is. At the back of your mind, you know that all she wants is a piece of you -- and in Jennifer's case, lots of pieces. It's the fear of the male black widow spider; the male preying mantis; egged on by the need to fertilize, yet helpless to change his fate.

And remember mother's advice about never getting into a strange van with strange boys? Yep, that's what kicks off this gruesome morality play in the first place. Jennifer is never quite the same after that night.

"Jennifer's Body" is horror in the category of teenager vs monster with superpowers. More thrill than chill, really. What's interesting is that the fears are both common and real, though we don't usually think of them as particularly monstrous. They are fears we eventually outgrow, but to a teenager experiencing them, it sometimes does feel like something's eating away at one's insides. Her name, we know now, is Jennifer.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The tadpole has blossomed

Completed a marathon week of consults with the kids. Never talked so much in all my life. Every consult, whether small group or lone student seems to go by so quickly. Before I know it, the next consult has arrived and awaits my attention. This goes on pretty much the whole day, with a break for some lunch in between.

I'm actually having fun 'cos as I go over questions I keep unearthing new ideas while I practice sharing them with the kids in terms they can understand. It's great when they do, but when they don't, it's an opportunity to try harder and come up with some kind of explanation, even an analogy, that does work.

Like this one consult who wrote a generally decent enough essay including a point on how international cooperation is increasing in the area of environmental conservation. Then he promptly followed up with an example: the failure of the Kyoto Protocol in getting the USA to ratify the agreement. O_o I asked him why he produced this piece of evidence, he said it was an example he recalled from his revision notes. Every claim must have an example and this was an example, was it not?

Indeed, it was an example. But it's like a defence attorney asserting that the defendant did not commit the murder, and here's the bloody dagger with his fingerprints all over the handle to prove it.

That's the danger of blindly applying formula, doing things because one must because it is integral to the formula, rather than for a reason and a purpose towards developing a logical argument. I believe he got my point, and hopefully he won't make the same mistake again.

Anyway, I didn't mean to relate that story. What I did want to say is that after a week of near non-stop talk for hours on end, the tadpole from last week has blossomed into a full-blown bullfrog in my throat. Henceforth I shall be known as the Hoarse Whisperer. I'm taking a vow of silence to last me through the weekend. Maybe the rest will restore my golden honeyed tones once again, allowing me to survive one last (packed) week of consults before (finally) the Finals.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nerdy English teacher

Just kicking back and playing with the Times Online Spelling Bee training games. That's so uncool in a nerdy English teacher kind of way.

Maybe I should recommend the URL to my kids in case they need to take an educational break from their preparations for their finals? Sure,why not? And while I'm at it, I should wipe off the smears on my glasses and replace the pencil that's fallen out of my pocket protector too.

Sorry, what? Oh, A-P-O-G-E-E....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We won? Wha...?

I am in shock. Despite my spectacular FAIL-ed presentation on Monday, we still came up tops in the final vote tally. That'll teach me to think that I alone carried the hopes and dreams of the team, and that my failure amounted to the group's failure. All in all, it was the strength of the team and our collective efforts that carried the vote and earned the recognition, not the flash and splash (and crash) of the presentation that followed.

Though I wouldn't underestimate the power of the sympathy vote, I am truly humbled by this odd turn of events. Thank you, team; and thank you, voters!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Culture of excess

Funny that I was just discussing with the kids the concept of our "culture of excess", and this evening when I watched "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" with the usual bunch of delinquents, there was a movie that embodied the implications of such a culture and its terrible impact on us if we can't find an "off" switch to hit, and quickly too.

Our culture of excess is the result of our success at turning every natural resource available into food or other consumables for our convenience. Like the food making machine in "Meatballs", our own industrial processes have gone into overdrive, cranking out more, bigger, better(?)... things, and as fast as they can crank, we likewise guzzle, utilize and (up)chuck, like we were in a race to see who would break down and give up first.

At first, it's all good. People need food to live and to have a constant supply of food might well be like it all just fell from the sky. But the more people get, the more people want until the whole system is all about providing more than is possible to want, without heed to the consequences. That is, until disaster strikes then we do what we do best -- survive, and learn from the experience.

But instead of being preachy, "Meatballs" provides a such banquet of laughs and gags that the idea and need for social responsibility over indiscriminate consumption is easy to swallow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The goat

Sometimes, you get a crazy idea and you run with it like a baton in the 4x100m. You think that's the innovation that's going to win it for the team and you get carried away with the euphoria of being the hero for once. Then next thing you know, you've tripped over your own feet and you're face-down in the mud. Once again, as always, the goat.

But my friends are the understanding sort. They entertain, even encourage my crazy ideas even though that usually results in a downward-spiralling pyre of disaster. And if I crash and burn, well, it was a high-risk, high-return play that didn't pan out the way we'd hoped. Oh, well.

After so many disappointments, hope they'll still have faith in me and my crazy ideas. Some day, I'm gonna get it right.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

X-species oral interfacing

As a pet owner, do I kiss my pets on the mouth? Some pet owners do, apparently, and Ronnie Lim opens up on his fears that doing so may cause diseases to jump between dog and his best friend as a result. That's just paranoia and sensationalizing his point. There is a much greater likelihood of people passing on diseases to other people through a face-to-face liplock than some exotic new infection blossoming between the species. And even then, we're not going to stop people from snogging each other, are we?

There's a simpler reason for not kissing pets on the mouth. One word answer: Yuck! Two word answer: That's gross! Q-tip's a sweet little thing, but her dogbreath would corrode galvanized sheet metal. And no way I'm kissing my cats on the mouth. I have no desire to go to the hospital and have them surgically removed from my face for no good reason. Not that there is a good reason for that -- ever.

So, Ronnie, as far as I can tell, too few of us are into French-ing our poodles to storm the Bastille over the issue. Thanks for overreacting.