Saturday, February 12, 2011


I like ballet. In short snippets at a time anyway. 'The Black Swan' presented enough to show how beautiful ballet is as a form of movement art. But it's also an art that demands pain as a sacrifice. Broken cuticles and ligament damage are par for the course. So is keeping weight off by avoiding food. For Nina Sayer (Natalie Portman), she also has to rely on constant social-life-killing practice to get her moves right, while struggling to grow up from an obsessive and overbearing parent, and maintaining her top billing for opening night.

Not surprisingly, the stress does eventually catch up with her, particularly over her understudy, Lily (Mila Kunis) who is more free-spirited and everything else she is not, traits she observes are more valued by the show's director than just her unwavering dedication to her craft.

Nina's paranoid delusions become increasingly disturbing. And because the camera tends to follow her around from a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, the audience appears to be a silent, helpless observer dragged through her waking nightmares. We can only watch as her perfectly controlled life and the achievement of her much desired success actually becomes the point where it all spirals downward, and Nina, pretty ballerina, crashes and burns.

It's good to be single-minded, and strive to achieve our goals in life. But 'The Black Swan' is a warning that there is a fine line between dedication and obsession. By sacrificing the development of every other aspect of one's humanity for the sake of perfecting one desired aspect, we lose more than we stand to gain. Or, in other words, work too hard, go crazy. Nothing new there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Decentralized gathering

The long-planned and anticipated evening of feasting and gaming took an unexpected detour when our gracious hostess succumbed to the flu bug that's been going around. Not wishing to interrupt her convalescence with our usual brand of social mayhem, and since the cake had already been bought, and since we'd already invited our old friends to meet and eat, the party split into two main groups for dinner in separate locations.

The newbies, being newbies, went to paint the town red... that is, red with the blood of "roast scallops, swordfish, fatty salmon, flounder, conch, octopus, binchou tuna, striped jack, sea bass, and zaru shell.... As well as roast egg with curry lobster, piping hot green tea, eye-watering horseradish" (qtd from Liz).

The more sedentary folks had a more sedate supper in the heartlands of AMK Hub where we also dined on some version of Japanese cuisine. Old friends we were glad to encounter once again were Mel (she in whose honour the cake was sacrificed), and NBS looking rather harried from her day at Head Office but none the worse for wear.

And, surprise, surprise, as I was on my way back to the parking lot, I bumped into Vays and family. The vibe through the Force must have been strong indeed to bring dNYel and our prodigals together today.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No free lunches

Officially been tasked as a Project Work supervisor for my civics group. Six project teams in all.

The Idea Factory dropped in to give us some ideas for in-class activities to stimulate collaborative and innovative thinking among the group members. A key point of this afternoon's workshop was that although we allow the initial creative process to flourish without the prejudice of both internal and external censor, all that creativity has to be eventually focused upon addressing a particular stakeholder's needs, wants or inconveniences. The better innovations deal with problems the client couldn't articulate or even didn't even know it had.

It was good for me to confirm an angle I was going for with my groups this year. The kids tend to think of their projects as philanthropic exercises. They usually want to help the disabled or the disadvantaged and hence would never consider charging for their eventual product or service. Noble, but ultimately pointless. Instead, I'd like them to think about providing a product or service they would pay hard cash for. The money factor is a practical reality check. It also reminds them that if no one would pay for their project, then no one would accept it for free either.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

First foot forward

NYeDC was off to a shaky start to the year as far as our budget went. We suffered big cuts and a temporary withholding of funds pending approval from some (much) higher authority. Nevertheless, the show has to go on.

As of today, we have decided on a script. It looks ambitious -- we haven't done a feature-length presentation in years -- and we only have 12 weeks to put it together. We have no full-time professional coach as yet, but Tina has at least agreed to help us with whatever time she can spare commensurate with whatever we can reasonably afford to pay her.

But what gives me hope for this year's production is the gung-ho spirit of the J2 exco coupled with a willingness to get things done. It's a group with ideas and is quite happy to run on its own. It's good when the staff (us) only need to provide moral support and encouragement rather than have to dictate and micromanage every step.

Other CCA groups are also keen to pitch in and help despite their own SYF commitments, so it's up to us to coordinate our schedules well and find the most efficient way to incorporate so many offers into a coherent production.

The journey to Drama Night 2011 begins with the first step. We have just placed our left foot forward, 'splat!'

Oh, and check out our official webbie ( for updates from the kids' pov.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Chinese New Year 2011, Day 4

A rather large gathering of the in-law clan including relatives visiting from Hainan. I look enormous in this pix, but it's really only an optical illusion. Really.