Saturday, April 02, 2011

Don't get your Hops up

I expected a lot more from 'Hop', coming from the same studio that gave us 'Despicable Me'. Maybe it's because Easter lacks the commercial mythos that Christmas has embodied so richly that there's little there to connect us with the characters in Hop. Neither the traditions nor the rituals associated with the Easter Bunny are familiar to us, so we don't really care if we don't get our Easter baskets this year. We never did, anyway.

What's left of the movie is the familiar theme of slacker sons disappointing their fathers. EB runs away from his *groan* Easter Island home to chase his rockstar dreams -- the heck with inheriting the mantle of Easter Bunny from his ageing predecessor. In Hollywood, Fred has no idea what he wants to do other than 'something great', but since nothing like that has approached him yet he remains in a perpetual state of employment limbo, which does not amuse his father [hmm... sounds familiar, heh].

When 'toon Bunny meets live-action human, we have an 'Odd Couple' pairing -- and the accompanying gags therein -- while they help sort each other out. But when Fred is mistaken for having killed EB by the no-nonsense Pink Berets, EB has to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his friend. At this point, the Prodigal Son becomes a badly (barely?)-disguised Messiah figure whose 'resurrection' facilitates reconciliation with their respective fathers.

'Hop' is mostly a series of cheap running gags (which isn't so bad in itself) but with little depth of character development. Without a serious antagonist (Carlos, the chick, is at best a distraction), both EB and Fred can only fight their fathers' aspirations for them and their own egos simultaneously, which for an animation is a bit too inward-looking. Mixing animation with live-action limits the potential for out-of-this world situational wackiness, which is what we're looking for in an animation in the first place. Lol moments there were, but they didn't really string together for me.

Too bad. The cartoon magic formula didn't happen here. Hop away, l'il bunny. No carrot for you.

Friday, April 01, 2011


It's a relief to get Rod finally back on board to direct Drama Night. We've never left it till so late before to begin preparations, but the kids have been matching their abilities to their ambitions and, in fact, have a plan meticulously crafted out and are determined to see it through.

In less than eight weeks, through thrice weekly evening rehearsals the show will go on. The kids have worked out exactly what they intend to accomplish at every session till curtain: recruitment, training, blocking, logistics, publicity, they've practically usurped the need for staff advisors and are running the theatre all on their own.

And we have Rod to ensure the QC and the professional experience. I like the way he works because he has a very keen eye for detail and nuance. He'll say if what the actors are offering is not working, but in a diplomatic way while suggesting other options to experiment with. Need I say, comedy is his forte? The kids are getting an education in how much hard work goes into getting laughs from the audience.

Now that I have the kids' assurance that they've taken full ownership of production, I can focus my attention on documenting their process with my trusty digicam. If I can get the publicity crew's assistance in this, so much the better. Expect more pix soon!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Like almost new

Nothing like having a freshly serviced M2 to drive around in. Fresh oil and filters, tyres rotated, wheels aligned, and a new layer of wax to make him look spiffy again. And floor mats vacuumed too -- a slight source of embarrassment for me because while I'm paying for his daily wash, that's only for the outside. Inside, I haven't bothered to maintain, so he was starting to get quite grungy where it matters most.

The main difference is that he's regained his responsiveness to the lightest touch. Have to remember to avoid my usual ham-fisted approach to gripping the wheel and stamping on the brakes. Not for the next 10,000 kliks, anyway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Caution: contains content

It's a familiar problem: kids think all essay questions are actually the same question. Give them a set of 12 to choose from and whichever one they pick they will invariably interpret as, 'what can you recall about (topic x)?' Then they respond accordingly; with a spew of random facts about said topic and not much else.

Hence the danger of focusing too tightly on 'covering content' in our syllabus. Content is a drug we push and the kids are our willing dopeheads. Being able to memorize content gets them high because they can sense a tangible outcome from the effort expended in hoarding up this precious resource only we, the gurus on the mountain-top, can provide.

What gets them down-to-earth again is when they try to recall in an essay what we had indulgently doled out to them in class, but for their written effort we fail them for 'not answering the question'. Because they fail (at least to meet their own expectations) they crave more content, so we give them more content and it's a never ending cycle.

Conclusion: having as much content knowledge as a kid's brain can store never helped a kid answer an essay question satisfactorily. In GP (and I suspect in any other essay-based exam) the test isn't on what a kid can recall per se, but on how well the kid can use what he can recall in the most appropriate and succinct way. Therefore, by first learning the skill of addressing an essay question, the kid can make the best use of what little content knowledge he has and bring it all to bear on answering the question. Of course, the more content he has, the better substantiated his answer will be, but at least he knows how to answer the question regardless.

I'm saying this because our current kid demographic has to fulfill higher expectations than ever. In the not-too-distant-past, we were happy that they could even pass. Given enough content, most could scrape through get by. But today, our kids expect A/B 'quality grades' -- and they're capable of meeting those expectations with the right kind of training.

It's back to the old drawing board for us to design out methods that don't work for today's expectations even if they had worked well enough yesterday; and design in new methods that are needed for a new breed of kids with new expectations.

Cutting edge industry, we are!

Monday, March 28, 2011

They return with tribute

It was nice of a trio of graduated students to unexpectedly return and say 'Hi' to their former tutors early this morning. They brought a little tribute with them too, in the form of fruit, processed cocoa products and a handwritten thank-you note. Always nice to receive windfalls, but nicer to see that they've been able to take and use the skills and ideas we offer to move themselves ahead onto the next stage of their lives.