Thursday, April 2, 2009

It's a wrap!

The semester's finally over. It's time to wrap things up.

Fact: I like this reading and project subject with Dr. Edwin. The main reason is because it is examination-less, so there were no pressure. It was just fun learning for knowledge, without having that dread that I have to memorize this and that; that will in the end become something meaningless. If only ALL subjects were like this, I'd have a blast.

Anyway, to compensate with the exam-lessness, we have major courseworks to be done,and the most important one is the final project research paper. I had fun doing it and my supervisor wasn't a pain the you-know-where like I thought he would be. He was pretty lenient about things, and we just have to follow HIS way of writing. My paper is on the effects of war on soldiers, so I had to do research about trench war and combat stress reaction and stuff like that. I actually went to the main library to find resources. I am proud of myself. And since my texts are poems by Wilfred Owen (duh), I got to read more about him, like the fact that he died one week before war ended at the age of 25. That was really sad.

So yeah, I learned a lot in this course and I enjoyed it. Doing all those courseworks made me learn actual things, not like those compulsary university subjects where the courseworks are meaningless plagirism. I did not just say the 'p' word, did I? I'm just being blunt.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Classical music in the classroom: Use it or scrape it?

Sorry Dr. Edwin, but I have to say scrape it.

Dr. Edwin gave us a crash-course on classical music, making us shut up and listen to Vivaldi, Mozart and other artists whose names I can't spell. It was good to listen for a while, something different from what I usually listen...then 5 minutes later I almost nodded off.

I reckon if I do the same thing for my students, they'll be wondering what era I came from and fall asleep nicely from the soothing classical music.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but I think it is not so suitable for our students. Nonetheless, it is good for students to know other genres of music, and give them crash-course too.

Call me a Philistine, but I can't, I'm unable, and I don't have the ability to appreciate classical music. All that classical music evokes in me is a certain movie scene that may have that music in it. If not, I'd be thinking of a play scene, a pantomime that would go nicely with the music. And that's about it.

But having at least a little piece of knowledge on classical music is good, I should think. So I can feigned shockness and scorn people who haven't the slightest idea of who Vivaldi is - that'd be fun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trip to an artist’s gallery

Last Saturday, we went to Melaka to visit a local artist, Mr. Tham Swee Inn. It was an eye opening experience as we’ve never met a real life artist before, nor entering the abode of one.

The first thing that astonished me was Mr. Tham’s appearance. He has this disheveled look with his long grey hair (which was balding on top) and long white beard and moustache that seem to whip his lips every time he opens his mouth to speak. He wore those classic white shirts that Chinese octogenarians would wear as they hang at a coffee shop with one of their legs up on the stool. However, he had clear brown eyes that sparkle with life and every wrinkle that lined his face marks different experiences from his backpacking stint all over the world to get inspired.

He explained to us all about his work. Like any other artist, his style changes as time goes by. He told us to note the differences in his work, between 30 years ago and 5 years ago. When he was younger, he paid attention to every minute detail which came off stunningly beautiful. My favorite was his very detailed series of paintings when he was in Peru. As he grew older with experience, his eye for details slightly fails him as he now draws with less precision of the real thing, rather leaving it looking more abstract, yet still maintaining its beauty.

I am amazed by this old man and his talent. He drew buildings and ships, but not once he said, he used a ruler or any lining apparatus. You just can’t believe how precise his drawing and how straight the edges was. Plus, he doesn’t sketch with a pencil first. He straight away paints.

One thing we learned was how to look at a piece of art. Especially those huge abstract paintings that look like it was drawn by your 5 year old nephew. Apparently, the bigger the paintings are, the further you have to be to look at the painting. We soon huddled up as far as we could from his painting and finally see it. All these times, I thought those abstract paintings are random colours being mixed and swathed as an expression of a disturbed emotion. IT’S NOT. It is actually a scenery. I felt so thick and I guess the others felt similarly too. And another unique thing about these big abstracty paintings is that you have to stand at the centre of the painting and get your photo taken with the painting serving as a full backdrop in your photo. I became the ‘model’ to do this for one of the artist’s cloud scenery painting and yes, I looked like I’m standing behind blue clouds. It was so cool.

We soon got to find out that this artist is fabulously rich as massive companies buy his works like Bank Negara, MAS and Genting Highlands Bhd, to name a few. He even creates sculptures for skyscrapers in KL. The most interesting thing is, he doesn’t even look like a million dollars, nor does his humble abode. If you look at his house, you’d think he’s living off his monthly RM800 pension. He doesn’t have exquisite decorations, expensive marble tiling nor a flameless stove. He lives a perfectly moderate, simple and perhaps rustic life. I admire this quality of his the most as he manages to keep his feet grounded and does not rush to buy upgrades for his house every time thousands of dollars comes flowing to his bank account. An old buoy, a bathtub as a pond and simple marbles cemented on his garage is enough for him. Yes, being the artist that he is, he collects weird trinkets to be made as his house deco. Then again, we didn’t go to his room upstairs. For all we know, he probably has a 40” plasma TV, a Wii and a space rocket in his room.

All in all, it was a great experience and I’m really glad we made this trip. We get to see the life and works of a true artist, something that we don’t always get to do. I saw his backpacking photos, and I’m inspired to go backpacking someday, do things that I want to do, and just to get inspired.

Heck, I’ll probably dabble in painting and charge RM10k for each of my artistic work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Freedom Writer: Can we do it?

I watched the movie last week. It is one of those 'teacher' movies that you have to watch as it inspires you to make a difference.

And I think it definitely does.

If only we could do the same thing for our students. Our students aren't very different from the students portrayed in the movie. Our students are racists themselves, whether we want to accept it or not. If only we have a resource center like that center built in memory of the Holocaust victims and survivors in the movie. Maybe some place where students can see the horror of the May 13th incident?

Giving students journals to write on it is a terrific idea too. In fact, I already had mind to that for my students when I go out teaching. I think it is a great way to encourage students to write, as they do not have the fear of being evaluated; plus, it is a good way for students to express themselves.

I hope I can be like Erin Gruwell, inspiring students to be whatever they want to be (minus the divorce part though).

She is what teachers are suppose to be.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pop art rules!

I think Andy Warhol was wicked. He had the most psychedelic sense of art and vision, and he worked it to the fullest. Being a child growing up with depression and diseased, it is a wonder how he could see life in a bright and colourful way. Or was it his way to compensate for the darkness that he went through? There were some of his arts that dealt with serious issues like death and redemption, but he looked at in a way that nobody had ever thought of. The reprinting, recolouring and the random placement of various objects – it’s bizarre yet brilliant, and that made him a star. One wonders how his mind worked. He interpreted the classic works like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper in the most unconventional way, placing the Dove brand logo, a company logo and a price tag on it. How did he ever come up with such absurdity?

I guess, he was just special. Whether it was because of his demented childhood or it was a gift from God, he did not let his talent slip away but he worked it, and boy, he worked it hard. I guess we could learn a thing or two from this eccentric guy. Use your ability to the fullest; don’t begrudge your past, rather learn from it to make a better future.

Who knows, you might be the next Andy Warhol.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is it worth it at all?

Nelson Mandela. He rose above prison, torture and inequality. He rose above it all. And it was worth every damn second of his life.

Sometimes I wonder, how was he able to do it? He found a bigger cause than he is, and he fought through it. He put his life on hold for 30 years in prison for his people. But it was worth it; he won the battle and became president. But what if he never got elected as president, would it have been worth while anyway?

He is probably one of the strongest-willed men in history, I guess. Imagine, the psychological torture that he had to go through to break his spirit, to push his sanity and to just stop fighting the ‘power’. Dr. Edwin said it is almost similar in the ISA, where psychological torture is inflicted to a ‘rebellion’ to break his or her spirit. Imagine all the life you know and just being wiped out, just because your belief doesn’t coincide with the ‘right’ one. Imagine all your photos, memorabilia , personal documents burnt down to the grown to put out your fiery passion of what you believe in. Is it worth it all? For an extraordinary man like Mandela, it probably is.

Only the gifted like Mandela thinks it is worth it.

But how about us mere humans? Are we able to ever, ever fight for a cause that might put our lives and other people’s lives at risk?

Sometimes I think being dead is better than turning into a person who has lost everything, especially his or her memories; because he or she is good as dead.
So how about dying for a cause, is it worth it all?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Marginalised and Low

Humans are low. Marginalising people according to their skin and gender. Just because they were a little darker and didn't have a penis, they were sidelined. But they rose above. So kudos to these so-called marginalised writers.

What is amazing about these marginalised writers is that in their writing, they capture the reality of being discriminated. While other 'white' and 'male' poets were whining about love and nature, they were coping with the agony of discrimination. And that what makes their literary works transcend time. Because today, humans are still low.

Dr. Edwin read us a Hilary Tham poem, and I find it really novel - especially with the comparison of a wilted rose to a 'spent cock'. Some may find it crude and obscene, but I find it novel. Many male poets used the female sexual organs in their poems, so was Hilary Tham backlashing? Was she making a bold statement? Whatever it was that went through her head, I thought the image made "The Rose" a brilliant poem.

However, when you look at Malaysian female writers, they don't seemed to be marginalised, because of the many published works by them. They talk about discrimination, tradition, abuse, poverty and many more. Our Malaysian female writers ARE as good as men. It's nice to see that they are acknowledged.

Maybe we are not so low after all.