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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lo and behold, your supervisor!

It felt like judgment day. And he is God. Dr. Edwin, that is. He, who selects his people, assigns them with his fellow rulers. He who has transgressed the most, will be assigned with Hades, Lord of the Underworld. And I, I have transgressed. I got Hades. I buried myself deep in the cold earth.

Okay, so I’m being a little too dramatic. But it was scary. We were crossing our fingers till it became entangled to get the ‘good’ supervisors. Yes, we have judged and ‘categorized’ them into good and bad. And yes, we know it’s uncalled for but we are students and that’s what we do. And because of that, I got one of the ‘bad’ ones, while my other sinful friends escaped unscathed.

Why we say ‘bad’ is because we have heard many grueling stories about him.

Then I picked myself up. It can’t be that bad? I’m going to have to will it if I have too. My fellow supervisee mates and I had already made a date with him. We will prevail.

But he canceled our very first meeting. Awesome.

Luckily (we still had luck to back us up) he is teaching us this semester, so it was easier for us to ‘catch’ him. So we finally had that bloody meeting. And he was…okay I guess? He just told us to do whatever we want as long as it pertains to literature, and since literature is not his cup of tea, he doesn’t give two hoots of whatever topic or text we want to use. That’s good, I guess? But I wished he could give us at least a little restriction so that we won’t swerve out of track. However, there was something off with his minor requirement for our paper. He wants our paper to be like a CONVENTIONAL RESEARCH PAPER, with ABSTRACT, LITERATURE REVIEW, METHODOLOGY and DATA. I had this really flabbergasted face in which he instantly asked me to wipe off. He told us it’s going to be okay, that we don’t have to think it too hard. Right. Face, still flabbergasted.

All in all, I realized he’s not that bad. Since we’re having classes with him this semester, it’s easier for us to hunt him down and have regular meetings with him. Plus, he seems like a nice supervisor, though slightly demented.
We will all get through this. We will prevail.

Road to Confusion

Bahira came to class with a DVD in hand. “Dr. Edwin wants us to watch this,” she said. “He wants us to observe the teacher in the story and his teaching method,” she continued. Or I think she said that. Well anyway, we just have to pay close attention to the teacher and anything to do about teaching. The title of the movie is Road Home, and Jessie squealed in familiarity. “It’s about a teacher teaching in a rustic village, whereby the teacher just continued her lesson even though she has only one student attending,” she claimed.

So we sat down and watch the movie and waited for the dedicated teacher in the movie to inspire us. And waited. Anytime soon we thought, probably during the flashback. Probably when the silly girl stops being silly. Probably when the girl finally gets the teacher. Probably when…wait, flashback’s over, and the story ends with the narrator teaching at his father’s school. Jessie said it might be the wrong movie, but same director.

There was barely anything about any teaching methods – only the part where the teacher walks along the road with his student memorizing lines out loud, as in a drill. The story is mainly about a silly little girl who is infatuated with a Neanderthal-ish teacher with really bad hair and how she stupidly brought agony on to herself (I know I’m being too critical of her, but I really hated her needy, stalker -like character). We were confused. If Dr. Edwin meant this as a prank for us, then he is an absolute genius.

Dr. Edwin said we probably read the movie wrong. Maybe we did. He is yet to explain this nasty joke to us.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm a trampoline

Next year, I will be starting my life as a teacher. It’s hard to perceive myself as a teacher, as I have never thought of becoming one. Well of course, I want to be a good teacher. But what makes a good teacher? I think a fun and inspiring one is. So, I want students to have fun learning. I want students to dream big and go for it. I want to inspire them to reach for the sky. But if ever they fall, I want to be there to catch them and start over.

That would make me…a trampoline. Yes, I see myself as a trampoline for my students.

Trampolines are fun. I want my students to have fun learning in my class, take learning as a fun experience. When they enjoy a lesson, it automatically sticks in their head.

Trampolines enable you to jump higher than you normally could. I want that for my students. I want to help them to jump higher and touch the sky. I want to inspire them to dream big, and work hard to reach it.

And finally, trampolines are always there to fall on. I want to always be there for them. Their aims and goals may not be able to be realized, so I can be their safety net. Once they have taken the fall, I will encourage them to try again. They will learn to jump high again.

The question is, am I capable to be their trampoline?

I'm learning.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Writing the position paper: I think I’m screwed

I have started writing the position paper, and have finished writing it actually. I have started writing it right after Mr. Omit approved my thesis statement. But to start writing was not as easy as I thought it would be, even though I have all the necessary arguments. It took me about three hours just to come up with the introduction, and I needed two hours to write each subsequent paragraphs. I guess that is why they called it a “position paper” and not just some essay. However, I enjoyed writing it. Probably because it made me think critically for my stand was of my own, not something lifted from the world wide web. I have a problem though, I only have four arguments to justify stand. Friends said that Mr. Omit asks us to provide 4 to 5 points, which means mine is sufficient enough, but I remembered clearly that Dr. Edwin mentioned 5. The poem that I’m writing on has 4 stanzas, so that makes the 4 points. And if Dr. Edwin’s instruction overrules Mr. Omit’s (which obviously will be), that means I’m so screwed. My backup plan? A paragraph for a counter-argument. The problem? Neither Mr. Omit nor Dr. Edwin mentioned about writing counter-arguments. I’m so screwed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Suffering from writer's block

Like, seriously.
We had out tutorial class with Mr. Omit yesterday, and he was yakking away about what a thesis statement is and what a thesis statement is not. He gave examples, made us give examples...but still, it was a cloudy blur. I gave my example of thesis statement which I came up in precisely one minute, and he said it was 'goood' but the words just don't fit in. I think I'm less an idiot now (for risking to look like an idiot), but, that didn't really help in making me really understand what a thesis statement is and what thesis statement is not. And another thing - he said that we can only write our position papers from a list of literary text that he will give us. We were copying the list of literature text when half way he said, "but you can choose your own text." We were like, "great - could've wring our brains for ideas in the past week and don't do it at the last minute." Oh well.
So now, I'm suffering from writer's block. And I haven't started writing yet! Just couldn't think of a text. I have to either choose a text from the list he gave us, or choose my own. Both with its own risk. If I choose a text from the list, I might not be able to write about it, because I might not have much opinions about it, but the tutor is familiar with the text; and vice versa.
So, which should I choose? The tutor or my guts? The two roads that diverged in the woods...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Icarus, the Turtle Spirit and Mahabharata

Finally my head’s cleared about what’s so important about a naked guy falling down from the sky, namely Icarus, the Turtle spirit story which I thought was ‘blah’ and the Mahabharata.

Okay, Icarus may, or may not be naked – it was just some of the artists’ impression of him. Anyways. He’s not just some kid who were given a pair of wings by his dad to fly and got too near to the sun and melted the wax off his wings.

He represents freedom. He represents the Romantic spirit. He represents aspiration. He represents individualism. So we were told by Dr. Edwin. It makes so much sense now. But he fell into the sea and died. That was the price to pay to be different, to be unconventional. He’s not herding sheep or fishing out of necessity like everyone else, he is flying. FLYING! How many people can do that? Well of course, there is that thing called an aeroplane, but that’s not the point. He dared to reach for the sky, but he fell. Like the saying goes, “what goes up, must come down.” Moral of the story is, if we dare to dream big, to fly, we must dare to fail, and to fall someday.

As for The Son of The Turtle-Spirit, I finally got the whole idea about it. Or, I think I do. It’s about listening to your mother, yet defying another power. Is it wrong? Is it ethical? Of course you’d listen to your mother anytime of the day (or not), but she’s that one person who can make you do stuff (or not). Nobody else can, say, the government? There’s this rebellious voice of, “You’re not my mother, why should I listen to you?” Hence, the boy listened to his mother to replace the bones with his father’s inside the mud dragon’s mouth. But, what if the consequences are way bigger than your mother? Say, to cover the truth of your FBI-hunted dad’s whereabouts because your mother told you so? Would you obey your mother and deceive the FBIs, or disobey your mother and turn in your father? Indeed, from a simple tale, comes a not so simple value.

Now the Mahabharata. All I can say is, my interpretation is way, way off. I thought there’d be something bigger, but that’s just it. It’s just about sacrifice.

In which we will discuss with Dr. Edwin soon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The FIRST meeting with the Tutor

First day of tutorial class.

A decent, yet monotonous Iranian tutor.

He gave us ideas about what a thesis statement is, what a thesis statement is not. He told us to come up with thesis statements about our university and ourselves. Because I was too worried that my thesis statements would get rejected, I'd rather not share it. Now I'm not so sure if I will get it right or wrong. Mental note to self - voice out ideas eventhough it may make you look like an idiot, else you're an idiot anyhow.

I have actually thought of a thesis statement, more like I thought of the text I wanted to do. I wanted to do something on Of Mice and Men 'coz I love the story. However, I have to scrap that thought as the tutor will give us texts to choose. It may suck, it may not.

Looking forward the texts now. Crossing my fingers Of Mice and Men is one of them.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The FIRST post

So my first post is going to be about my first day of this reading and project class.

I entered the class, with maximum zest to learn.

Dr. Edwin, as usual, awesomely cynical, explained to us what we are going to expect throughout the semester and what are to be expected from us.

I exited the class, with maximum horror to just go on with life.

Position paper. Research paper. It's horrifying.

I can't even think of an acceptable thesis statement let alone write a 500 words position paper, and a 3000 words research paper. And to work with our yet-to-be-known supervisors? I had visions of unreplied text messages, rejected papers with bloody marks and M.I.A. supervisors. Scary! Besides, aren't we suppose to do this in our senior, and not now?

But I guess I'd have to suck it up then. I'm pretty sure out of my 74 suggested thesis statement, one will hit the spot. And I swear I will hunt down my supervisor at all cost. Maybe it won't be so bad after all. Maybe.

As for the readings, I find it really interesting. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. It actually makes you want to read it.
I read the Son of the Turtle Spirit and I thought...blah. I didn't get the deeper meaning of it.
I read the Mahabharata, and I had an interpretation different that everyone. I think that the fisherman's daughter is Shantanu's wife, reincarnated, and Dev's mother. So that's why Dev is willing to 'step down' from his future throne 'coz he knows he will be king anyway. So far, nobody has agreed with me yet.
I read Daedalus and Icarus...Inneresting, but I can't see why a naked guy falling from the sky can be made a great deal out of it -paintings, poems. There's so much I need to learn.

And that's what my next post will be: Understanding why a naked guy falling from the sky can be made a deal out of it. I assumed his naked from the paintings, so don't get me wrong.