Monday, March 27, 2006

More Spelling Fun!

The standard of english in Singapore's educational institutions have been declining the last few years. It is in such an appalling state (just look at the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes I've already made!) that I feel more a further need to teach the kids out there how to spell. But given the limited space I have and having much less popularity than Miss Wendy Cheng (who, incidentally doesn't use very good English either... oh don't flame me though), I shall restrict myself to my oft-cited letter of late: the letter 'V'!

V is (also) for 'Very-long-time-never-see-you': As Stripey has chosen to point out to me, he hasn't seen me for a very long time. Which is, of course, no longer true since I just saw him for dinner today and we had a nice chat at a Kiliney Kopitiam. I think we were both somewhat disappointed with Mai Otome, but on the whole, the series does have its merits. We also discussed the economics of the wedding dinner, and cbk also contributed a new term in my expanding lexicon: the XMM (Xiao Mei Mei; more on other 3 letter shortening of useful phrases some other time).

Also, to Stripey, cbk (aka the Chongster) and zw, I'll be off to La France in May and June, so you guys may use that 'Very-long-time-never-see-you' phrase on me again some time later this year. But rest assured: I won't miss any of your weddings if I can help it! (not that there are many in the first place!)

V is (also) for 'Verisimilitude': I first learnt this big word in university. To be honest, I still don't really know how to use it in a sentence, but suffice to say, to describe something as having verisimilitude is to say that it looks realistic. The phrase first came to my attention when I did classes on American Film (cross-faculty module alas - I wasn't an Arts student). It was a bombastic word to describe scenes we saw on film, whether or not it looked realistic. You won't believe it now, but in the 1930s, films in black and white with cardboard backdrops actually looked realistic to viewers then (they had vintage, those films... can't say the same for nosh like 'Attack of the Clones' - yuck). Another big word I learnt back then was mise-en-scene - something to mean cinematography, though not quite technical.

V is (also) for 'Victory', 'Valour', 'Vigilance', 'Vengeance', 'Vigour' and 'Valiant': Somebody back in the 80s had the bright idea to name the (then) new missile corvettes (MCV) using the letter 'V' (no doubt, he must have read 'V for Vendetta', that 'V' focused spelling book). Somebody should have pointed out to him that 'Valour' and 'Valiant' somewhat mean the same thing, but that fact was probably lost on the powers that be in the navy at that time. Having served my NS in the navy, the MCVs were the pride of the navy (then... probably not so much now) and their names evoked enVy.

I wanted to say, though, that despite the somewhat fancy names, the MCVs have the best names in the entire fleet. Seriously, the name RSS Victory (or my fav: RSS Vengeance) evokes more awe than RSS Punggol (a mine clearing vessel, one of several named after ulu places in Singapore - it was ulu back then but not now), RSS Sea Lion (the navy wants you to think these are lions which surf the seven seas, and not the cousin of the seals of Ocean Park), RSS Endurance (it's a kind of 'garang' name, but it just shows how uncreative the bigwigs in the navy were - this name was recycled from an older ship), and RSS Brave (along with its patrol vessel brothers, Daring, Dauntless, Boring - kidding with that one - these ships further display the lack of ingenuity with ship names).

I think ships should be named after presidents and other kickass politicians, like its done in the US navy. Think RSS Yusof Ishak, or RSS Wee Kim Wee for a change. Well, these names don't exactly strike terror in a foreign naVy, but they definitely are a better way to remember a dead statesman (of course, the MAS can always top that by putting his excellency's face on a 2 dollar note). I hope the naVy does do something more creative with the upcoming frigates it is intending to purchase though.

That's it for now - no more V-ishness and hopefully I haven't crossed the line with that irresponsible defense nonsense. Cheers and Vive la Franc3! (in slightly more than a month's time!)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

V is for...

If you haven't seen V for Vendetta (the movie) or read V for Vendetta (the far better done graphic novel) then you probably wouldn't know what I'm talking about.

In any case, go see the movie - it's great! It's a good hard critical look at fascism and anarchy, and it doesn't make a case for either (in the end). I was not that thrilled with the political ideas expounded by it; I was more intrigued with Alan Moore's clever wordplay.

Speaking of Alan Moore (and here, I digress), I somehow wished that he involves himself with the film creation process of his stories, rather than completely divorce himself from it. Prior to V for Vendetta, there was From Hell (Johnny Depp smoking pot and hunting Jack the Ripper), and there was A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Sean Connery leading Victorian-era X-Men in some swashbuckling adventure). Both stories seriously detracted from Moore's script, borrowing the premise, but none of the richness of ideas and philosophy. A pity: part of the beauty in reading an Alan Moore graphic novel is in recognising this guy's genius with wordplay, philosophy, and subtle references. V for Vendetta is much closer to the original story, but (like in Sin City) squeezing 3 stories into a movie makes scenes look rushed and rather badly paced.

V stood for many things in the movie. Besides being the character's chosen namesake, V represents the Roman numeral for 5. And if you analysed V's utterances carefully, he spoke in iambic pentameters, a system of rhyme with 5 beats composed of 2 syllables each. Also, in the original graphic novel, each chapter of the book was titled with a word beginning with V. V also stood for victory, especially so during WWII and the Allies' invasion of Normandy (another interesting fact: Beethoven's 5th symphony starts off with that famous 'da da da DUM', which is also Morse code for the letter 'V').

Anyway, since that book was such a great spelling book, I decided to do my own version of it. Here's my "V is for..." list:

V is for Van Zandt: this man is a faculty at INSEAD (sighs, that's all I can talk about these days). He taught the Singapore folks Prices and Markets, which is really just a fancy name for Microeconomics and some Game Theory. I've never seen a professor that was so dedicated to helping his students learn: he seriously did a lot to help us all understand, so much so that we ended up misunderstanding at times. 10 points for effort though: he's always trying. Wished INSEAD would give him some kind of award.

V is for Vandalism: the 2 front doors of my car have been purposely scratched. I do not understand the penchant for people to go scratch paint off other peoples' property. There is no justice in it, and exactly what kind of a kick comes out of doing such an irresponsible act? Sure, the other guy parked too close for comfort, but that's no reason to vent your frustration in such a manner. Seriously, car drivers in Singapore are a juvenile bunch: they drive like they own the road; they think having a car is a big deal; and they can't deal with having their so-called freedoms infringed upon. Grow up Singapore car drivers (of course this does not apply to all drivers, so don't take this personally).

V is also Roman numeral for 5: 5 is the number of periods I have to go through for this fricking MBA. 5 is the month that I celebrate my birthday in. 5 is a television channel which is always playing catch-up with the local cable provider. 5 is the number of fingers on my hand (ah duh). 5 is the mental age I lower myself to whenever I throw a tantrum (which I don't, anymore). 5 is so many other things I can't finish numbering them off, so I'll stop with 5 of them.

V is for Ventriloquism, a word I had to look up to spell properly: once upon a time, way back when I was a Primary 6 kid in a mission school, a friend of mine and I decided to do a 'Xiang Sheng' (a Chinese comedic performance, click link and check with professor wiki). To 'spice' up our act, we decided to incorporate a puppet into the act. My friend was supposed to do the ventriloquist part and play with the puppet. Faced with a lack of resources, our puppet was a toy koala bear my sister owned. The soft toy was of the kind where you can stick a hand into it and manipulate its head and 2 little arms. Our act got into a little trouble with the Chinese teacher, and it got canned. (and so ends my brief attempt at a showbiz career).

Right, its late and I need to sleep. Thanks for dropping by and today's program was brought to you by the letter V, and the number 5.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A new period begins...

I'm a slacker blogger, that I admit. I've not blogged as much as I wanted to because the events of the last few weeks have transpired to rob me of that precious commodity of time.

There were the exams: the Z-curve freaked everyone out. MBAs just can't deal with competition in a laissez-faire manner: someone's got to be at the bottom, and its not going to be me, so that's what I'm studying so hard for. Couple the Z-curve with the fact that everyone of us had a heavy dose of game theory in the economics course, and you've got a phobic bunch indeed.

The logic goes like this:

1. I have to study real hard. Why? Because I don't want to end up at the bottom of the Z-curve and repeat any particular course.

2. It appears that 4-5% of people will fail anyway, regardless of how well he does. So this means that the profs will fail someone.

3. This means that if we have a hard subject (like Accounting or Finance), then its all the more important to work really hard for it. Why? Because I can't afford to fail them.

4. Hey, wait a minute. What about the easy subjects? No good: the 'spread', or to use the statistics phrase, the sigma will not be significantly big. This means that the everyone's scores is likely to bunch around the same general score.

5. That's not good either. Because it means that if I'm unable to answer any particular question at all I'm doomed! Everyone else will do better than myself and I'll repeat the course later!

6. Ergo: study like a maniac and burn precious time doing so. Its the only dominant strategy because that guarantees that those who don't study as hard won't do well (unless they already come with the experience, the bastards...)

Still, it was great fun. I actually made quite a few friends while cramming for the exams, especially those from the other section.

Oh yes, and then there was the post-exam party: champagne, high-class joint, then club.


What? You want me to talk about it? Right after the last paper (damn Finance. Damn Lily Fang) we headed to the roof for champagne, paid out from the pockets of latecomers, sleepers, and the cell phone misdemeanors in class. I happened to have landed in each category exactly once, had the grand honour of having my sleepy pic taken, so I was part of the contribution. I will not describe the late night hijinks at the night club, but it was sufficiently late to rob me of any sleep because I was catching a plane at 7.05am the next day.

7.05 Thursday morning: JetStarAsia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Followed on Friday with a boat ride up the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap to see Mr Ang Call What. :) My bad: Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat brought out the tomb raider in me: alas I lacked the assets to match those of Lara Croft, and the weaponry too. Still, it didn't stop a crazy bunch of Inseaders from invading the temples and making inane comments.

"Wow, take a look at that great carving."

"It is really beautiful isn't it?"


"It is so amazing."

And so on and forth - our vocabulary failed us when it came to being awestruck, and after the 50th "Wow, take a look at that" one suffers serious temple fatigue. However, Angkor Wat and the other temples in the area (Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom, Bantay Srey) are seriously worth a visit. I was of the spirit that I will visit the place again, and took the step of leaving my SLR at home as a result.

It felt weird going temple raiding without my SLR: there was so much that I could have captured on film (oh... on jpg if you insist). But you don't know the people I was travelling with: my slow speed through the temples would have brought my tuk-tuk buddies to tears with waiting. :) And spending 2 days there isn't much (too bad about the short break and rescheduled flight, sigh), so I swore I will go there again someday. At my own pace.

So there: the exams marked the end of a period. That short trip to a nearby country (did I mention going to the Killing Fields? No? Maybe next time.) brought me closer to a few of the friends I've made. To round off, today then marked the beginning of the new period, missing students et al. It was weird to have a third of the class missing in action but hey, these MBAs party hard (and cutting a few classes shouldn't get in the way of it... damn banking / consulting smirks - why are they even here?).

Class begins again...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Gay, gay, it's all so gay

The usual suspects gathered around a little table, lightly munching on their dinner. Banter went back and forth - everyone wanted to talk, no one was really listening. There was no point in the discussion: the only reason why there's conversation is so everyone could relax, and could feel at ease. It was going to be a heavy week ahead.

So, an innocuous question then: he turned his head towards the German, and utters 'Hey, by the way, are you gay?'

The answer shocks the whole world (or at least where le monde meant the 6 souls round that little table): 'Technically, yes. But unfortunately, as you know, my girlfriend and I aren't open about it.'

Ears pricked, forks lowered. No one uttered a word.

'See, her parents are really conservative people. They've not bought into the idea of a white guy marrying their daughter.'

Something seemed wrong - what's him being gay got to do with it?

'Well, we shall have to see if it all works out. We don't know yet what we'll do about it.'

Someone finally spoke: 'Er... what was the original question?'

'I asked if he is... well... gay...'

'GAY? I thought you were asking if I was engaged!'

Tears in my eyes, endorphines in the bloodstream - haven't had such a good laugh in a while. :) Don't think I was able to recreate the entire conversation (word for word) but its approximately that.