Thursday, January 21, 2010

College Life: Here We Go

It's been over one week since I entered college. Whoa! For all who want to know, I am currently enrolled in Taylor's College Sri Hartamas in the Cambridge A-Level (CAL) program.

I attended the orientation day on January 12 as one of over 200 students enrolled in the A-Levels. When I stepped into the college, I was a nervous wreck inside. The college was so imposing and terrifying, so HUGE. And the huge crowd of people at the entrance didn't help one bit. Almost everyone seemed to be sure of what they were doing, and everyone had their own group of friends to mingle with. I, being the only one from my school, was well and truly alone. And I felt the familiar, forgotten but nevertheless piercing feeling of inferiority; the fearful and timid feeling of being smaller, shorter, less intelligent, less attractive, less confident and less anything attacked me again. The last time I had this feeling was my first day in secondary school. After I became 'broken in' and accustomed to school life, I thought I had outgrown that phase. How wrong I was.

To cut a long story short, however, I managed to get by the first week of college, and made several new friends, each with varying and sometimes conflicting personalities, but all of whom I could mix with, to some degree. I hope that I could get to know them as the term proceeds.

Meanwhile, I hope to fit in with college life. It is a varied, diverse and wildly interesting society which I am now part of. There are students from all walks of life, and from all social and ethnic backgrounds: Malaysians, Britons, Koreans, Japanese, Africans and so on, united in the pursuit of education. Well, I think. I know friends who are in the pursuit of popularity, of freedom to shop(our college is directly next to a shopping centre!),of partying and clubbing (We're eighteen. WE'RE EIGHTEEN, MAN! WOOHOOO!!YESSSS!, and, of course, the pursuit of a girlfriend/boyfriend who is so smoking hot that he/she sets the fire alarm off when in the college. Well, all I can say is that whatever we are chasing after, whatever goals we have, we are now together, at least for one and a half years. Hopefully I will be able to be an active and productive member of the student body, and achieve my own dreams.

OK, the next person that starts singing "We're All In This Together" will be directed to this guy below for a "discipline session".

You don't like that, don't you. So please, lay off the connections between college life and a certain pitiful excuse of a musical.

Just kidding, guys. Alright then, I better stop writing. Bye for now, and Happy Chinese New Year in advance!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Hi guys. I've just returned from a winter camp in Guangzhou, China. The camp lasted for 12 days and was pretty much a blast, except for the fact that we couldn't really go shopping due to the supposedly abysmal crime rate in Guangzhou. On the plus side, I learned a lot about Chinese culture and also made a lot of new friends. Believe me, camps are great places to make friends. You do a lot of things together with your camp-mates...studying together, having meals together, practising Chinese martial arts together (and failing together), and spending late-nights together cramped in a hotel room snacking heavily on instant noodles and potato chips while exchanging gossip, stories, and 'cold jokes' (冷笑话). Doing these things forges a bond between friends that lasts long after the camp has ended.

Which was why, during the closing ceremony, campers unabashedly broke down, and even teachers rubbed tears away from their eyes. Even two of my friends, long regarded as being so cheerful and upstart as to be the life and soul of the party, shed tears without shame. Truly, it was a painful moment, and though my tear ducts were dry, I felt the same piercing sadness. Many of us would part forever, never to meet again on this side of Heaven. True, true, we consoled ourselves by saying that we would come for the next winter camp, and the next. But would it be the same? Would we even meet again? All of us frantically exchanged MSN addresses and phone numbers. But the cold comfort of detached electronic voices and messages of the computer screen, seemed but a poignant parody of what we once shared, the friendship that we had. I will still remember our teachers that faithfully taught us during the camp. There was Mr. Hsu (徐老师), our Chinese Pronunciation teacher and also our coordinator for the closing ceremony performance. He was a gentle man, always soft-spoken, cheerful and respectful, never raising his voice or losing his composure, yet always commanded the respect and obedience of the class, even sacrificing for us by coordinating our rehearsals despite leaving for Shandong the next day. Then there was our 'Taiji'/太极拳 teacher, who taught us tirelessly and endured our jokes and insubordinate behaviour with a smile and quiet patience instead of 'kung fu punching' us into kingdom come. There was our 会话 teacher, Ms. Li An Qi, a mild-mannered, meek young woman whom we bullied (kind of) but also with whom we shared many, many amusing and endearing moments. Then, most of all, there was our class teacher, Ms. Li. She was the one who shepherded us for 12 days, managing our class, Class 6, with unfailing tolerance and patience, enduring all of our idiosyncrasies, joining in our late night parties, chatting with each of us, and guiding us during our short 12-day stay. She commanded a special place in the deepest recesses of our hearts, leaving an indelible impression on our minds, and many of the tears during the closing ceremony were shed for her.

And so we parted. Dearly beloved friends, split apart by things as elementary as time and space and inevitability. To all my friends that I met at the winter camp, and even to those that I didn't get to know personally, you will forever be in my heart. God willing, may we meet someday and once again rekindle the friendship that we ignited on the winter camp on that December of 2009. Farewell, and always remember the times that we had in 'auld lang syne'.

Wait a minute, what the heck am I doing? This was a Chinese Camp, for crying our loud. The least I could do is write my feelings in Chinese!

Well, my feelings are best summed up by the essay that I wrote at the close of the camp that I submitted to teacher. Here it is.








Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sailing Forth

Well, SPM is over. We leave the hall and shout and scream and release volleys of catherine-wheel fireworks. My own friends half-jokingly plan to dump all their books and notes into a pile, douse them with gasoline and burn them up. But, best of all, we have FREEDOM!

While most of my friends celebrate with trips to McDonalds or marathon sessions at the cyber-cafes, I spend my time-----GET READY---at HOME! Whopee. Yeah. So much for my social life. I spend most of my post-SPM days on the net, practising the piano and reading Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs, The Singapore Story. (And by the way, after 3 months of not touching the piano, my playing SUCKS! 学如逆水行舟,不进则退! All pianists, take warning!)

But afer the initial euphoria, I experience a more sombre feeling, a feeling of bereavement. This is, after all, our last official day of secondary school, and yet there was little or no ceremony or fanfare. All of us, we SMK BSD 2 students, would probably see little of each other again. True, many of my friends tell me, "Aiyah, we'll meet on 'SPM results day'!" Yeah, pals, but think about it. Most of us probably wouldn't see each other, since we would come at different times of the day.

More importantly, the feeling of 'togetherness', the feeling of identification, would be lost, or at best diluted. All of us would have forged new identities as working adults or college students, no longer part of a student body. True, we might see each other, but there would no longer be that feeling of being a part of a school anymore. (I can say this, because this was exactly what happened when my friends and I left primary school.)

Well, I guess we have to look to the future, come what may. Tomorrow will always be brighter if our dreams always stay in front of us. May all of you ex-SPM students achieve your dreams as you sail forth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lessons From A Crab

I spent the recent week of holidays in Singapore, at my aunt and uncle's house. I mainly spent the days studying (trying to clock in at least 2-3 hours a willpower is as strong as ice cream on a hot day). Sometimes, I chill in front of the TV or computer, or go swimming. However, on a rare occasion, my uncle, cousins, youngest sister, grandmother and I went down to South Beach to have a walk in the evening.

My uncle spotted a white crab, sitting inside a tunnel dug about a foot deep, at the part of the beach when the shoreline dipped sharply to show the edge of the water during high tide. Thus, the crab resided in a small hollow set in the face of a shallow 'cliff' carved by the waves, out of sight and reach, and conveniently allowing the crab to leave for the ocean during high tide. My uncle pointed the crab out to me. So, with my awesome powers of common sense and intelligence, I decided I was going to dig the crab out of a hole. Mistake number one.

I found a small stick and used it as a pick. Mistake number two. I then positioned myself, in a squatting position, in front of the hole. Mistake number three. I then set to work in a methodical and skillful method. However, soon my method ended up caving in the tunnel and bringing out a mountain of sand in front of me. But I spotted the crab, half buried in the sand. So, I took my stick, placed it behind the crab, and tried to scoop it out of the sand. Mistake number four, and Stupidest Mistake.

I vividly remember what happened next. As soon as my stick made contact with the crab's tough carapace, the 'half-dead' crab jumped to life, all eight limbs fully extended and claws snapping sharply! And whoever thought that crabs were slow and crawled at a low speed sideways never saw a real one. This one threw itself sideways and scuttled out of the sand so quickly that it actually threw up dirt as it ran! I shouted and jumped up, to see my uncle laughing so hard he was bent over double. Angry, surprised, and extremely amused, I flung my stick at the poor crustacean and unleashed a torrent of English, Malay, Chinese, Cantonese and Hokkien swear words at the poor creature, who was now poised about two meters away, claws pointed towards me and scooping out a new hollow with its hind legs. My cousins, sister and I amused ourselves by throwing sand at the crab, who looked like it was falling asleep again.

However, thinking over in hindsight, I felt that there were several profound lessons to be learnt, both from my stupid actions and the crab.

From me:-

1) Looks can, and often do, decieve. Just because something or someone looks half-dead and stupid doesn't mean you can screw around with it. Know what you are getting into.

2) Accept defeat when it comes. If I had tried to irritate the crab again, it might have chased me all around Singapore. Accept losing gracefully, and then beat a quick exit without saying anything.

From the crab:-

1) Don't panic when you get buried. The crab calmly waited as the tunnel caved in and the sand poured down, waiting for light again. Same thing, when sorting through huge piles of work, while working hard to clear it, always be optimistic that relief will come soon.

2) Make the most of bad situations. The crab let me dig it out of the mess I made.

3) Show that you are not to be messed with. Then back off and let it be.

4) Always be ready to start all over again. The crab began digging a new home as soon as it was a safe distance from me.

So, voila! From long convoluted logic and simplicistic anthropomorphism, I present you, the Lessons From A Crab. Hopefully, I keep these lessons in mind in life, and also whenever I go to the beach and find another crab.

P.S. I am making a hasty trip back to KL to attend an interview for Taylor's University College's Principal's Awards for 2010. Wish me luck and pray for me!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Making Of Breaking Point

Hello again! Here it is: the making of our video, Breaking Point. (If you haven't seen it, watch it below) I made this video from some deleted clips, random scenes, outtakes and bloopers. Enjoy!

The production of the video took, all in all, about 2 weeks. We were already short of time, and only managed to squeeze in a few hours of actual shooting time due to our crammed schedules. Our strategy was simply this: shoot all the crap that comes across the screen, then pick out the ones that suck less, and use them. Well...It sort of worked. At least the video was watchable.

The casting of Gin Yen was rather on-the-spot. Brainstorming about the video, we decided that it would add some depth if it was shown that one of the lead character's main problems was his relationship with his girlfriend. Though the scene took some time to complete (come on, this is the first time for ALL of us), we ended up pretty happy with the result.

To emphasize the clear-cut difference between the present timeline (a boy about to jump off a building) and the past timeline (flashbacks), we used sepia tones for the past events and transition effects to show the transition between past and present.


The water bottle that the bullies kicked in the video was MINE. See the sacrifices we make here?
Over 80% of the initial shots for the bullying scenes were rejected. Some of them are featured in the video on top. Come on, we want to make sure no one gets hurt, right?
Jay and Gin Yen's scene took almost 45 minutes to shoot.
Much of the directing work was done by Triple H. As you can see, his guidance resulted in some real high-quality work in there. Good job! (Clapping)

This is the first video the Condorian Team (that's us) ever made in our lives. It wasn't perfect, and there were some rough patches in there. But then again, which movie is ever perfect? If people can still find something to criticise about 'The Dark Knight' (2008) or 'Titanic' (1997), then it shows that despite the flaws of a film, the beauty lies in the passion of the cast and crew and the vision of the director, and ultimately the message that the film sends. Despite its imperfections, we are proud of 'Breaking Point'. Go Condorz!

By the way, maybe...just maybe...we will band together again after the SPM examinations to make one more video. The idea is still floating around now, but who knows? Maybe it'll take shape and you'll have another video to examine, critique, tear apart, throw away, share, laugh at, or simply to enjoy. WE'LL BE BACK!

P.S. Feel free to share your thoughts on our video!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Breaking Point: A Video About Stress

A while ago, the five of us--Triple H, Jay Lim, Jacky Kang, Baby Chai, and I--entered the Star Mag Inc competition organised by The Star newspaper. The competition involved making a magazine, as well as a video about a topic regarding teenage angst. We chose 'stress' as our topic, and made a 3-minute video about it. If you haven't seen it yet (it's been circulating around school), here's the video, posted on YouTube by one of my classmates.

The video was mostly based on the idea of a boy climbing the stairs of his apartment to commit suicide by jumping down. Along the way, he has flashbacks that show the catalysts and incidents that caused him to break down. The video ends with a cliffhanger, a warning message, and a reference to our magazine.

Casting of the actors was rather simple, as most of the actors were already in our team. (Triple H and I do not appear, as we were directing the film.) One of our friends, Gin Yen, agreed to play the role of the 'girlfriend' in the film.

I will include some post-production notes, trivia, and comments on my next post. Oh, and I also made a short film called 'The Making Of Breaking Point' that consisted of clips from the original film, as well as rejected scenes, bloopers, and spoof outtakes. Don't miss it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Chronicles of Examinations: PMR and SPM

It's the same with every major examination. You start off, in Form 1, or Form 4, wherever you are in. Either way, the huge exam looming at the end doesn't seem so bad. As you adjust to school life through Form 1 and Form 2, you generally don't pay too much attention to the lessons. You're just trying to finish your homework, stay out of trouble and try to have fun. (It's probably habitual residue from primary school. The teacher usually spoon-feeds you and gives you tons of homework so that you'll be prepared for UPSR. And then you turn around and grumble at the amount of homework. How ungrateful.) You forget about being pro-active. PMR is 2 years away. No wait, 1 year. Hang on, 279 days. Then suddenly, it's mid-Form-3 and you haven't done a single thing with your studies! You quickly try to flip through your notes and then, you turn your head to the sky and scream "where the @#$! are my notes!!!" And then you remember. You never made them. The next three months are crash-and-burn courses. You stay up until 11pm to study. You wake up at 5am to study. The notebooks and revision books never leave your hands. And then PMR comes and suddenly, it's over and you are hitting yourself for not studying. Then, out of the blue, it comes: STRAIGHT A's! You jump so high, you almost become the next Malaysian into space! And then you plant your resolve to study hard from now on.

Yeah, right. It's Form 4 and you're still on honeymoon. You joke around and essentially try to have a ball, convincing yourself that you're gonna be OK. And then the first monthly test comes and @#$! What the--? Your scores are so low, they're practically single-digit numbers. And you realise that the difference between the Form 3 syllabus and the Form 4 syllabus is like the difference between a basketball game in the school basketball court and the NBA finals. So you pull in your concentration and try hard. And all of a sudden, it's Form 5, three months to SPM! Where was your honeymoon year? And then you realise--again. There was no honeymoon year. You were supposed to be--gee, I don't know--studying. So now, you are facing the greatest battle of secondary school life.

How will it end? I don't know. But I will try my best to win my own personal battle. And, with God's help, success will be mine once again. Ganbateh!