*The Pointless Writer*

has a life you're completely uninterested in. But it's okay because I can write. No abbreviations. No shoddy grammar (though I'm not immune to mistakes). Just quality writing on sometimes completely pointless topics.

Inspiration/ Hilarity

`cirque. (by Nick)
The Joel Stein
Hyperbole and a Half (by Allie Brosh)

Pointless Yakking

No chatbox.


UnPoints of Note

1. I write when fancy takes. Sometimes, fancy takes many months of leave.
2. Never give up on this blog. I will eventually come back. When fancy has returned from its unfaithful travels.
3. All posts labelled Randomosity were written while I was on my junior college's blog team.
4. Everything is written as a challenge to myself. And it's all in good fun. Cheerio!


Thor
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thor is based on a Marvel Comic. I’m quite surprised, actually. I mean, the Norse God of Thunder doesn’t exactly strike me as being in the same league as Spiderman and Batman. But, that aside, this article is actually on the movie.

The movie’s not bad. But I’m not sure it’s worth the $7.50 or so that Golden Village charges. My motto is that action films are the only films that have to be watched in the cinema, and films of any other genres can be rented for wayy cheaper without viewers losing any enjoyment. Of course, people who watch horror may beg to differ, since they want to piss in their pants during the show and all… But I’m too chicken to watch horror, so that genre doesn’t exist to me. Anyway, I expected Thor to be an action movie, so to me, it was a must-watch-on-big-screen movie. But… honestly? It wasn’t. Not really.

The show was enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. But it was more hilarious than fingers-gripping-my-brother thrilling. (Yes, I grip my brother when movies get too intense. He’s 5 years younger, by the way.) Some of the humour is loud and in your face; some of it is slightly more subtle. But most of it is slapstick or akin to it. So if you’re looking for wit, this isn’t it. However, you’ll still get plenty of laughs in the first half. Trust me on this. I haven’t heard the whole audience laugh so energetically in some time. Even Meet the Parents: Little Fockers got softer laughter.

Hilarity aside, the plot is nothing great. It’s predictable. Most shows are. But the thing about this movie is that it’s predictable and it isn’t very exciting, which is quite a disastrous formula. (There are shows that can be predictable and yet force adrenalin through your veins.) The TV series Criminal Minds makes my hair stand (literally; it cracks my mum up every time) and makes me bimbotically “oh my gosh” my way through each episode. Thor just had me wondering when it was going to end. Source Code was much more gripping.

Don’t expect realistic characters either. I suppose this isn’t really unexpected since comic characters are usually quite undeveloped. In fact, I found all the protagonists really boring. The most interesting character was Loki, Thor’s younger brother, the so-called ‘bad guy’ in the show. I quite like him because he isn’t the stereotypical evil bad guy. He just has some issues with his dad and brother, and his view of the situation was a little skewed. He didn’t actually have evil intentions. The attempt to develop Thor’s character fell short, sadly. Characters don’t change overnight, and they definitely don’t change in minutes, as Thor sort of does. Of course, movies have a time limit, so character development is hard to incorporate, but I think it could still have been done better.

I’m no expert on fight choreography since I have terrible visual tracking. Fight scenes are lost on me, for the most part. But it didn’t seem very spectacular. Definitely can’t compare with Lord of the Rings or Matrix. You’ll just have to watch it yourself if you want a proper judgment on the choreography. But, fight scenes aside, I think the romance was totally uncalled for. If there’s one thing I really hate about Hollywood movies, it’s the romance in every show. The romance in Source Code was disappointing, but it wasn’t over-the-top, so I didn’t really mind. The attempt at romance in Thor, however, is downright unrealistic. I can understand the heroine’s attraction to Thor. After all, he’s machismo personified—muscular, slightly scruffy, heroic, able to fight, confident, yada yada. But his attraction to her? I mean, unless he really likes girls that knock him down repeatedly with their cars, I don’t get it. Whatever it is, there’s only lust between the two, as proved by the blown-up screen kiss. So the attempt at portraying something more towards the end of the show kinda fell flat on its face.

I’m aware that most of this has been criticism so far, but I have to say, the movie was quite disappointing. The only redeeming factors were the guaranteed laughter and one particular scene that girls with eyes will squeal over (but even the latter is in the trailer). So if you’re dying for an action flick, don’t watch this. If you’re a sci-fi geek (like me), watch Source Code instead. Trust me, the science is a lot more developed in that one. Thor is more magic than science. And if you’re really into mythology, prepare to be disappointed, cos that doesn’t feature very much in Thor either. You’re only guaranteed NO DISAPPOINTMENT AT ALL if you’re a humour genre buff.

Wait, wait. I take that back! I’m not a humour genre buff so I don’t know what your standards are. You’re only guaranteed a lack of disappointment if you don’t mind not laughing in the second half!

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Chanson des Étoiles at 7:47 PM


The Toilet Phenomenon
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

As a frequenter of ladies' toilets, I have observed a very interesting phenomenon, which, as the title of my thesis suggests, I have dubbed The Toilet Phenomenon. Okay, so that's not the most creative title, but it's not like I'm a budding writer, right? Nah, lil' ole me is just an aspiring psychologist.

This phenomenon reveals a very fascinating new side to the female psyche: women are timid, VERY TIMID, when it comes to opening toilet doors. As all we toilet-goers no doubt know, there is this strip of colour on toilet locks to indicate whether the cubicle is locked and in use or not. Red generally means locked while white indicates vacancy, for the uninformed.

Observe as this superior species known as the Venus Femina Homo Sapien edges towards the door as though the toilet monster really exists. Perhaps it is caution inbred after years as monkeys who couldn't swim before evolution had us imitate frogs. A dainty finger unfolds itself from an otherwise tense fist to cautiously poke the door. Yes, poke. The door doesn't budge, and the queue starts to build up. Nevermind that 5 minutes later, the lock still has that WHITE strip and NOBODY has left the cubicle. The intelligence of this superior species simply deduces that a bad smell will soon waft out.

Then, I come along. I belong to a subspecies known as Venus Femina Homo Sapien version 2. Yeap, new and improved. The members of this subspecies are few and far between. You don't notice us, because we look exactly like the version 1s, with a few mathematical variations here and there which result in differing IQs, heights, weights, and so on. Instead of deducing from the lack of a fellow female exiting the cubicle that the aforementioned fellow female is conducting the delicate business of excretion, we version 2s are more inclined towards deducing that the cubicle is unoccupied, since the lock has its WHITE label showing. Our intellect leads us to a) put more force behind that dainty finger, or b) use a dainty palm.

VOILA. The door opens. Venus Femina Homo Sapien version 2 has fulfilled her function in Toilet Society.

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Chanson des Étoiles at 8:49 PM


Belshazzar's Feast
Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra performed William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast on Friday, 15 April 2011, accompanied by a combined choir made up of the Singapore Symphony Chorus, the Singapore Bible College Chorale, Hallelujah Chorus and The Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The solo in Belshazzar’s Feast was performed by baritone Stephen Powell. Conducted by Lim Yau, the programme included Darius Milhaud’s La Creation du Monde (The Creation of the World), Op. 81, and Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. In tribute to Leong Yoon Pin, Singapore’s pioneer composer and the “Father of Singaporean Composers and Music”, who passed away on 13 April 2011, the orchestra and choir also performed Movement 4 of Brahms’ Requiem.

La Creation du Monde took inspiration from early jazz and was, in fact, a product of Milhaud’s being commissioned to write a ballet based on native African beliefs. The music explores the creation of the world through the use of 18 solo instruments, one of which is the saxophone. I rarely hear the saxophone since it isn’t a part of the standard orchestra, so I was pleasantly surprised by the instrument’s rich, smooth sound, nothing at all like the nasal saxophone voice often heard on TV. Perhaps the saxophone sounded so much more beautiful because of the Esplanade Concert Hall’s superb architecture, which helps the sound resonate in a way digital recordings cannot duplicate.

Of the four songs, I most enjoyed Stravinsky’s Symphony of the Psalms. Based on extracts of Psalms 39, 40 and 150, the work is unusual because it is dominated by wind instruments (flutes, oboes, bassoons, etc.) instead of by the string section (violins, violas, etc.) as orchestral music usually is. The result is a light musical work with a prayerful atmosphere. Of course, the fact that it is sung in Latin—a language I am completely in love with, despite its increasing irrelevance (Vatican City is the only place in the world where Latin remains in everyday use, on road signs)—only helps to win it extra points from me. I just have a thing for religious Latin music.

Brahms’ Requiem was… okay. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Brahms. Kinda like how I first hated Handel’s Messiah. (I enjoy it quite a bit now.) I suppose some music is acquired taste. I’ve listened to a few Requiems (a requiem is, most simply put, a funeral song. A really looong funeral song) now, and I have to say: Mozart’s remains the only one I really like. Next.

Belshazzar’s Feast was AMAZING. If not for the unsettling feeling the music gave me, I would have enjoyed this work the most, just for its sheer intricacy. The dissonant harmony sent shivers up my spine, while I listened to the delicious variations and repetitions of a main theme by different instruments. I paid close attention to the pronunciation of the English words by the choir and soloist, and was suitably impressed by their clarity—something I myself desperately need to work on. Two segments in particular caught my attention. There is a verse in the song which has the Babylonian king praising his pagan gods. Here is it:

Praise ye
The God of Gold
Praise ye
The God of Silver
Praise ye
The God of Iron
Praise ye
The God of Wood
Praise ye
The God of Stone
Praise ye
The God of Brass
Praise ye the Gods!

I bring this verse up because the role of the percussion here stood out to me. I’m quite familiar with the timpani and their warm rolling drum sound. I know a few other percussion instruments as well: for instance, I loved it when the SSO used wooden clappers to rhythmically clap out horse hooves trotting for a Christmas song a few years back. In this work, bells (or perhaps a xylophone) are used to provide the backbone of the rhythm when the choir sings The God of Silver while wooden clappers are used to accentuate the words The God of Wood. Various other percussion instruments are used to match the other ‘elements’ as well, but I can’t name them all.

Apart from this particular verse, I’d like to bring up the ending of Belshazzar’s Feast. Initially, I thought it was bordering on boring and way too dragged out. I’ve mentioned that I like dissonant harmonies. Well, something else I love is music in a minor key. The whole work had contained either or both thus far, and when the ending suddenly switched to a major key for Israel’s celebration of Babylon’s downfall, I was sorely disappointed. Moreover, each time I anticipated the climax of the music—a high note and ending chord—the choir simply died off. However, I have to admire the genius of the composer. He eventually built up to and achieved the climax, albeit much later than I’m used to. In fact, the peak of the music was so fantastic that when it ended, I had the strongest urge to give a standing ovation! Something which I’ve never felt inclined to give before. So yeah, it’s safe to say I loved the whole concert! :)

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Chanson des Étoiles at 9:54 PM


English as a Global Language
Sunday, April 10, 2011

All I can think of right now is how annoying technology can be. For instance, I wrote TWO ENTIRE PARAGRAPHS of this post, and saved the post as a draft on wordpress. And how does technology reward me for my diligence? It makes my post magically disappear. ARGH! It was a good two paragraphs too, if I do say so myself. So now I have to try to remember what I wrote and attempt to recreate it: no mean feat, given how wonky my memory is.

Irritation aside, this post is really about the visit by Mark Howard, Head of the British Council, to our school. NOT the unwonders of technology. Seriously. If I’d written those two paragraphs on paper, I swear they would still be there. Uh, anyway…

Maybe you heard the announcement opening Mr. Howard’s talk on English as a Global Language to the whole school. Or maybe you were too busy drooling in your seats. Whatever it is, this talk was announced, and it did take place. And the talker (heehee) proved a fairly entertaining speaker. :) The bulk of the lecture was a summary of the linguist David Graddol’s Nine Trends of Global English, and here they are, proposed by Graddol, shared by Mr. Howard and paraphrased by me!

#1: The Rise and Fall of Learners

We all know English has been The language to learn for some time now, right? After all, it is the language of international commerce… and we’d all like to get rich. So the number of people learning English has been rising. However, Graddol thinks this number is going to peak at about 2 billion and then decline. Why? English is being taught at an increasingly younger age… which means it will eventually become an integral part of life. People will no longer be taught English; they will be taught in English. Make sense?

#2: The Increasing Irrelevance of Native Speakers

Wow. Who would have known we’d hear about this from the mouth of a native speaker himself? Apparently, British and American English are going to become obsolete in time to come. Instead, the new It language is gonna be INTERNATIONAL English. In fact, it’s already happening! The British Council no longer picks its teachers based on whether they’re native English speakers; now, proficiency in the language and the possession of adequate qualifications are the key criteria. (Another career to add to my list of possible career choices!)

#3: The Irreversible Trend in International Students

The increase in the number of international students now studying in English Language countries is slowing. Why? Countries like Singapore have been absorbing Asian students instead. And apparently, this isn’t changing anytime soon ever.

#4: The Doom of Monolingualism

Mr. Howard asked, “Who in this room is monolingual?” And words cannot express how badly I wanted to raise my hand. I mean, sure I passed A Level Chinese Language, but it isn’t a reliable indicator of my prowess in the language. Let’s not even talk about fluency here. I’ve been told by multiple sources that I have a Caucasian accent when I speak Mandarin. And my ability to read Mandarin far surpasses my conversational Mandarin. (I’m more likely to understand a Mandarin passage if you print it out for me to read than if you read it aloud.) Unfortunately, no one was raising their hand, so I decided to go with the flow for once in my life. Unbelievable. The English guy from the British Council just reiterated my parents’ belief that I really need to brush up my Mandarin.

#5: Other Languages will compete for resources

Err… sorry, but no elaboration on this one. He went through it so fast I didn’t catch anything. My bad. :P

#6: Asia may determine the future of Global English

(ditto)

#7: The Economic Advantage (of speaking English) is Ebbing Away

My first thought was… oh no! You mean Mandarin is going to become the new language of international commerce? Phew! It’s not. Nope. Instead, English will become a basic skill, sort of like brushing your teeth. Everyone expects you to be able to do that. (And if you can’t, DON’T tell me. I don’t want to know where that bad smell is coming from.) Uh-huh. It’s being fluent in other languages that’s going to get you on the cover of Forbes.

#8: The Growth of Other Languages on the Internet

Gone are the days of an English Internet. But I suspect you already know that, what with those nifty little ‘translate’ options on every other webpage, which, by the way, I never ever use, since I’ve only ever found English sites. (But I suspect you already know that too.) What might be new to you, however, is the fact that, percentage-wise, proportionally fewer people are using English online.

#9: The End of English as a Foreign Language

Okay, this point might be a little hard to grasp if you don’t take ELL. To put things simply, there’s a difference between your first language, second language, and foreign language. Linguistically, your first language is the very first one you learnt, whether it’s Cantonese or Malay, not English as the government mandates. And foreign languages are, well, foreign. I think this means you’ll be least fluent in them. So instead of English being learnt as a foreign language in countries like France, it’s going to become a second language. Curious to know more? Take ELL! xD

So those are the Nine Trends of English as a Global Language. And before I wrap this up, I just want to make a very interesting observation…

David Crystal.
David Graddol.
David Deterding.

Name your kid David if you want to raise a famous linguist. Cos these three above are repeatedly quoted for their linguistic papers.

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Chanson des Étoiles at 2:06 PM