Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Village

(a review from a movie, seen with a free ticket, contains potential spoilers)

I carefully avoided all the hype and reviews from this movie in hope of seeing it without much of a clue. It is the fourth movie from M. Night Shyamalan, who also made The Sixth Sense and Signs. It is done in more or less the same style and atmosphere from Signs, cast with a sort of morbidly silent air that is broken by occasional dialogue.

Joaquin Phoenix, who also starred in Signs as Mel Gibson's brother (the baseball player), co-leads with the almost blind lady (Bryce Howard). They live in a 19th century town surrounded by a very forboding wood, forboding as in having rather terrifying creatures in it. But don't worry, apparently there is an "agreement" with the monsters lurking out there, that they stay out of the valley, and the villagers stay out of the forest. The forest that separates them from the rest of the world, so there is no contact or trade with the outside. Things get a bit angsty with the monsters when a few of the villagers cross the boundaries...

The secrets are of course the centre of the story, and the impending monster invasion is just the background. As with his previous movies, you need to find which "ball" you are meant to keep your eyes on, if you get are waiting for the monster-human showdown, then you might get disappointed.

Probably one of the big surprises for me is that I saw Adrien Brody's name in the opening credits and then at the end credits without realising what part he played! Then thinking back, well of course it was him, but he played very differently from usual (well completely different from The Pianist) and acquited himself well in his part. I look forward to seeing him in King Kong.

There are two incredulous ideas in the movie though, which mars it somewhat for me. If it is a plot-based folly, it should at least connect the dots in a realistic way. Old Boy connected the dots more convincingly for me. This didn't. It didn't carry itself as well Signs either, and lacked variety. But the whole concept was well-worth investigating. The usual kicker ending came as usual in M. Night's movies, which was much appreciated, and made the slightly overlong story sew itself nicely for a satisfying conclusion. In a way, it was a polemic about village society versus modern society. It also had strange significance for me, as I am doing a drama assignment on the Chinese story Peach Blossom Springs, which has strange connections with this movie.

Overall, on my usual rating system, I rate it a good movie. Nothing to rave about (and I have heard people rave about it) but still worth a watch.
"Is not life a hundred times too short to bore ourselves?"
~ Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Monday, September 27, 2004


Sometimes scientific principles and everyday experience collides in a new awareness. Tonight as I walked home I was thinking about the way we are moving hundreds of kilometres per second, yet accelerating to the centre of the earth, then suddenly I felt it in my feet. I was walking on the moon. A big moon. I could feel the sensation of rapidly floating to the ground with every step...


Friday, September 24, 2004


I accidentally missed my second lecture in an already relaxed week. Oh deary me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


In my eyes, there are three kinds of expression. Two are social, one is antisocial (neutral) or individualistic.

The first form of expression is that which is done to look the same or be similar to those around you. It is designed to not separate you from the rest, maybe bury you amongst the masses, so you can belong. On the dance floor, that would be being a member of the "circle," or saying what you think everyone is expecting you to say. Or falling into what other people want you to do.

The second form is expression motivated by the desire to be seen and admired, to be get attention. Even if this is viewed as disruptive, it is not antisocial because it is done to get the attention of those around. The person entering into the circle would be doing this form of expression. Showing off or dressing in the latest fashion can be this too. It is the source of most of the Idols and stars of our times.

The third and final form is that which comes from within, without regard for what other people think. The desire for truly personal art is this. It is probably also the source of many heinous crimes, as well as the greatest change agents of our time. It is the source of the whistleblowers, it is the source of the arsonists. It is the source of both creativity and depravity, freedom and wantonness.

I think any form of expression in life can be divided into these three forms. Can anyone think of something that escapes this trichotomy?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Let's Dance

We had our first dance class today for our course. Interestingly everyone loved it! Our lecturer started with a nice spiel and then we got down to moving about. It had a nice variety of creativity, active play and co-operation.

At first, it was hardly dance. But then that is the case with many activities. You start off with the basics. First, we had two seconds to find a "safe" place to move. That means a place where you won't run into anyone. Then she would say "walk" "jump" "run" etc. And we have to move around then she would say "freeze" and change the action. This was all to see how capable they are of moving together, avoiding each other.

Then we got in a circle, the teacher numbered us 1 to 7. We had to cross the circle in one of three modes, "High" "Middle" or "Low" referring to whether you should walk tall (which is "high"), walk crouching or be on all-fours (which is "middle"), or "low" which means to slither or be on the ground. The other rules were that we couldn't repeat any action and you mustn't do the same mode twice in a row. So the teacher would say "3" and all the threes would cross the circle any way they want. She'd say the numbers really quickly so it seemed like everyone was crossing at a busy intersection.

Then we did our own choreographing. But that is too hard to describe. It was so fun~

Monday, September 20, 2004


Suddenly, despite tiredness, I am full with academic fervour. I got an unsavoury C today in a handed back assignment. I didn’t like it much but there were more justified declarations of grievances from my classmates who could say they were short changed. There were Cs all over the place. I think my C was deserved and possibly the lowest she could go without failing me.

This is not a good state of affairs but my enjoyment of doing the assignment I did last night is clear. I also am looking forward to the silly test tomorrow (the timing of which flies in the face of what we are taught in this very teaching course!).
Secret Keystrokes

£ = Pound!
€ = Euro!

Ah, finally I know how to type them with my keyboard!
Day back

I woke up this morning to my room well-lit by the rising morning sun glowing through my curtains. This was not a good thing as I had intended to sleep in after a night of assignment construction. The days just before the October daylight savings change are the worst. You get woken up earlier and earlier by the sun, and once you adjust, in comes daylight savings to put paid to all that adjustment.

Anyway, my sleep-in, which I wish could have been longer, should have been much longer. All the diploma students crammed into the lecture room, exchanging stories of 3-foot horrors, disdainful associate teachers, cute little kids and post-practicum postmortums. These conversations went well past 9am as no lecturer had come in. It is a sad day in a course when students are now use to lecturers performing a no-show. Especially on the day of an assignment...

So our first real lecture started at 1pm, and laughably had two lecturers arrive to lecture. One, the one that should have taught this morning, quickly gave way to the person who was scheduled to teach, and beat a hasty retreat. So we learnt about the history of astronomy and physics. Fascinating stuff!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Invasions and My Atrocities

Aphids have taken over one of my basil plants and were in the process of springboarding onto my recovering little basil plant. So, I showed what a brutal biological dictator I was, taking to them, picking them off, squishing them, men, women and children with no discrimination. They are pretty dumb but camouflaged (well not the winged ones but most of them). They are dug in and entrenched on their first conquest so this will take some patience. If anyone spots a ladybird around the garden, bottle it and bring them here. Apparently they can serve as my secret police preying on those sticky rebels, bent on creating an aphidine paradise.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Best and Worst Ads

Probably my favourite set of ads would have to be the SKY ads with the two rugby and movie addicted mates who do anything they can to enjoy SKY TV without having it themselves. Or suffering the detriment of not having SKY. They are improving I think. The last two with a satire of Italian gangsters and then the hysterical Gorilla documentary one are the works of a genius mind.

My favourite mag The Listener commented:

"And what is Sky Television's popular campaign featuring two stooges who just want to watch television but an epic of contemportary masculinity under siege. A contract is put out on them by real hard men. The reliable male wish-fulfilment fantasy of the sex-starved worman goes awry as they're chased by transvestites - "Look at the size of you!" Even more alarmingly, the big guy (significantly, it's always the big guy) gets harassed - "Awwwwwwww ...... Ewwwwwwwww!" - by an amorous female gorilla. It could all be seen as quite misogynistic if it wasn't so funny."

My least favourite ads are the "I saved hundreds"/"I saved thousands" ads. I just hate the sense made by them. The hypothetical characters in them are portraying the idiocy of the modern buyers. YOU AREN'T SAVING IDIOTS! I just wanted to yell at the screen.
Occupational Hazard

Apart from the sickness and stress, teaching throws a few other unexpected curve balls to an aspiring teacher. Today I pulled out a chair and sat down, but regrettably a child had put their glitter pen drawn picture there to dry. Feeling the cool moisture of the gluey glitter mixture seep through the fabric of my pants I got up, and it was still stuck to my backside... After removing the picture and most of the glitter, still a lot remained. Only a few children noticed though (or at least told me about it)
All loose ends tied, or all tied in knots?

Cruel and Usual frustrations.

Although I appeared for a brief period on The World's Most Hugged Person chart, today has been a rather meaningless day and I feel a sense of unease. I have finished my practicum, but it is becoming more apparent that I haven't got enough information for my assignments. Ah well. Now I again will have to do some stretching of truth and proof.

Another big weekend due for assignments coming.

Late last night while briefly wanting to check the internet accidentally pressed the backslash key as I pressed enter to connect. This wiped the "saved" password and re-"saved" a backslash as my password, which naturally was not the real password... Fortunately these things can be fixed although I think the system for resetting passwords is not very taxing for the would-be connection thief.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


I don't know if anyone else gets "enlightenment"-grade feelings from the most mundane of thoughts and observations. One that recurs in my life is the simple thought that at any one moment a billion things are happening. A million thoughts are thought by a million people. Just because one's brain cannot even remotely capture these things or understand their simultaneous ramifications, they still happen.

In the same way, things that change inperceptibly also cause those enlightened moments. Just before, a picture that had been stuck to my wall fell off. It had been held there by bluetak for weeks. But obviously, day-after-day, the stickiness to the wall or to the back of the picture gave a little, perhaps the paint on the wall loosened and then only now it came of. Just like the build up of an earthquake along a fault-line.

The imperceptible change illusion use to be part of my wishes. You would get a new pot of runny honey and take some of the top, it smooths out, and it appears nothing has left it. So perhaps I have the bottomless cup... But no matter whether it was a box of popcorn or a bar of soap, even if it appears to get no smaller, it is smaller.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The final lap

An easy last week is what I would like but the truth is I will be busy but not driving-myself-bonkers busy, maybe a moderately bonkers state. I am still cobbling together what is needed for this last burst.

This weekend has been a nice catharsis. Singing and dancing around the house to music, drinking mugs and mugs of teas. My body acknowledged that it is well and truly springtime. I have the urge to run about like a rabbit, sleep in the raw, go walkabout and climb mountains. Only some of these are possible now, but give me time and all will be done.

I made my second celebratory card this weekend, combining my mothers idea, two sheets of A4 and some paint to make a cutely demeaning birthday card for my abroad sister. And I finally watched GATTACA which was an interesting tale.

One thing I have taken to doing more often on Sunday morning is watching Tele-evangelists. I have no interest in becoming Christian, but I have a great interest in theology, the philosophical work required to make Christianity work in the eyes of the believers. I am also interested in the techniques that evangelists use to persuade and compel.

This morning I watched one called Questions of Life, which I had watched previously, that frames questions about God and Christianity and then seeks to answer them. Today the question was: How can God allow evil and suffering in the world?

There were many interesting points. Some of them were elegant proofs, while he occasionally used straw-men to disprove other views. This is where you state the oppositions opinions erroneously or incompletel and then blow it away. It works because you can be a little loose with how you make the straw-man so that it is easy to blow down. Opponents are not around to correct the error, or if in a debate situation, sometimes cannot find where the description provided was flawed and have to concede.

He only referred to the Bible twice in thirty minutes. Although this in good for the non-believer's understanding, I realised that perhaps this was not proper. He was addressing a Christian audience so there was nothing to fear. Many of the things he said, as logically necessary as they might be, may not be in the Bible. That meant they were not to be taken as "gospel," it was just his opinions. This was just a passing thought though, I might ask a Christian what they make of such a comment.

Probably one of the best parts of listening for me is just appreciation of a great speaker. Our world is deficit in compelling speakers I feel. I remember while reading A Penguin Book of New Zealand History that it often referred to politicians as wonderfully eloquent. Modern politicians are pretty drab, Winston Peters and Peter Dunn withstanding. Activists are similar. So many causes lack a clear and compelling voice.

The pastor on the programme, Jeff Vines, strung storeys together and punctuated his sentences with emotion. It was great. Perhaps preaching is the last bastion of persuasive talk that people will be subjected to.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Are you kidding?

A few weeks ago, I heard one of the weirdest songs I know on Chinese radio while I was having a shower. What was odder was that it was not a Chinese song, and it was in my CD collection, the strangely named: Kid A.

The song done by Radiohead was a mix of a incoherent computer voice, with a background childhood music box playing in the background in amongst synthesizers. It is a weird song that works well, almost mocking the need for lyrics and then mocking the need to have "proper" instruments.

For me, it is interesting that someone on a radio station would notice such a song. I had never heard it on other radio stations (in fact, the album also called Kid A was released deliberately without singles). The host to the radio show explained her views on the band saying they are completely without limits and that is what made it good. It is nice to have my stereotypes challenged.

Recently, I also bought another Bjork CD, a rather challenging listen called Medulla. Some of the songs leave the strangeness of Kid A in its dust. Some to there detriment, others to their advantage. Just then, I heard a review of it on National Radio. The little riffs that they played were wonderful and made me want to hear the whole CD again.

It is strange the feelings you get when you hear songs on your own CDs on the radio.

Friday, September 10, 2004

I am born again

With the other side of the tunnel reached, today was gently therapeutic. My associate took back over the class showing how easy, and relaxed she makes it look. A lion tamer she is. Or a snake charmer. I still had my role, taking the class through maths.

One thing that counts against me is a sensitivity for control over the whole class (I am a control-freak). I find it hard to proceed when there are distractions; either for members of my class or for me. That means that I tend to stop to suppress it, making the time I am in control rather uneven and negative.

Watching my associate with the clinical eyes of someone who has just been teaching a week, I notice that she suppresses it without too much stoppage. She keeps the momentum. She doesn't just sit waiting, she is always occupied keeping the focus on her or the matter at hand.

We have negotiated what will be done over the next week so I can do what I need to do and also keep trying to improve my practice.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


As repetitive as it must sound, I am exhausted. Well, Thursdays always seem exhausting. This one signifies the end to my compulsory full control. That is quite welcome regretably. Today has been a mixture of passable and disastrous (more the latter when the Uni lecturer observed, regrettably). By 3pm I felt wrung out mentally. I have never felt sicker this week. I hope Friday passes smoothly and I can go home to crumple in a heap.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Today was another passable day, having its own ups and downs.

After coming home, my cough started heading towards hurricane strength.

Tomorrow will bring another formal observation by my University lecturer at a rather inopportune time, 2:40pm to 3pm. Not only is that time-slot awkward (it will usually just be the tidy up and dismissal), but tomorrow my associate is going to be away and there will be no cover for her (this I found out at 5:30pm today). So classes will be merged for P.E. outside... for the whole afternoon. After discussion with my teacher and a practicum facilitator at the school, the plan is to do an athletics lesson (Long Jump) when my lecturer arrives. I have taught one extemporaneous athletics lesson in the past, and now I will have to create all the paper work for teaching it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Another day...

With my voice even worse, I lasted another day with even less energy expended on classroom management. It seems my current set of techniques have become well-suited to the class just at the right time, so that my lack of voice has not been a big factor.

I miscalculated my after school time though. I usually start preparation at about 8pm. So I thought there would be no harm going out for dinner with Xin, coming back at 8pm to start. But dinner was a lot more than I thought and I went a little overboard. Upon coming home, things started well, but then soon as I sat to watch Child of our Time, I suddenly felt drowsy. My meal was sending me to slumber. I have revived myself enough to do the necessary but that is all that will be happening tonight.

Monday, September 06, 2004

I was bruised and battered and I couldn’t tell what I felt... ... and here comes the sun!

And another week begins.

The weekend was meant to have been some respite from the ups and downs of the previous week. That was until my body realised what my mind knew all along. I had been infected by a virus of some sort. With irritated eyes, concentrating on computer screens difficult was difficult for me. What is worse, my computer claimed to be having its own sickness, although now it seems like hypochondria. It reported "virus-like activity" in MS Explorer. So I scanned, and fiddled and searched and let the computer scan while I was sleeping (hard to sleep with the computer on). This all bluntened my effort to prepare for the next two weeks.

The few successes of the weekend were the first meeting for my 10 minute drama, which now seems to be a 5 minute drama and negotiating Father's Day. I went to bed on Sunday and woke up on Monday morning with a feeling of unease. I was rather unprepared for the next day let alone the next week. I had only done an activity for their computer session and thrown together reading questions.

But I arrived at school, and the sun, as they say, rose again. Despite the worsen symptoms of a cold, things went well, and I controlled the whole class, for the whole day and everything was fine. Except for my voice, which has lost most of its upper registers. I had originally thought that I should beg my associate to takeover after lunch so I could recuperate at home, but when lunch came I felt OK. And I was even coughing less than many of the children... although some of the children seem to be faking.

Now, I am back in a confident mood but still suffering from this cold.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

On Meanings and Change


"The word study is based on Latin studium which meant "painstaking application" or "zeal, eagerness," and was related to Latin studere "to be zealous." Student, studio, and studious all share this base. Study's earliest uses are surprising: "affection, friendliness" (again, by Chaucer, c 1374), an "occupation or pursuit," and "a state of reverie or abstraction; state of perplexity." Soon, though, it was used to mean thought or effort that was applied toward the accomplishment of a purpose."

Study hard!

Thursday, September 02, 2004

All things withstanding

Passing the half-way point in my practicum yesterday, I think I have snapped a little back from my early week highs, and have retreated past even mediocrity. I really need this weekend coming up. My battery is low and my immune system seems to be only just withstanding the juvenile bugs that I am assaulted with daily.

I was observed today and had a lesson so foul. It was ill-conceived, ill-managed and ill-executed. My visiting lecturer commented: “You seem a little frustrated.” And yes I was. She suggested revamping my classroom management for my own style (and not just the adopted system of my associate). Interesting advice, my associate teacher suggested some things although I just had a brainwave about something that I would like to try. I need to stop the triggers that lead to negative spirals that I get into. I try to be positive but when it is not noticed by the children (from whom attention needs to be obtained to continue).

Although illness didn’t precipitate like I thought it would, I felt sick by the lunch-time phase. I was close to telling my associate that I felt unwell and just leave for the rest of the day. Not professional at all. But I went on lunch-time duty with her and felt much more at ease afterwards.

Onto other things…

One intriguing thing I noticed tonight was TV3 was the most progressive channel in terms of correct pronunciation of Māori. Both TVNZ and TV3 seem to be including more Māori phrases such as “Poo marie” (commonly by Judy Bailey) and Hei konei ra.

I heard the most correct pronunciation of “Taupoo” tonight by the unlikely person, Dion Nash (cricketer now TV3 person on Sportzah). John Campbell on TV3 is currently doing a series called “A Queen’s tour,” in which he goes all over the place, and I noticed that he was pronouncing different placenames as accurately as possible. As was Richard Langston (another kiwi journalist).

At the recent staff meeting at school, one other teacher raised the mispronunciation and wrong words of the Māori and English national anthems sung at assemblies. If I felt more included and not an outsider criticising, I would have said much the same.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Well, the last 30 hours have rattled me a little. I was a little bit of a mess today, but got through what I could and scrambled the rest. I was quite punitive too, smiting children left AND right. Not good.

I am being observed tomorrow and feel even more unsettled. Things are falling into place but now it is late. And also I get the feeling that sickness is becoming me. This is not the time.

Oh well, back to work..

Oh, one good tidbit picked up today was that the school is trying to form a chess club. I might try and involve myself in it in my last two weeks, but I still don't know the details yet.

Subsequent to yesterday's exclusive on the self-sabotage in this important of important times, self-deception and fabrication of truth was added to the litany of crimes against my practicum.

Should I be happy or should I not? When has self-deception been a reason to celebrate?

My memory, hoping to avoid the complete embarrassment of not knowing where my file organiser, decided to manufacture memories. Created were the memories of me holding my organiser, walking down Balmoral Rd on the way to Foodtown. I can still remember it as clear as the weather, that afternoon. I even wrote it in the previous blog. I am certain of that memory as I am of any other memory.

As I walked into St Lukes early this morning to look for that file-organiser, I could even mentally isolate where I had put down the folder. My reasoning follows:

I couldn't have put the folder down on the way to Foodtown on the road, yet I couldn't recall having trouble picking food off the shelves with my file organiser in one hand and a basket in the other. So I had put it down BEFORE Foodtown. I DID stop at the men's toilets on the way to the supermarket. I must have left it in there. Well, no...

St Lukes didn't have it at all. Never did. I returned to Balmoral Primary School forlorn and really annoyed at myself. I prepared to admit everything to my associate (especially the now lost books). I entered and saw a black file organiser on a chair. I even queried if it were hers. It was not. It was mine, which I had left on that chair when I left school that day. Containing school journals, precious feedback and assorted other vital notes.

Yet I can still remember carrying it out of the classroom. Aside from the impossibly small possibility of a malicious campaign to confuse me, my memory is now over-compensating for its incompetence, giving me memories I shouldn't have. Caught red-handed this time. Now can I trust anything at all? I hope I am not the witness in a court case, these confessions being publicly accessible and all.

I have my file organiser. Should I be happy or not?