Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal Thoughts about Proposed Changes to Primary 1 and Primary 2 Students in Singapore

I recently saw two pieces of news regarding some proposed changes to Primary 1 and Primary 2 students in Singapore and I have some personal thoughts to blog about. First, the articles:

S$4.5b to be spent in next 10 years to revamp primary school system
By Hoe Yeen Nie, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 27 January 2009 1917 hrs

SINGAPORE: Big changes are in store for Singapore's primary school system. Over the next ten years, more schools will be built and more teachers recruited on a budget of S$4.5 billion.

But what will surely get the attention of parents is a plan to do away with examinations for students in Primary 1 and 2.

Senior Minister of State for Education Grace Fu, chairperson of Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee, said: "We'd like our students to enjoy the process of learning, and therefore having assessment that is tailored to the way that we teach is important.

"Having them sit through very important year-end exams may not be the best idea and I think there are better ways of assessing their progress. We can find better substitutes than just a one-off examination at year-end."

Instead of examinations, the PERI Committee has recommended that schools introduce bite-sized tests for Primary 1 and 2 students, and for parents to be given regular updates on the children's progress.

Telok Kurau Primary School did just that in 2006, but some parents were concerned about the changes where assessments take the form of project work and oral presentations.

Wilbur Wong, principal of Telok Kurau Primary School, said: "They say, 'Oh! Now you don't have the mid-year exams, how do I know how my child is? How do I know how much they have learnt?' But the reassurance needs to go out to the parents that no final year exam doesn't mean no assessment."

To change the way children learn in schools, all Primary 1s and 2s will also get more exposure to sports and the arts through their curriculum.

This comes under the new Programme for Active Learning (PAL) where students will have to participate in modular activities in two broad areas – Sports & Outdoor Education and Performing & Visual Arts. These activities will take up to two hours each week.

The broad strokes of these initiatives were announced at the Education Ministry's (MOE) Workplan Seminar last September. Since then, the taskforce led by Ms Fu has held several public consultation exercises to hammer out the details.

The PERI Committee has recommended that 18 new primary schools be built to aid the move towards a single-session structure by 2016. It has also suggested that schools should have the flexibility to decide on their start and end times.

MOE will work with the Land Transport Authority and school bus operators on transportation issues once the recommendations are accepted by Education Minister Ng Eng Hen.

More facilities will also be added for more voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to provide student care services.

Ms Fu said: "We have a segment in our society where the children may not have a good home environment to go back to. It could be that their parents are working or they may have problems at home. So the child needs a safe environment in the school where a VWO could help them."

The report by the PERI Committee was the result of discussions with educators and the public.

A lot of public feedback was given to the suggestion to recruit only degree-holders for teaching positions by 2015.

The committee said it recognises the need for MOE to improve the standard of its teaching pool, but it said interest and aptitude should always take priority, no matter how academically brilliant the applicant may be.

And besides plans to beef up MOE's pool of teacher aides, more training will also be given to existing teachers.

- CNA/so
(Article Source:

废除低年级考试 小三生负担或增
29 January 2009 2123hrs













(Article Source:

Second, my personal thoughts:

1) Format adjustments - Bit-sized tests for Primary 1 and Primary 2 students may not be effective because unless bit-sized tests are also introduced throughout the entire primary school systems all the way and abolish PSLE, those tests will not prepare the students for the very different form of learning from Primary 3 to Primary 6. Imagine the chaos when the students who had gotten used to learning bit-sized tests are then to change to textbook based and final exam formats? Nothing has been mentioned about how to help those who may be maladjusted to the system switches at such a young age. It seems that the Ministry of Education just assumes that the students can smoothly transit to a completely different form of learning.

2) Suitability - Bit-sized tests will add even further pressure on the Primary 1 and Primary 2 students because they will have to be constantly at their toes throughout the entire two years to make sure their "continual assessments" are not poorly done to drag down their overall changes.

Of course, proponents say this will be a good way to push students to work hard throughout the year rather than cram for the final couple of months but we are talking about very young students who may not even be getting used to public schools, let alone project work and oral presentations which involves complex team and presentation skills.

3) Training of teachers - It may sound cool to train very young students who are able to form into teams, actively research and present their findings in stunning presentations but are our school teachers properly-trained to know how to handle teams, team-related problems and accurately assess the quality of the research and presentations?

I already have ongoing complaints from people around me that there are problems of free-loaders during project work, conflicts between team members, research being aided by overly-protective parents and marred presentations due to stage fright. Does the Ministry of Education have enough experience in tackling such issues before allowing these new myriad of problems plague those young students?

4) Psychological Barriers - Let's face it - not every student is suitable for teamwork, research work, oral presentations, sports, outdoor education, performing and visual arts. Imagine that kind of psychological strain when students, especially at their nascent study years, start to realize that they may be so far behind those who are exceptionally talented in one or more of those areas.

Of course, one may argue that it is a blessing for the nation to discover the truly talented ones and nurture them from young but what about the average Joe or Jane? Are these students to suffer the possibly self-imposed, peer-imposed, teacher-imposed or parent-imposed sense of inferior complex and start to wane in their interest in being basically educated since they realized their average creative competencies will never be able to match those talented peers?

Are the education system or the school teachers ready and properly-trained to address and dispel such a possible pervasive sense of hopelessness in the average Joe or Jane, or just leave them to their fates as what it is being done now in schools with "bit-sized tests"?

5) Implementation feasibility - Let's look at the infamous workload of teachers in Singapore. If the new proposals go through as being said, teachers will have to provide even more regular updates on the progress of each individual student to their respective parents. My personal thoughts now shift to the following questions: How much more time can we squeeze from the average school teacher away from lesson planning time, lesson time, marking time, department meeting time, CCA time, upgrading time, seminar & workshop time, parent-meeting time to do those regular progress updates?

Are the school teachers trained to properly communicate such minute progresses to the parents who may not understand how such minute progresses work at all? What happens if there is a conflict of opinions about those minute progresses between the teachers and the parents? How much more time and effort are needed to resolve those conflicts and do the Ministry of Education have the means to do so?

To conclude - I think the Ministry of Education has good intentions to vary the education system to make it more interesting and nurturing. But if they try to actualize such a drastic change to these young students without considering the above-mentioned questions, it may actually make things worse.

As of now, schools with such bit-sized tests have already forced students to sleep far fewer hours every night just to make the datelines each week or even every few days and these older students are already suffering from education trauma because they neither have enough rest for their bodies, enough time to digest the information and skills which they might have acquired or enough space to flex those skills because weighing on these bit-sized tests are still the looming shadows of the final exam papers - PSLE, O Levels and A Levels.

Is our education environment, students, teachers and parents even ready for the bit-sized tests at any school level? We seem to be still struggling with no clear solution in sight. Dare we impose such chaos on our young Primary 1 and Primary 2 students?

I hope not.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations 2009 Updated

Post-Birthday and Pre-CNY Present for Myself:

I gotten myself a computer game to entertain myself after my birthday and during the wait till Chinese Lunar New Year. It's titled Three Kingdoms Story 2 (三国立志专 2) and it's about playing a cartoon version of the more sober Romance of The Three Kingdoms. Although it's considered an old game (since 2005), I got hooked to playing it because the animations were really fun and the dialogue between the characters were amusing, entertaining me for hours the few days before Chinese Lunar New Year.

This is the world map where the objective of the game was to conquer all the thirteen cities before the main character (I chose Liu Bei - the goody-doer) reaches an age of 100 years old. Time was spaced out into four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter so that means I have 320 turns since Liu Bei was already 20 years old when I first started.
The screenshot was taken fairly early in the game and at the bottom of the screen were my characters then and the assigned character development and specialization that I had chosen for them. From the left, Liu Bei (fire magic & healing), Guan Yu (water magic), Zhang Fei (fire magic), Guan Ping (archer), Zhou Cang (diplomat), Liu Chan (water magic), Liao Hua (healing), Guan Xing (archer), Zhao Yun (tank & fire magic) and Zhuge Liang (fire magic & healing). They did not look much then but as they level up, the characer portraits will change and they would be dorned in better looking armour.
This screenshot was taken during a massive siege against a enemy warlord known as Dong Zhuo. The screen was already nearly empty because many allied troops and enemy troops were killed near the city gates. My characters were trying to bridge the city walls to reach Dong Zhuo and the blue dragon thingy was actually a powerful water magic spell called 水龙计.
The reward scene when Dong Zhuo was finally defeated after the battle.
This was taken during one of those random encounters in the game where I had to rush a small army to protect a city within a limited number of rounds - failing which I would lose one of the cities I had previous conquered. In this battle, the raiders did not stand a chance though as my characters were much stronger by then.

Chinese Lunar New Year Eve Reunion Dinner:

A total of twelve delicious dishes were served during reunion dinner. The photo included some of the very tasty dishes - clockwise from the bottom right hand corner were chilli crabs, pork, mussels, vegetables, fish, roasted duck, non-spicy crab, chicken, cereal prawns and the centre dish were steamed vegetables and some seafood. Reunion dinner lasted from 5pm till 6.30pm.
This was the breakfast taken on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year - a family custom to have a mix of Chinese and English breakfast - a legacy left behind my grandparents who had seen the colonial times of early Singapore and wanted a fusion celebration in the morning. Chocolate cake, love letters, karopok and ba-gua with English tea. It's a strange combination but it tasted delicious because it's so different from the previous night's reunion dinner fare.

River Hongbao Festival at the Floating Platform:

Another CNY practice in my family was a family outing to the traditional River Hongbao Festival. This year, it was held at the Floating Platform at Marina and we had to wait an hour from 5pm to 6pm because the festival only start at 6pm, which was pretty weird. Anyway, this was some of the very cute looking lantern dolls on the platform. There were many more such dolls but the crowd prevented any decent shots to be uploaded here.
The raging bull was quite realistically made. It seemed to be part of the theme of the festival called 牛转乾坤, which means the turning of chance to one's advantage. This probably had something to do with the forecasts of a terrible recession in the wake of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations.
Another lantern display of beautiful mandarin oranges on trees. Many people posed for pictures here but obviously for security reasons, I will not be uploading those shots taken with my family. The orange lights provided a very surreal feeling for this display if one stares at it long enough. Hahaha.
The entrance to the River Hongbao Festival was seriously decorated with red lanterns, lots and lots of red lanterns. This was by far the most beautiful entrances made for such festivals in years.
The central stage on the Floating Platform. Some dancers had just finishe performing and the stage was set up for some lantern puzzles which I have no patience to wait for to answer. The crowd in front of the stage seemed enthusiastic enough to hold on till the emcees turned up though.
How can anyone forget the mainstay of the River Hongbao Festival? The God of Fortune - a massive lantern standing at more than five storeys high. It seemed to be spraying a shower of golden paper at intervals of one hour because the road was full of such paper. We did not wait for the shower because my father was having some stomach upset so we had to leave early.

The Battle with a mighty cockroach:

When we reached home at around 9pm, everyone was tired from all the walking and crowd squeezing. After settling down, I took a shower and went on to try and finish the rest of the Three Kingdoms Story game and by the time of 12 midnight, I heard a strange cracking sound of wings at my ceiling and noticed a huge cockroach. Without ado, I grabbed the nearest insecticide spray at the bottom of my table and aimed my shot at the monstrosity.

To my dismay, the insecticide spray was nearly empty and it came out as a mini squirt instead. The cockroach, like an experienced fighter plane, immediately headed towards my face...I dodged the cockroach and sprayed it again in mid-air and it took cover behind my bed whilst I was desperately trying to coax more insectide from the bottle. The cockroach seemed to noticed I had some trouble with the can and made a sudden charge at me again, wings batting loudly, intend to crash right into my face. I dodged backwards and tripped over the sideboard of my bed and landed heavily on my clothes hanging on metal frames.

The fall was bad because I was actually standing on my bed trying to get a better view of the hidden cockroach without realizing it was much more intelligent than I thought so being caught offguard, the fall was nearly 60 cm from the sideboard all the way to the floor. I did sprayed the cockroach for the third time in the middle of my fall. Landing on my lower back, I had a minor sprain on my back, cuts on my legs and hands from the metal frames and a streak of skin torn from my left hand. The cockroach crashed into the side of the wall from my third spray and scurried out of my sight when I was trying to recover from the fall.

I thought I was really lucky because I could have broken my spine from the fall or got my back impaled by the metal frames' sharp corners. Neither happened and I received no broken bones either - just a stiff lower back and those cuts and scrapes. The cockroach was not to be seen again even though I made another search of the room. I supposed it must have been one of those elite warrior cockroaches which were sent to avenge its brothers and sisters which I had killed for the past year. Mother Nature sure had her surprises even in such a form.

Lesson learnt from the battle - I should have just struck out and punched the cockroach in mid-air (which I had the chance but I did not take it) instead of struggling with that stupid empty insecticide can. I have ordered a full can to be placed in my room at any time. Lesson for my blog readers - be fiercer than that flying-cockroach-in-the-face in case you backed in the wrong direction and suffer such a fall as I did. Hahaha....

Have a good week ahead - without those cockroaches.

Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations 2009

As with all good bloggers, I'm supposed to update on the activities happening in my life during the Chinese Lunar New Year and I really wanted to since the photos are ready and the blog post is already in my head.

But I am currently nursing some sprains sustained from a fierce battle against a mighty cockroach last night so the blog post will have to wait until I am in a better shape. Yeah, a cockroach could injure poor Sean if the battle conditions were in its favor. Will blog about this as soon as I can.

Wishing all my blog readers a Happy Chinese Lunar New Year, no matter what your ethnic group is, because it's still a happy occasion worth celebrating!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Birthday Celebrations 2009

It was my birthday yesterday so here's a blog post to tell my blog readers how I spent the day. After so many years of celebrations, I did not expect much anticipation and excitement because I am not a greedy person wanting of much from others. It was a half-day work for me so I spent the morning working as a normal person all the way till 12pm before I headed home.

There was a simple home celebration with my family members with red eggs and a birthday cake (strawberry-flavored) and that sort of took care of my lunch part I of the day. After that, my mother, in her usual festive mood, was raring to go to the nearby market for another round of Chinese New Year preparatory shopping and I obliged so off to the market we go. She bought and I lugged quite a few items - a box of mandarin oranges, a couple more CNY decorations, loads of vegetables, some pork cuts and some garnishing and condiment items. Lunch was eaten at a normal coffee shop with much fanfare because the items were pretty heavy and the weather was too hot to move elsewhere.

The afternoon was spent reading and finishing up on a book called Conquests of Alexander The Great. I like reading the occasional classic epic and history books because they provide knowledge of how the known civilized world came about. The book detailed how Alexander became a leader of the ancient Greece through a combination of wisdom, cunning and coercion, leading an improved and united Greek army across many different lands to conquer them, spread the Greek cultures and customs, whilst slowly assimilating other civilizations' practices.

Alexander was both being praised as a brilliant diplomat and strategist, as well as being criticized as an arrogant and overly-ambitious leader. In any case, I thought he was still a pivotal person in bringing about the spread of various cultures and languages which made the world what it is today. With the book finished, I took a nice, lazy two-hour nap from 3.30pm to 5.30pm. Yes, be jealous, because naps are becoming a luxury activity in the hectic-paced Singapore but my work and lifestyle grant the occasional naps and I love my sleep, away from the crazed rush of the world whenever I can.

By evening time, I got myself ready for the evening celebration with my VIP friends. The Changed Man had planned for an evening celebratory dinner at Melben Seafood Restaurant, famous for its crab special dishes so all the VIP friends who could turn up converged there at. After about one hour of waiting, nibbling on peanuts, chatting away at the economy, Obama's inaugural speech, the work, the bedsheets (yes, the ladies were yakking about which bedsheets to buy) the food finally arrived.

We ordered some fried vegetables with mushrooms, some fried yam sticks, and some really delicious buns which we used to dip in the sauce of the crab special dishes. Not in the picture were a dish of black pepper pork ribs as well.
We also tucked in two crab special dishes - this one is the butter crab and it was really nice with thick crab meat hidden inside those huge pincers. The sauce was buttery with a tangy peppy taste. The other was the claypot crab with noodles which was also very delicious. I did not take a picture of it because two VIP friends were too close to the claypot. They don't like their identities to be made known on the Internet thus so I could only take pictures of the food instead. Sorry for the few photos taken because I was too busy talking and eating with my hands. Hahaha.
The aftermath of the celebratory dinner, which lasted about one and a half hours, over delicious food, hilarious jokes, coy teasing and satisfied smiles. As I rarely eat crab during my normal meals, I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, nibbling through every possible nook and corner of the crab to find those succulent meat. Blurp~~Hahaha.

It was a good celebration - needless of any presents when the company is so fun-loving and joyous. These are extremely busy VIPs who took precious time and effort to convene together for my birthday. My grateful thanks to each of them! ^__^

Monday, January 19, 2009

Campus Superstars 3 Round 1 Part 2 of 2 Performance Commentaries

Reply to tags:

-: Yes, it's a Superstar competition and the appearance-disadvantaged will have to fight harder than the others to earn their places. I can only do my best within my performance commentaries to critique only on their singing and performances, and leave the choosing of the outward appearances to the voters instead. Well, I thought I took even more fire during Season 1 receiving even death threats from really agitated supporters but I got used to such things already. Thanks for looking out for me! =)

passer: I understand the sentiments of those who saw my 5.5 as a tough score against Ridhwan, given his ethnic and language background and the comparatively difficult performance he gave. But my thoughts are in line with Li Fei Hui Laoshi - if Ridhwan dared to sing and dance at such difficulty level, he'll have to deliver. If he fumbles (which unfortunately he did), he must accept the scoring consequences.

passer-by: Jeremy has his stage appeal but it will depend on whether he can continue to deliver and improve against his previous performance(s). The same goes for the remaining nine contestants, as well as the two earmarked for revival - can they better themselves and show growth in becoming the next Campus Superstar? Good luck to them all!

C1 李李美子 Mavis - 《我要快乐》 原唱者:张惠妹
- the opening line was dragged out too slowly
- 抖音 and 哭腔 were a little overdone
- 早 was sung slightly off-key
- 情绪有点过苦沉
- judges' scores are 6.0+7.0+7.5+7.0= 27.5
- I would have given Mavis a 6.5 because her performance seemed to lock the song into a fixated emotion when there should have been a release of freedom in her singing. Without that important change, the song became a dead-end ballad when it was not meant to be so.

C2 丁文淞 Jeremy - 《彩虹》 原唱者:周杰伦
- 能 was sung a little too low
- 天,的云,你要 were not enunciated correctly
- volume control of the song seemed loose
- judges' scores are 6.0+6.5+6.5+7.5= 26.5
- I would have given Jeremy a 7.0 because although his voice was perfectly suited for this song, his volume control was erratic and it disturbed the quality of the performance. His facial expression was also relatively lacking to emote the song properly.

C3 叶嘉敏 Jiamin - 《灰姑娘》 原唱者:张惠妹
- 了很久 抖音 was a little too much
- her voice projection was a little too conservative to fully bring out the song's flavor, holding herself back more than it was necessary
- 我的他 was not enunciated properly
- judges' scores are 7.5+8.0+8.0+6.5= 30.0
- I would have given Jiamin a 7.5 because even though she performed a song a little bit too safe to justify the spirit of the song, her vocal control and volume control of the song were very steady and she knows how to emote and lighten the key portions of the song in a timely fashion.

C4 张慧诗 Rachael Chang - 《勇气》 原唱者:梁静茹
- Opening word 终 's key seemed to be incorrect
- Background music over-ran her voice at somewhere near the first chorus
- 真心,太急 were not enunciated correctly
- 我 sounded a little too low
- judges' scores are 6.5+6.5+6.0+6.0= 25.0
- I would have given Rachael a 6.0 because I kept seeing Rachael concentrating on smiling and fiddling with her hair when she should be emoting the song and entering the proper state of mind to portray the song well. Her apparent distraction which was very obvious to me at least, mars her score from my view.

C5 Ridhwan Azman - 《就是我》 原唱者:林俊杰
- 忘词 for at least two full lines during the verses and was unable to recover back to form properly for at least the next five lines of the song
- high note's reach was less impactful than what was expected
- microphone positions kept changing, affecting projection of his singing voice
- judges' scores are 6.0+7.0+6.5+5.0= 24.5
- I would have given Ridhwan a 5.5 because his performance was very good before he started forgetting his lyrics so what was intended as a 7.5 was seriously penalized when he started fumbling. I know learning Mandarin songs for Ridhwan is an uphill task but an incomplete performance cannot possibly command a good score, no matter how hardworking the contestant was at backstage.

C6 郑琪颖 Benita - 《心动》 原唱者:林晓培
- 影,明白,住在 were not enunciated properly
- the final note at the ending seemed a beat slower and slightly unsteady
- judges' scores are 6.5+8.5+7.0+7.5= 29.5
- I would have given Benita a 7.5 because barring some minor technical issues, she did a very good job emoting the song and I could feel her singing to be in-tune with the mood of the song. Her facial expression could have a little more room for improvement. For example, she had closed her eyes for certain portions to thoroughly enjoy the song more and hold the ending a little longer with her stage presence, it would have been a better grade.

Good luck to all - still have 3 minutes left to vote!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"I Just Wanna Sing!" Singing Competition 2009 @ Jurong Point

Grace, one of the singing enthusiasts, has managed to get herself into the semi-finals of the above-mentioned singing competition and I decided to go down and support her because I thought it's the right thing to do since she has the passion to sing and the will to perform. I did my reconnaissance of the stage at around 12.30pm and went looking for lunch at the now-huge Jurong Point and eventually settling down for Japanese bento lunch. Initially, I was hoping the new extension wing would have NYDC because I had a craving for their mushroom-ham baked rice but only New York New York was the closest call. My lunch was a tempura-cum-salmon in teriyaki sauce-cum-beef teppanyaki set lunch at the second floor of the old wing one floor below Fish and Co. It costs around $12.90 + $1.80 for an additional iced lemon tea. The meal was quite filling and I actually could not finish the beef. The salmon was delicious I must say. After lunch, I took a quick window-shopping trip before settling down at my chosen spot to watch Grace in the competition - second floor overlooking the stage without the rooftop sunlight glaring down on my camera. Immediately, I noticed something terrible with the stage - it was located too close to the basement escalators and there was barely enough standing room near the stage area. There was less than three metres of space in between the stage and the CNY booth. Looks like Jurong Point management was too greedy trying to squeeze too many stalls and booths without thinking about realistic space management. The acoustics at the competition stage was terrible so it was really impossible to do any accurate assessment of the contestants because the speakers' projection was swallowed up by the ruckus of the CNY stalls and humdrum. W.3.Muzic, the organizer of the competition, was not very efficient or at least skilful in their management of the competition either. My reasoning for saying so - the briefing of the first 10 of the 20 semi-finalists were done at 1.30pm under the hot sun when most of them were wearing makeup and their stage costumes. After the briefing, the semi-finalists were made to stand until their turns were up. I thought it must have been really uncomfortable for them to wait in such a way when chairs could have been provided backstage. The first contestant was dressed up to the nines for her performance, which was good because it showed she respected the stage enough. Although the judges had a lot of negative remarks, I thought she was pretty impressive enough to draw more than 100 people around the stage within three minutes of her singing. If she makes it into the top 10, I wouldn't be surprised. This contestant sang 差肩而过 but his performance was lacklustre and was actually boring, compared to the high-energy performance immediately before his. I thought her physical appearance was most star-like but her singing was too timid as if she was trying to hold back her image. A pity because she would have done much better if she let herself loose abit. This female contestant was also too timid. Her singing was drowned out by the background music and she did not even notice it so she sang as safely as she could without the effort to master the song as her own. I really don't like the way this contestant under-dressed for the competition. He looks more like he was going shopping on a lazy day rather than giving a serious performance onstage. This contestant did quite well with his Jay Chou's song, 不能说的秘密 but he kept cocking his head to and fro like an ostrich to keep his rhythm, which looks really odd onstage. The judges were not wrong to point out that he sounded more like rehearsing as Jay Chou instead of giving his own rendition of the song but all in all, he should be able to qualify. The best among the first 10 semi-finalists - solid control of the song though he was a little too shy to commandeer the stage because his gesticulation was too conservative. Still, he has the best vocal controls and an even better understanding of how far his voice can go without tipping over into the danger zone. Nice polished shoes but it doesn't go very well with his other outfit pieces and his performance was unsteady at best, which was a waste because I thought he was trying hard to get whatever he wanted. Grace was contestant number 9 and she fielded 热带雨林 instead of what she initially chosen 纸飞机. I thought she would be regretting her decision because she could not pull off the three separate voices in S.H.E and she was duly criticized by the judges for choosing a wrong song. (Grace, I actually wanted to tell you that your song choice was bad but you told me you changed the song yesterday night so it was too late to vacillate by then. Hope it will be a lesson learnt for you not to attempt multi-singer songs if you cannot change singing styles within the song.) Poor Grace tried her best but the song was rather bland because expectations of her song were high since it's a highly popular song and she lost tempo of the song at a few portions. She was also too stiff-looking because she could not overcome her nervousness onstage - hence the judges commented on her expressionless face during singing. (Grace, I thought I told you yesterday to keep talking to your friends whilst waiting? Apparently, you were left to allow your tensions to mount for a full 50 minutes because I could clearly see your nerves fraying during your wait.) Too soft and bland were my impressions of this contestant's performance. As expected, the security guards at Jurong Point started chasing members of the audience to the side of the stage and I thought it was extremely rude to do so after the members of the public settled down comfortably to watch the competition. If there ain't enough space, tape the direction arrows on the floor rather than chase people away from the front of the stage. Minus 5 points for Jurong Point for failing to consider spatial constraints before signing on so many stalls and booths.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Review: Getting The Buggers in Tune

I had just finished reading a book about learning and teaching music and I thought it will be interesting to share some of the findings inside with those blog readers who may want to know more, especially since most of my recent posts have been about Campus Superstars 3 Competition.

The benefits of learning music:

"Music is a powerful, unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act. It brings together intellect and feeling and enables personal expression, reflection and emotional development. As an integral part of culture, past and present, it helps pupils to understand themselves and relate to others, forging important links between the home, school and the wider world. The teaching of music develops pupils' ability to listen and appreciate a wider variety of music and to make judgements about musical quality. It encourages active involvement in different forms of amateur music making (individual and communal) and develops a sense of group identity and togetherness. It also increases self-discipline and creativity, aesthetic sensitivity and fulfilment."
(taken from The English National Curriculum (National Curriculum for England, Programmes of Study))

For those who prefer to decipher the above extract in Chinese, let me try to translate it:


And I end this post with an instrumental song from one of the greatest jazz saxophone players alive, Kenny G, in his piece called Forever In Love. Go grab a friend or your partner and start dancing to the music. Alternatively, just grab your favorite drink, sit on your couch and enjoy! ^__^

Kenny G - Forever In Love - Kenny G

(Source: McCormack, Ian and Healey, Jeanette (2008) Getting The Buggers in Tune, London: Continuum International Publishing Group)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Campus Superstars 3 Round 1 Part 1 of 2 Performance Commentaries

Reply to tags:

-: Thanks for your support. At least some readers see the points I was trying to make. Yes, Rachel did have the best stage charisma for that night but the higher the bar she sets for herself, the higher will be the expectations weighing on her.

pew: Well, it's hard to please everyone if my style of commentaries. I am still trying to balance technical details and scope. Maybe my ears can pick up some of the details better. My idea is trying to show the gaps and indirectly hinting at the portions for improvements without being too direct.

(::I am not a vocal doctor but from the Pre-Concert performance, Shawn's singing voice sounded more hoarse than broken as an adult voice. He himself even said he could not do any of his previous songs anymore which lead me to believe either his key dropped tremendously or he had strained his unbroken voice during CSS 2 period so much that it became hoarse now instead.

Atn: I thought the contestants were trying but maybe they might have underestimated the pressure of a live stage with rolling cameras and staring eyes. Perhaps the unfortunate loss of Adrian will probe the remaining eleven contestants to reassess that the live stage is both a fun and serious platform at the same time.

Shawn: I believe I have already explained my rationale for writing performance commentaries below in blue italics. Thank you for tagging your thoughts anyway.

Update: I have some blog readers still asking me why I am providing all these performance commentaries when it's "none of my business". Some called me "very mean" whilst others called me "crazy". Although I have stated my objectives in doing so in previous blog posts, let me put down my intentions again.

I have no wish to torment any contestants or their supporters - singing is supposed to be enjoyable and beneficial to many. The whole idea is to point out the loopholes and gaps in their performances so the contestants can better themselves every time they go onstage.

Am I qualified to do so? Maybe? It depends on whether you feel my commentaries are constructive, accurate and to the point or not. What business is it of mine to comment? Obviously, I am not one of the four judges sitting there but I firmly believe if they read this, they know my reasons and I hope those blog readers in doubt do too:

As with all members of the audience, I have the basic right to vote, appraise and comment on their performances because I put in time, effort and expectations to watch their performances on the public stage. I want to be rewarded with good performances and instead of passively waiting for things to happen, I want contribute so that those good performances may happen in front of my eyes. Some people choose to vote with their purses; some choose to shake their hands and hug them as encouragement; others choose to hold placards and cheer; I choose to write performance commentaries.

1) Adrian
- singing was quite closed because I keep feeling his mouth did not fully open and he did not fully project his voice as strongly as the song would require.
- “更好” was a little too low.
- forgotten most of his first verse lyrics but finally stabilized the song by the 2nd repetition.
- judges scores were 6.0+6.0+4.5+4.0= 20.5
- I would have given Adrian a 5.0 because although forgetting lyrics is a major mistake for live performances but I personally also want to forgive him because he is the first person onstage and that usually un-nerves many performers.

2) Rachel Chua
- “自在” was a little low.
- good stage presentation skills.
- “头发” was enunciated incorrectly.
- singing was broken off at “不很习惯”.
- good falsetto reach during chorus portions.
- judges scores were 6.5+7.5+8.0+7.5= 29.5
- I would have given Rachel Chua a 7.5 because there were still a number of mistakes obvious enough in her performance. My next question to Rachel would be - if you clear this round, can you better your performance with another song of such difficulty?

3) Rachel Lim
- “星”,“照”,“翅” were enunciated incorrectly.
- “笑容” seemed to be a little flat.
- I keep feeling that your buildup has more room for improvement.
- “Myself” was added when it was not in the lyrics.
- your final note could have started out lighter and ended in a fade.
- judges scores were 6.0+7.0+6.5+6.5= 26.0
- I would have given Rachel Lim a 6.0 because although you really tried to reach the song out for the audience, you looked really stiff and as what one of the judges said, I was unable to see a completely comfortable performance with a confident singer onstage.

4) Shelly
- I kept getting distracted by your body language because you move too much.
- the buildup was probably lost because you focused too much on stage movements.
- “爱情” seemed to be enunciated incorrectly.
- the song in general was flat when I was expecting some bounce in your singing.
- I believe you broke your voice in one of the ending lines.
- judges scores were 5.5+7.0+5.0+5.5= 23.0
- I would have given Shelly a 5.5 because even though your singing was not on par with your stage movements, you were really trying hard to entertain the audience and I saw your sincerity onstage.

5) Jarod
- did not finish enunciating "Believe"
- 哭腔 at the wrong verses when it was not necessary.
- “不”,“时候” X 2, “宁可”,“当作” was not properly enunciated.
- stage movements and gesticulations were wooden and unpolished.
- ending was not completed properly.
- judges scores were 6.5+9.5+8.5+7.0= 31.5
- I would have given Jarod a 7.0 because he was very brave to attempt a difficult song for his age and somehow managed to bring out some flavor in the song. Upon the explanation given by the CSS 3 host, I understood that Jarod had not been in control of his emotions before stepping onto the stage so for his ability to endure his crying especially in the first episode of the competition, I gave another 0.5 points. However, such leniency would be a luxury in the future stages of the competition.

6) Joselin
- did not seem to be in syn with the beat of the song, especially obvious in the opening line.
- the emphasis on “坠” was a little too strong.
- “值不值得” was dragged out when it was not necessary to do so.
- the song did not achieve the expected waves of buildup and resolution so it sounded flat.
- her facial expression was pretty deadpan for an attitudinal song. Perhaps she was affected by the backstage crying but I had expected her to brave it as little better than the others.
- judges scores were 6.0+6.5+6.5+6.5= 25.5
- I would have given Joselin a 6.5 because her performance suffered a major setback in not being able to keep in beat and it was lacking that kind of radiance seen in her previous Pre-Concert performance.

Jia you for all of the contestants! ^__^

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Campus Superstars 3 Roadshow at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Open House 10 Jan 2009

I arrived quite early at Ngee Ann Polytechnic to do some reconnaissance of the area before the actual roadshow begins. The place was still quite sleepy but the CCA Fiesta were almost fully awakened with activities humming at the respective booths. I even went all the way to the Convention Hall and spoke to some of the lecturers there about the recent courses offered. I thought it was a good Open House with friendly Ambassadors giving out pamphlets and directions to the visitors about where to go for what.

As with most MediaCorp appearances, the roadshow only started at 12.16pm so the two Polytechnic student hosts had to come up with ways to entertain the growing crowd of about 150 people gathering at the tent. Most of the CSS 3 contestants seemed raw and bewildered during the roadshow so I supposed they would need more experience if they could do better and relax themselves. Let me just recollect some of the more memorable episodes during the roadshow there.

For Adrian, I thought he could have been more well-prepared for his talent performance instead of trying to borrow the percussion drums onstage at the last minute and thus he was the only one who did not do a talent performance onstage whilst most of the others repeated what they did during the Pre-Concert last Sunday night.

Rachel Lim, Shelly and Joselin were caught on my camera chitchatting away onstage whilst Jarod was performing. Perhaps they had forgotten to pay attention to their classmates' performances which should be an act of courtesy. It's easy to fidget onstage but don't forget there were at least eight photographers there snapping away.

Pornsak was exceptionally quick-witted and threw many of the contestants speechless in their replies to the quick-thinking hosts and thus most of the contestants must learn how to interact onstage as well rather than merely standing there and smiling (I believed they were mostly quite nervous at the turnout).

Jiamin had forgotten her lyrics for "Fly Away" and had to restart. She eventually steadied out but I thought she could have mentally rehearsed the song before her turn came along then. Thankfully, that was not the actual performance or Li Fei Hui Laoshi would come after Jiamin for it.

Rachael Chang did another balloon giraffe and made use of the opportunity to apologize to Pornsak for her earlier comment during the Pre-Concert. I thought it was a golden opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding. Pornsak, of course, accepted and I personally thought the case is finally over.

He Guohao of Campus Superstars Season 2, also gave a guest performance and I want to compliment him on his marked improvement here since I last heard him sing. He took a lot of fire from me during the competition then but I am even more glad to see him improving and I finally get to enjoy a good performance. The applause he got from the audience was unanimous and he earned it alright.

Near the end of the roadshow, Felicia led the crowd for a quick round of games, trying to find caps, watches, socks (yucks)and balloons in order to give away prizes and true indeed, some lucky chaps walked away with unique goodies.

The roadshow ended around 1.26pm and I left the Ngee Ann Polytechnic campus for some lunch.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Movie Review: Red Cliff 2 《赤壁 (下)- 绝战天下》

Today is my off day so I took the opportunity to be one of the first to watch the movie since it's opening today at the big screens. There could be some spoilers in the review so if you want to keep yourself in suspense, read only the next two paragraphs.

I have always liked epic war movies so I thought this movie was quite well-made because it tried its best to balance character development, military ingenuity and cunning between characters, as well as friendship and humanity issues in the setting of a spectacular finale battle. Unfortunately, Part 2 sacrificed more of the action-oriented scenes of individual warriors on the battlefield and focused on the scale of the battle and effects of the fighting. The final parting scene of Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu could have been much better though.

Well, at least the morals of why wars and conquests are bad things are not forgotten the middle of all the dead that piled up as the finale battle pushed through. I remember one quote from Zhou Yu when he emerged victorious from the intense battle "In a war, we are all losers." The analogy of Xiao Qiao was also quite intelligently put - "Just like a cup of tea filled to the brim, a person brimming with ambition will eventually encounter a situation which empties his person's ambition."

Story: ****
Acting: ***1/2
Direction: ***1/2
Visuals: *****
Overall: ****

Part 1 was quickly recapped through a series of cut scenes to show viewers where the movie has left off - Zhuge Liang (military adviser for Liu Bei) was working closely together with Sun Shangxiang (sister of Sun Quan) using messenger pigeons to find out more about Cao Cao's (Prime Minister of Han Dynasty) military camp layout and plans.

Part 2 deviated quite some portions from the original Three Kingdoms but I supposed since it's a movie adaptation worth only 141 minutes, I would just go along with the new movie subplots rather than complain and whine about the deviations from historical records.

The movie showed a nice friendship subplot about how Shangxiang befriended a simple-minded soldier of Cao Cao during her disguised identity as a Cao soldier. There were also subplots such as: Zhuge Liang who made use of scarecrows onboard ships in the middle of a fog to "borrow" 100,000 arrows from Cao's fidgety naval archers; Zhou Yu (viceroy of Sun Quan's army) who deceived a miliary adviser of Cao, Jiang Gan, and stirred Cao Cao's suspicions to rashly execute Cao Mao and Zhang Yun (naval commanders who newly-surrendered to Cao Cao).

The final battle was very intense and tightly choreographed which was also the climax of the movie - it alone justified the ticket price. Expect - spectacular explosions, impressive infernos, storms of deadly arrows and pummelling rocks, cunning Roman-tortoise formations, heroic sacrifices of the valiant, military ingenuity and deception, dangerous stand-offs at swordtips and moving parting scenes of friends on battlefield.

For an epic war movie, I left the cinema contented.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Campus Superstars 3 Round 1 - 代表自己的歌 Song Choices Part 6

CSS 3 contestant, Jeremy, has chosen the following song for Round 1 competition on 19 Jan 2009 Monday.

歌名:专属天使 歌手:Tank

Personally I have heard this song umpteen times and am quite familiar with it because one of my VIP friend loves to sing this song every time we go for karaoke sessions. It's a love ballad with the theme of a guardian angel of love.

The song has a few things to note if one is to make sure he/she covers the song properly.Note that there are a few places where the buildup happens - the end of the 2nd verse, the bridge area, the final chorus and the final solo portion so I would consider those places as important areas to emote the song fully. The song was meant to sound grateful and contented so these two emotions are expected to come out throughout the song as well.

(1st verse)
我不會怪你 對我的偽裝

(2nd verse)
小小的手掌 厚厚的溫暖
不敢想的夢想 透過妳的眼光

(1st chorus)
妳是我的專屬天使 唯我能獨佔
擁有一個專屬天使 我哪裡還需要別的願望

(3rd verse)
小小的手掌 大大的力量
妳想去的地方 就是我的方向

(2nd chorus)
妳是我的專屬天使 唯我能獨佔
擁有一個專屬天使 我哪裡還需要別的願望

要不是妳出現 我一定還在沉睡
Oh 絕望的以為 生命只有黑夜

(final chorus - climax)
妳是我的專屬天使 唯我能獨佔
擁有一個專屬天使 我哪裡還需要別的願望

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Random Photos and Random Thoughts

Been relentlessly publishing blog posts on Campus Superstars Season 3 for the past week so I thought I would write something different for those blog readers who are more interested about other things.

Took some photos during New Year Day 2009 but only managed to dig them up right now.

My first breakfast of 2009 - MacDonald's Hotcakes with Sausage Meal paired with a glass of iced Milo. I love a good breakfast each morning and I love to have my favorite breakfast to start off the new year. It's sinfully good and filling and I really like to take my breakfast slow and comfortably so I'd rather wake up extra early than to rush through my food.
Took my parents out for a New Year Lunch and they chose to eat Western food. We had three nice portions of chicken chop at a nice Western food stall. The chicken was nicely complemented by the sauce and the coleslaw was firm and fresh.
This was a spur-of-the-moment lunch created by my mother who suddenly decided to try her hand at doing some steamboat thingy at home. With no apparent experience at such meals, she tried her best to compile some ingredients for cooking. Unfortunately, other than the pork slices, most of the other food were not exactly suitable and the pot was way too small to do decent cooking. I thought she is still better suited with a wok and a spatula rather than steamboat cooking. Haha.
A candid shot taken when I saw three of my fishes lining up in my home aquarium for a photo-shoot. The second eldest, the youngest and the big brother fish. The three of them share a intelligent bond amongst themselves as either one of the two eldest is always seen protecting the youngest by staying close to the youngest at any point of time (even during sleeping time). This is because the youngest fish is the smallest fish in the aquarium and is always being bullied by the other fish, especially the pouting Parrot fishes which will go around poking other fishes with their mouths. One fine day, the three dark brothers decided to line up at one corner of the tank for a family shot so there it goes.

Nothing much else is happening right now - pretty lethargic start for 2009. Just waiting for Chinese New Year to come and hope there is some form of festive mood for this seemingly bleak year ahead.