Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lesley-Anne's CAP portfolio 2

Here's another piece Lesley-Anne wrote for her CAP portfolio. I thought it was quite humorous, though I wonder if there's some Freudian meaning behind her tendency to saddle her protagonists with Tiger mothers.

No Guts, No Glory

Bill Watterson, illustrator of popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, once said “I’ve never understood people who remember childhood as an idyllic time,” and I wholeheartedly agree with him. In the future, if I look back and recall my childhood, all I’ll remember is getting chased by my mother due to my bad performance in school. It did not help that she was an expert at wielding a cane.

Just so you know, the reason I did not do well in school was not because I was lazy. Let’s just say that I was never strong enough mentally to endure hours of intensive revision. After about an hour, my mind would begin to wander and this seems to be the case for a few of my other friends as they would ring me up to ask me to meet them at the nearby mall. When I tell them that I have to study, they would somehow convince me that we could study together at the mall. Sometimes, after an hour of revision, one’s brain gets a little delirious and for a moment, you would have no common sense whatsoever. This causes you to believe something stupid such as the mall is a conducive study environment.

If there is one weakness of mine, it is giving in to peer pressure. Therefore, one can infer that the above scenario has taken place many times and that peer pressure has often gotten me into trouble. That is why I have become quite adept at various sports, such as having to avoid the cane. When your mother is the one wielding it, this is no mean feat. Most people do not understand me when I say my life is like the Olympic Games so here is an example to illustrate what I mean.

Well, as usual, I came home with a Math test paper in my hand. I’d failed miserably. The moment Mother laid her eyes on the 47/100 scrawled in bright red ink, she looked just like a bomb ready to explode. And this test paper just lighted her fuse. The lighting of the Olympic Flame - the start of the Olympic Games!

To express her anger, she snatched the paper, crumpled it into a ball and threw it at me. And to think, my teacher blames me for handing in work that looks like “kiam chye”. Thanks to my speedy reflexes, I managed to grab a ruler and used it to whack the paper back to where it came from. And I take the last point to win this badminton game 21-19. Unfortunately, it hit Mother and caused all hell to break loose.

She reached for the dreaded weapon, the cane. I managed to avoid the first two strokes but suffered a third one across my palm. Time to make a run for it as things were getting ugly. The finals of the fencing event ended with Mother as the champion and me in second place.

I ran across the hall and into the living room where I leapt over a coffee table and several chairs, widening the distance between Mother and me. I am the champion in the hurdles event!

I made a break for the open front door with Mother hot on my heels. For a split second, I felt like my heart had stopped and I held my breath. The next thing I knew, I was running out onto the hot and sunny streets. And I win the 100 metre sprint by a narrow margin!

Happy that my mother had given up on chasing me and did not follow me into the streets, I slowed to a brisk walk and headed over to my best friend, Andrew’s, house. As I entered the gate to his garden, I tripped over his pet terrier and fell to the ground, did a somersault and landed on my face. That ends the artistic gymnastics event with me winning the gold medal after that impressive finish!

After Andrew let me in, he asked me to play a game of soccer with him. I was about to head back out to the garden when he stopped me and said that we would play soccer in the house since it was too hot out there. I agreed and once again gave in to peer pressure. I guess my mind was still delirious after successfully escaping Mother’s wrath.

After five minutes, Andrew and I were running out of the house with Andrew’s mum coming after us. What happened you ask? Well, let’s just say that something happened to a window in Andrew’s room.

This leads me to my second weakness - I never seem to learn from my mistakes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lesley-Anne's CAP portfolio 1

At the beginning of this year, Lesley-Anne applied to the Creative Arts Programme (CAP) organised by MOE and NUS. It's an external programme which offers writing workshops for students interested in creative writing.

Lesley-Anne wasn't successful in her application. Out of the 20-odd sec 2 students who applied from her school, only one was selected. I guess admission to the programme is highly selective. It's ok, Lesley-Anne says she might try again next year if she feels like it. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few of the pieces she had submitted as part of her application portfolio.

Out of the pieces of writing she submitted, this poem is my favourite, I found it terribly funny and original. Plus it features a hedgehog (my signature animal) and a giraffe (hers!) Too bad they didn't have a happy ending.

An Unlikely Marriage
A Study in Nonsensical Rhyme

There once was a hedgehog named Valentino
Who was an outcast because he was albino
He was treated like a pest
As the other hedgehogs did detest
Anyone without skin brown as cappucino

Somewhere else, not very far away
Lived a giraffe, who was unique in a way
Her legs were long as heck
But she had a really short neck
And this, amongst her family, caused much dismay

Now these two characters in time
Would have their destinies entwined
Both would soon meet each other
And they would discover
That they both got along just fine

It happened one day at noon
At the local restaurant by the lagoon
It was love at first sight
And they took delight
In knowing that they would marry soon

Their marriage was a grand affair
With decorations on the church's ceiling and stairs
But I guess everyone just "forgot"
Since no one came to see them tie the knot
But they were so madly in love that they didn't care

The giraffe gave Valentino a wedding present
One that was really quite decent
Her husband was enthralled
For she wrote him a book called
"101 Uses for a Hedgehog" which was pleasant

Now Valentino hoped to give her a gift equally nice
So he turned to the local bookstore owner for advice
Who said "Since a great writer is she
Books should make her feel much glee
So write one for her and that should suffice."

Ah, my dear Valentino, marriage is tough!
Your book may have perfect grammar and paragraphs
But your dear wife divorced you for a grave mistake on your part
And that is that your book had a horrible title to start
For it was named "101 Uses for a Dead Giraffe"!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sports in art

Since we're on the topic of clay art, here's something Lesley-Anne did for a school art lesson last year. The students were told to design their own mascot for the inaugural YOG held in Singapore.

The mascot had to represent a particular sport featured in the YOG. Lesley-Anne's was a pink penguin, representing swimming. You can see it holding the torch.

Sports can be a muse for art. Afterall, the sporting form lends itself to much grace in movement. Just recently, Andre brought home a drawing that was given to him by his good friend. It's meant to be a card of sorts and portrayed Andre as a badminton champ in what looks like a major tournament.

I was quite impressed by the composition and line work. Andre was probably was more enthralled by the fact that he pictured as the "Man of the Match", at least by his friend.

In this case, art doesn't imitate life, so hopefully, Oscar Wilde was right when he said it's life that imitates art.

I'm sure for Andre, that's an optimistic picture of the future.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here's a little piece of my art

One day, Andre came home and told me, "I pity the p4s - they have to bring brushes, paint and newspaper this Friday."

"Why?" I asked, imagining the kids being tasked with some chore like painting a classroom.

"They have to do art."

It's a travesty but I managed to bear a son with an aversion to art. Maybe it's because it's yet another form of seatwork, something he obviously feels overshadows his life. His favourite subject in school, surprise surprise, is PE.

Last year, Andre found art tolerable in school because the teacher allowed them to draw cartoons all year round. In term 1 this year, his class was exposed to clay modelling, which he found quite fun. The kids were told to bring a photograph of themselves and use it to sculpt a clay model portrait.

This was Andre's self-portrait:

It's no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but still mildly acceptable. That is, until he was told to paint it. Then suddenly, the self-portrait metamorphosised into a grinning Kermit.

I also noticed that the smile had widened from the original, the nose had completely disappeared and one corner of the slab had broken off. Clay doesn't travel well, especially when squashed in a schoolbag.

"Why on earth did you paint yourself green??" I asked, wondering if he had secret Hulk fantasies.

"It's the only colour in my poster paints that I have a lot of."

Pragmatism over realism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lesley-Anne turns 14!

My darling girl is 14! Her birthday was on Sunday but as someone who hates fuss and frills, she opted for a simple celebration.

We chose to have dinner at Ichiban Boshi, which we love as the food is great and very reasonably priced. Ever since we discovered this restaurant, we've stopped going to Sushi Tei. They have several branches but we decided to try out the branch at Marina Bay Financial Centre Link Mall.

The sashimi is fresh and the beef is simply excellent - tender and very tasty.

For dessert, we went to Marble Slab Creamery. It's all the rage now, custom ice cream with toppings mixed on a marble top. Here's the service staff at work.

And a very impatient boy watching the process. "Finding the happiness within"? Perhaps.

This was Lesley-Anne's portion. She chose the Cookie Dough Drizzle, which is aptly made with Birthday Cake flavour ice cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, Oreos and fudge. Gooey with bits of crunch and a generous infusion of sugar. Yumm... one scoop is more than enough, I think.

At the mall, we spotted a Swiss Bake cafe and bought a small birthday cake to take home. Lesley-Anne chose the Raspberry White Chocolate flavour.

And so, another year has passed, my little girl is steadily and surely becoming a full-fledged teenager. Happy birthday, Lesley-Anne, stay your sweet self always!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bukit Timah outdoor adventure

Last Saturday, Lesley-Anne went on an outdoor adventure with a bunch of other sec 2 kids. They formed groups and were supposed to find their own way to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill, before navigating themselves to the Dairy Farm Adventure Centre.

If you know Lesley-Anne, you know that anything with the words "outdoor adventure" is not something that she would voluntarily sign up for. So it's a good thing it was compulsory! This is actually a very pretty part of Singapore.

She was quite stoked to catch sight of woodpeckers, apparently they're exactly (well, maybe not exactly) like Woody Woodpecker, with the red mane. Of course, they also saw macaques which are pretty aggressive in these parts. One snatched a banana from a teacher. (Bananas + Bukit Timah Hill = colossally BAD idea.)

The teacher managed to take some nice shots of the kids enroute to the summit.

Finally, the checkpoint! I think the teacher looks more relieved than the students.

Following that, they made their way to the Dairy Farm Adventure Centre where the students experienced abseiling. Lesley-Anne had previously missed out on this activity when she went for camp at p5, so she was quite pleased that she got to try this.

The whole trip took the better half of a day. I think it's good for her to move out of her comfort zone every once in a while to get some nature by osmosis into her system.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Black and white - book recommendations

In term 1, Lesley-Anne studied the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee for literature. This book is one of those classics that never seem to leave the classroom. For as long as I can remember, secondary school students have been studying this book for literature.

The novel deals with civil rights and racial bigotry in the segregated southern US of the 1930s. The protagonist is Scout Finch, who sees her father, Atticus, strive to prove the innocence of a black man accused of raping and beating a white woman. This book was made into a landmark movie, starring a young and dashing Gregory Peck.

I first read the book in my teens (no, it wasn't my literature text) but it wasn't till I read Alex Haley's life-changing Roots back in the 1990s that I became fascinated with this historical aspect of race relations in the US.

I decided to blog about this because I recently read another terrific book on this issue. It's called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, where black women were hired to look after white households, Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is home from college and anxious to become a writer. She begins to collect the stories of the black women and enlists the help of Aibileen, a maid whose has raised 17 children, and her friend Minny. The stories reveal the best and the worst of human relations at a time where racial tensions were high.

It was a book I couldn't put down. I'm finding it harder and harder nowadays to find truly engaging books. At a recent book sale, a lady next to me scanned the aisles and boxes of books and commented, "Too many people are getting published." I totally agree with that sentiment. There are many authors who are probably doing the rainforests a great injustice by having their words printed.

Anyway, I digress. This is a very compelling book - it comes across as honest without being moralistic. You come to feel for the characters and you get drawn into the plot. Even though the book portrays historical events in the US, themes of discrimination cut across geographical and cultural boundaries, and force us to re-examine the complexity and often, hypocrisy of human relations.

So if you're looking for something new to read, do give this book a try.
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