You're… er… a few fries short of a Happy Meal…

So I had bookmarked this podcast about Slate‘s Euphemism Contest a couple of weeks back, and I finally got around to listening to it. The podcast hosts had invited listeners to submit euphemisms for “stupid”. For example, the subject of this little post: “a few fries short of a Happy Meal”. The podcast was quite funny. You should really download it and listen to it if you can. I particularly liked these ones:

His elevator doesn’t go to the top floor (or its Spanish counterpart: His pail doesn’t come up to the top of the well)

The wheel is turning but the hamster is dead [A bit morbid, this one.]

As sharp as a blimp / the leading edge of a basketball [There must be many, many of these similes around…]

He’s got his solar panels on the north side [Err… I don’t know… even if they’re on the north side, they’ll get some sun, no? But I liked the thought put into this one.]

At the blackjack table of life, he stands at 11 [If you don’t get this, see if you can ask someone who plays blackjack to explain this to you.]

All vacuum and no tube [Very evocative, this one.]

Homeschooled by poodles [Well, at least one would know how to bark and prance around…]

His faculties will never be tenured [For those pursuing higher education :p]

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Leader as shepherd

So a few days ago, I heard Mr Lim Siong Guan speak about leadership. I knew who he was, and had heard someone I respect say that he was an inspiration, so I was impressed with the man even before this. After hearing him speak, I came away a little disappointed with the quality of the presentation – the slides were obviously ill-prepared – but even more impressed with the man.

Of many interesting things he mentioned, one was the idea that a leader can be compared to a shepherd (the way shepherds are in the Middle East, not those in Australia and New Zealand, who I understand rely a lot more on sheepdogs).

A shepherd has a crooked staff. This is so that while he directs his flock across the meadows and fields to graze, if a sheep should fall into a ditch, he can help it up. A leader likewise supports his charges when they have difficulties.

A shepherd wields a strong stick. This is not to cajole or threaten his flock to go where he wants them to go, but to drive away predators that may endanger his flock. A leader likewise protects his charges.

Sometimes you will see a shepherd lugging a lame sheep, usually a lamb, around his shoulders. There are always a few sheep in a flock that persist in going in different, more dangerous directions, possibly into ravines or cliff edges. So, to prevent the rest of his flock from coming to harm, the shepherd may break the disobedient sheep’s leg. But since it then cannot walk, the shepherd would have to carry the sheep around his shoulders and nurse it back to health. A leader likewise has a responsibility to his charges to prevent unproductive or detrimental elements from affecting the team’s work.

I think that’s interesting – the concept of leaders as shepherds.

Eyes on me

So “Eyes on me”, that not-very-well-pronounced but still captivating theme song of the hit role-playing game Final Fantasy VIII, is playing on my iTunes now. Faye Wong has such a fantastic voice, and the song lyrics are sometimes so evocative (“I kind of liked it your way, how you shyly placed your eyes on me; did you ever know that I had mine on you?” always gets me), that one can more or less overlook the mis-pronounciations. (Wait, I need to stop typing a bit – the flute part is just starting to play now…)

I’ve never played FF8, though my sis is a gi-normous fan (she hates Rinoa, I think). I first heard “Eyes on me” when I saw the music video. This girl with a serious case of porcelain complexion was on the screen, and I instinctively saw that the grass in the meadow on which she was prancing was too green, too well defined, the shadows too sharp-edged. And after about ten minutes of playing the video on a loop and struggling to visually comprehend it, I realised it was animation – the girl with the serious case of porcelain complexion was a cartoon, albeit with the most lifelike of expressions. Heh – as I listen to the song now I can remember exactly how I felt; I can feel again what I felt: the wonder of it; staring at the girl’s flawless complexion and thinking that’s too perfect, it’s got to be animation; then seeing the girl smile a quick wry smile, smile in her eyes, in the most natural motion imaginable and thinking, that cannot be fake.

It was only after I convinced myself that it was animation that I realised that Faye Wong was singing this incredibly moving song, with its kooky yet touching lyrics and nigh-perfect blend of Faye Wong’s voice and orchestraic composition.

Through the magic of youtube, many community-produced versions of the “Eyes on me” music video can be viewed. Here’s one. Enjoy.

A little tip for youtube newbies: Hit the “play” button, then hit it again to pause the video. This allows the video to download. Wait for the entire video to download before hitting “play” again to savour the video in its uninterrupted entirety :)

P/S. Found this little tidbit about the role of the song in the continuity of the game world on wikipedia. Amazing how deeply realised game worlds are.

Back…

So eight years ago, during the first World Cup of Zidane, a more naive, more incomplete me stepped into the not-so-hallowed walkway at the School of Communication Studies (fondly and forever remembered as CS). By the next World Cup, I had spent the best four years of my life there. And last evening, six classmates and I spent a food-fueled, laugh-filled evening at our old stomping ground (well, okay – more like mugging-for-exams, rushing-for-video-projects, staying-overnight-for-newspaper-production ground).

I had not been back to CS at night for a long time, but a familiar scene greeted me as we unloaded from the taxi. The layout of the ground floor had not changed. The tree at the atrium might have been a little taller. Handcrafted-then-photocopied posters exhorting students to join the CS Club made themselves obvious on pillars and doors. The benches – heavy wooden picnic-tables with seats attached, where we had always spent time talking, studying, napping – littered the central area. Between two pillars, thick string stretched, laden with cards and papers clipped to the string with wooden clothes pegs. Our cohort had too used wooden clothes pegs (cheap mah – we were students, remember) to affix such messages in this exact manner. Even the occasional cooling breeze seemed like an old acquaintance.

Trevor was waiting for us at one of these benches – I don’t know why he chose one at the edge of the whole ensemble. We noisily greeted him and plonked down our bags of fast food and junk food. We are great proponents of healthy food, you understand – after all, we also brought along a half-dozen tetrapaks of green tea – but we also like having other food around.

At the end of the night, after we had talked easily separately and together, after we had made fun of the one among us whom we made fun of the most and each one of the others, after Trevor had reprised his multi-reprised role of photographer, after an impromptu birthday celebration, after we had polished off the food we could, after we had decided who would pile into Trevor’s car and who would try their luck at getting a cab, we parted, as if we would get together again, the seven of us, very soon.

And we will :)

P/S. Terrie’s doing her Master’s in CS, and she has a nice office there. Weijie’s working at the business school nearby, and his office was more used, and more cluttered. I found myself quietly envying them both. (Terrie also has a new tablet PC, folks.)

A play about JBJ, only it wasn't…

So last Thursday evening, I went to watch “The campaign to confer the Public Service Star on JBJ” with some colleagues. Some things I think I think:

  1. It was a really witty two-act play. In the first act, David Lee, President of the Association of Students for Self-expression (ASS, which of course was the hook for several pun-ny jokes) started a campaign to confer the Public Service Star on JBJ. As it turned out, it did not matter that he was campaigning for a JBJ who had nothing to do with opposition parties (his JBJ was being lauded for contributing to the protection of flora and fauna). No one would touch his campaign, not even his JBJ. There was this hilarious scene in which he called his JBJ’s organisation and tried to convince the paranoid female receptionist that he was sincere about his campaign, not trying to make trouble for her boss. In what came as a surprise to me, David died at the end of the first act.
  2. In the second act, a high-flying civil servant tried to manage the news item that was David’s death – that is, the death of a student activist who was ostensibly campaigning to confer a top public service award on someone with the same initials as an opposition party leader. The act unraveled as a spot-on caricature of the civil service – a discussion between the civil servant and a police inspector, who was investigating the case and expecting a memo about what conclusion to write in his report, was laugh-out-loud funny and laser-precise. More than that, the act was a well-sketched portrait of an accomplished Singaporean civil servant with a diamond-hard exterior, and her sacrifices.
  3. The structure of the play was interesting. In the first act, Rodney Oliveiro played David Lee’s role, while Pam Oei inimitably played a kaleidoscope of characters, from David Lee’s feisty, always-ready-with-a-witticism sidekick to the many receptionists David called during his campaign. In the second act, Pam Oei played the steely high-flier Clara Tang, while Rodney Oliveiro was the one who flitted back and forth among roles as Clara’s proud-of-his-humble-beginnings immediate boss, the new-to-the-new-civil-service rookie police inspector, Clara’s cynical news columnist boyfriend, her almost Kumar-ish gay PR guru and a shadowy behind-the-scenes higher-up. Both actors were excellent and accomplished.
  4. I have not done the play justice with my half-baked review, not by any means, so do go watch it if you’re interested. There are still shows at 3pm and 8pm today and tomorrow.
  5. It was a nice touch that the real JBJ was among the audience. He was introduced after the play to generous applause. I don’t know whether he was invited or just happened to turn up.

Also saw two university classmates that evening, one I knew quite well and spoke to, one whose name I forgot and therefore did not speak to. (Of course, I remember her name now – both her actual name and what she prefers to be called.)

Cool…

So I surfed a whole lot today, and rooted out some interesting stuff:

I think the Slate review, which recommended SMINT, was spot on. Haven’t tried the other two items, but think the idea of the gorillapod was something someone should have thought of a long time ago. If those flexible tripod legs retain their “grip” over time, that gorillapod would make a useful gift for a photog friend of mine…

Home

So today, at our organisation’s National Day Observance Ceremony, kindergarten* kids and a primary school choir performed. The kids were really tiny – I don’t see young enough kids often enough to realise how tiny they are and how quickly they grow. And they were cute the way they stuck gamely to their much-rehearsed moves even as they half hushed themselves and half shouted “Mummy!” or “Daddy!” when they saw their parents in the audience.

The choir sang 小人物的心声, “My Island Home” and “Home”. I grew up listening to 巫启贤, and although I’ve come to dislike him as a person – he appears to think too much of himself – there was a time when I really identified with his songs. Listening to the choir give this song a modern, folksy twist was intriguing – I hadn’t heard 小人物的心声 sung like that before. I’ve never heard “My Island Home”, which is supposed to be this year’s National Day Parade theme song. (If that sounds to you like I don’t watch TV much, you’re right!)

But I know “Home”. And listening to choral voices singing it, hearing the lyrics, looking at the earnest faces of the children concentrating and trying their best to get the song right on the video feed backstage, I felt a fleeting sensation of a lump rising in my throat and somehow reaching behind my nose and eyes where tears start.

It went away quickly, and I don’t think I miss it much, but I hadn’t felt that patriotic in a long time :)

* Long ago, I remember insisting that “kindergarten” was spelled “kindergarden”. I remember being told that even kindergarteners knew that “kindergarten” was spelled “kindergarten”. I remember finding out through browsing the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary that “kindergarten” was spelled “kindergarten”. I remember detesting the German language.

Pictionary

So last Friday, after a wonderful BBQ spread with steak, tiger prawns, stingray, squid, fried bee hoon, pizza and franks, we had a spirited game of Pictionary at my boss’ house, an old one-storey place off Dunearn Road. (Before I forget, this one-storey place was the temporary harbour of an interesting couple, whose current mission is to “drive from Sydney to London going overland as much as possible”. Although the trouble in East Timor had scuppered some of this “going overland”, they were still determined to drive on, through Pakistan, China etc. all the way to London, which they figured they would reach in seven months. They have a web site at www.drivingtolondon.com.)

During the game,

  • A colleague drew an intact building, and then a mess. Thought that was a really smart way of doing “ruins”.
  • Another colleague drew a house, then an arrow pointing inside the house and then a syringe and a bottle of medicine. Thought drawing a house with a cross on it would make people think more immediately of “hospital”, but hey – someone guessed it before the minute was up.
  • A colleague drew a stick figure with lines sticking out of it, and then other stuff with single, short, straight lines coming out, and got more and more frustrated as it became clear no one knew what on earth she was drawing. Then she changed tack, and started drawing a car – first the few archs that make up the car’s body, then the wheels; and her teammate started bouncing up and down on her sofa in the “I know I know” fashion, and shouted out, after getting it caught between her brain and her tongue a few times: “acupuncture”. Brilliant.
  • A colleague drew a stick figure with arms up and legs tucked in, clearly in the midst of a jump, and added a few archs after the figure, depicting its path. So the guesses came thick and fast: jump; leap; bounce; jump, jump, jump; frog… but none were right. He changed tack, and drew a ear and then drew a stick figure with a hoop around it. So the word sounded like “hoop”. Time was running out, but we couldn’t think of any “jump”-like word that sounded like “hoop”. Eventually, the answer was revealed: “hop”. Someone commented that perhaps we didn’t get it because we typically hop on one leg, and the colleague drew his stick figure with both legs tucked in. Maybe he could have drawn a bunny instead of a stick figure…
  • A colleague drew some wavy lines, and a horizontal, elongated thing beneath the lines. So this was underwater. We started guessing: submarine; torpedo; octopus. But she then drew a tank on this thing’s back. And immediately: scuba; scuba diving; diving; snorkelling… But she drew an arrow, aimed insistently at the tank. Okay, so it was scuba tank. Only it wasn’t. Then another colleague went: “oxygen”, and that’s what it was. This was my favourite – I have no idea what I would draw if I had to do “oxygen”, and I think the idea of an oxygen tank is really creative.
  • Another colleague had to do “silver”. She tried drawing some jewelry, but gave up halfway. Tough to draw “silver”, even if you break it up into “sail” and something. We all commiserated.
  • Another colleague had to do “Swiss army knife”, and did decide to break it up. We got “knife”, but despite her drawing the Swiss flag and a couple of stick figures with helmets and guns and bullets shooting out of the guns, we failed to get the rest. A colleague said it might have been easier to draw the actual Swiss army knife, and I think he was right :)

The 13 of us played past 10pm. I wish I had the drawings, but they were binned soon after the game.

That was a fun night.