Archive for the @work Category

That sanity be preserved…

Posted in @work on October 9, 2008 by Eugene

Just one of those days when the world has gone awry, and one cannot make sense of things anymore… Anyway, I am grateful for Dylan Thomas who says it best when my brain has shut down this night: “That the engines be run”…

That sanity be kept I sit at open windows,
Regard the sky, make unobtrusive comment on the moon,
Sit at open windows in my shirt,
And let the traffic pass, the signals shine,
The engines run, the brass bands keep in tune,
For sanity must be preserved.

Thinking of death, I sit and watch the park
Where children play in all their innocence,
And matrons on the littered grass
Absorb the daily sun.

The sweet suburban music from a hundred lawns
Comes softly to my ears. The English mowers mow and mow.

I mark the couples waking arm in arm,
Observe their smiles,
Sweet invitations and inventions,
See them lend love illustration
By gesture and grimace.
I watch them curiously, detect beneath the laughs
What stands for grief, a vague bewilderment
At things not turning right.

I sit at open windows in my shirt,
Observe, like some Jehovah of the west
What passes by, that sanity be kept.


Paul Duffield comes to SOTA

Posted in @work on February 4, 2008 by Eugene


Oxfordian Paul Duffield whisked into SOTA on a rainy Friday afternoon to give our kids a workshop on how to draw manga. It was simply electric to see our visual artists, a quietly eccentric bunch, all seated on the floor and copiously scribbling away. Practically every student is a manga lover, and they all (scarily) reproduced his drawings of manga -esque heads, eyes and hands faithfully. I’m just bowled over by the kind of artists coming over to teach our kids this; SOTA is both lighthouse and lightning rod for actors, dancers and singers, the most recent being internationally renowned soprano Kristina Laki. (So Ben, when are you coming over?)

And tomorrow, the famous Italian drama company Luoghi Dell’Arte is conducting a workshop for our hyperactive theatre students… I’m simply humbled at the range of opportunities for our kids…

Godawful Hypocriticism!

Posted in @work on January 19, 2008 by Eugene


I’ll put on my best sneer when I write this:

MOE’s latest advertising attempt has raised my hackles more than a busload of insufferable juveniles.

If you were to plot a graph of a teacher’s spirits during a typical school day, the mid-afternoons would be represented by a valley. Teachers are wilting in the heat after classes. They look nothing like these glamorous shots.

Evidently, MOE’s glib deliverers of untruth have thought otherwise and put up impeccable (but strangely quiescent) teachers with unimpeachable qualifications. Oxford? Oh my! A Masters from Princeton? Throw that in and doll her up with fancy apparel; teachers aren’t dead from the waist down.

Perhaps MOE had in mind fresh monoglot graduates easily conned into believing that the institution they worked for was really part Zara, part Secondary School.
It reeks of disingenuity, and the worst form of delusion ever.

Scholar. Teacher. Role-Model.” I certainly see the tagline for the lettered and learned. Same for the very implausible fashion statement. (My mother actually commented that one of them looks like a prostitute…but hey that’s her say) As for the “Teacher”, pity it’s squashed ignominiously in the middle. I really can’t see that aspect here.

1,1 only 1…

Posted in @work on January 18, 2008 by Eugene


Even literary plebians can be as fearsomely witty as the writers they purport to read. Gertrude Stein’s editor, A. J. Fifield, (bless her) once rejected one of her submissions as follows:

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your manuscript three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”

It’s a wonderful little mantra to repeat when you’re just swamped by work, or if you want to simply confuse your overbearing boss.

Marking and marking and mar…

Posted in @work on October 15, 2007 by Eugene

What an interminable stack of papers I have got to finish, and I’m exhausted.

“And the days are not full enough

And the nights are not full enough

And life slips by like a quiet field mouse,

Without shaking the grass.”

–Ezra Pound

 My dear Literature students, the papers aren’t written as insightfully as I would have liked. I have got to address all your mistakes soon. Like Miss Maudie swooping upon those unwanted Southern weeds, I must eradicate all those tired and very rudimentary inferences about how Atticus loves his family, Scout respects her Dad, Jem looks up to his father, therefore we can tell that they are very close. I could never have guessed. I’m not asking you to write like Calvin below, but I suppose your explanations are the key in getting good grades.


Shall I compare thee to your place or mine?

Posted in @work on August 6, 2007 by Eugene

Dear Ms Ai Seow Kee,
I am writing to express my utmost gratitude for your efforts in bringing the loveless singles of Singapore together, all of us waiting for some revelation.

As Social Development Officer in the Ministry of Education, you have a most enviable role, coordinating various activity meet-ups behind a wall of anonymity. Even my colleagues at Land Transport Authority have not been spared from your reach. And what a name you have! You have inspired and provoked us to gales of laughter with that moniker; perhaps you really look like the girl on the right. (In that case, I would really be interested in the latest Tibet trip with you as on-site coordinator.)emi-kobyashi210p22.jpg

True, such efforts by the Ministry bring out the inner cynic in me. I cannot imagine what kind of rabbity women and strident males would be present at an arranged lindy-hop session!

And don’t you agree Ms. Ai, that as an employee in MOE, dating is itself an education in human relationships. Perhaps it’s an anti-education. You could invent no worse preparation for love or for marriage, than the tireless pursuit of the perfect partner. Keep Looking, says SDU anyway. You’re not done yet. What about this one? And that one?

Dating, like the tyrant, seeks perfection.

And on this point, isn’t dating an accretive model of past promises and kisses? Our behaviour in the bedroom (if it even gets that far) is filled with traces of past bedrooms in which we have slept. A more melancholy way of looking at the history of dating is to read it as a history of repeated trials and errors and errors. And perhaps not all the well-meaning emails nor all the perfumes of Isetan, will ever clean this set of history…

Oh you pederast! You got me in trouble!

Posted in @work on July 11, 2007 by Eugene

shakespeare1.jpegHere’s a simple, unvarnished fact for you. Shakespeare was 18 when he married Ann Hathaway who was 26. The girl was already 3 months pregnant.

Now this is a fact most Stratford guides, with gleams of mischief in their eyes, will tell a typical tourist group. We, assuming the role of the open-mouthed foreigner will accept it uncritically. A little quietism about this issue never hurt anyone. Tis’ a fact of life I say, quote with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, unquote Hamlet. People do have shotgun marriages. Men do marry women 8 years their senior.

Now how does this simple, unoffensive fact lessen the moral integrity of a school when students are presenting biographical information on Shakespeare? I was caught off guard when someone actually told me to sanitize this bit of information: “Didn’t you check the presentation scripts?”, “What’s the purpose of telling them all of this?” were the titillated cries of disbelief. I had to extemporize (very carefully indeed) on not condoning pre-marital sex. How did these educated people end up like this? Shakespeare had an “unhealthy” marriage. He was “despicable”.

And any species of sexual attraction that you find documented on a local postcard fails the morality test, as far as these people are concerned. It’s as if the authorities were 7 year olds, confronting the fact of their parents’ sexuality for the first time. Have they never experienced impulses that fell outside the range of orthodoxy? I wonder …