Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Short teaching stories Part 1

Story 1:

I had lent my student my copy of "Eldest", because he, in his words, "got obsessed with it". I didn't think too much of it.

He came back after holidays and said "Miss, I read it like 5 TIMES I CAN'T BELIEVE *spoiler spoiler* HAPPENED. And miss, I can't stop using 'ancient language' (like 'thee' 'thyself', etc)"

Ahaha kid, you're cute. You sound like me when I was your age (gosh I'm so old).

We discussed some parts of the book together and I had to stop myself from chatting too long to avoid showing favoritism.

I'm really grateful that I grew up in a reading environment. Having read widely, I have a small catalogue of books and authors in my head. It's easy now to figure out which book my student would like and recommend them quickly. I've been doing that for a number of my students who told me they didn't know what to read.

It's almost like prescribing medicine based on what their interests are.

Another student told me, "Miss, I don't know what to read."

"What do you like?"

"I don't know. I'm not into action or fantasy."

"How about this?" I picked up a John Green book. "I'm not sure if it's something you'd like, it's more emotional and can be sad at times..."

"That sounds like me, Miss."

LOL. "Well then. Give it a try."

The next day he told me he liked it, so far.

For now, it's probably the one good thing I can do as their teacher. At least I'm good at something.

This is also why I once seriously considered doing library science, but you can only find that course overseas sigh.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't Wanna Cry

Seventeen's made a comeback. I have enjoyed their mini albums so far. There's good funky music there. Also, whoever's playing the bass in their tracks should get a raise 'cause those basslines can make a pianist convert to electric bass forever.

I think what I appreciate from this group's music is their layering. There's a lot going in their tracks - chord progressions, melody lines, the vocal harmonies and ad-libs. The sound is always full.

Not in this track.

I find a lot of new music experimenting with the idea of space. Well, I call it space, but more accurately it's the use of silence. There's a lot of gaps in between the synth chords, a longer pause before the jump into the chorus, a drop with only light beats in the verse, before a stronger bass drum in the pre-chorus. Everything then hits a strong climax during the bridge, and that's when we can hear some of the quintessential SVT layering again. Melodies that have a back-and-forth pattern, the separate drums come together to form a fuller sound, but even then, it's not as drowning as their previous title tracks.

It's not entirely surprising that some might dislike this, as it's quite a leap from their previous albums. I find myself drawn to it, though. There's something about the space in the music that gives you a mixture of calm and anticipation. The choreography also has space in it too, there's a lot of footwork (their poor knees) but there's something minimalistic about it, which works.

Somehow, the whole track is very aesthetically pleasing. It's fascinating. The chords are standard, the progression isn't unpredictable (which is something they do quite often in their previous songs), but the use of space, I think, is what makes it replay-able.

I have a mid-term break. And after that I'm not too sure about my future.

I feel a sense of calm and anticipation about that, too.

Sunday, May 14, 2017


It seems like every fortnight there is a new trend sweeping the classroom. First it was the dab, then it was bottle-flipping - I'm someone who's sensitive to sound, and the consistent but sudden smack of plastic crunching the floor tiles nearly drove me insane. Then there was that "yee" video, I have yet to be enlightened on what the joke is. I do not wish to be enlightened. I would prefer styaing in the suffering of ignorance.

Somehow it moved on to rubics cubes (we're still going through that phase), and fidget spinners, fidget cubes, and now, for some ungodly reason, the librarians thought it'd be educational to sell 'slime' to the students, which of course led to the class flipping their slime, mixing it with more water to make sickly wet slime, spinning, looping it around like professional Italian pasta makers, trying to make their own prata bread and other creative functions.

The problem with all these new distractions and trends that students go crazy with is this. Yes, it's a distraction to them and to the class. Sure.

But how inconsiderate of you.

Do you not realise I, your teacher, want to join the fun?

I want to play with the slime.

The fascinating thing that you may not know about teachers is, we are, as someone had once said before in a book I've read, "students with the cap on backwards." Meaning, we are you. We're fascinated by new things. Okay maybe not "we". It's probably just me. I don't have my life put together very well and am nowhere near being a responsible teacher, determined to get the class through a lesson.

Additionally, I am a person who is, unfortunately, very attracted to these new fiddly things. I am easily distracted too.

I realised how teaching is probably an awful occupation for me, when I confiscated one of the students' slime. It was very well-done - the elasticity, the texture, the colour, the craftsmanship was perfect.

Guess what I was doing for the next five minutes while explaining something or other, I don't remember anymore, to the class.

I was poking the slime.

Yeah me, the teacher, the one in charge of the class, was minutely fiddling with the thing that was a distraction.

Of course, minute actions are always the ones caught by students. This particular student called me out.

"Miss, why are you touching MY slime?"

Good question. I could only raise my hands and make a face.

"Miss, can't we just play with our slime all day?"

Yes. No. I mean, no.

Youth are fascinated by the world, I guess. Teachers are supposed to show students the world, but in a more, organised way.

Alas, I'm not organised.

Last week I was holding everyone's fidget spinners and asking about them - what are they for, what do you do with them, how many do you have, how do they work, OH wait crap, no, wait, I'm supposed to give homework and put that away guys, put it away.


During library period, I started playing Google Feud with them for a bit before I remembered they were supposed to be reading.

Double crap.

I may be 25 and your teacher, but that doesn't make me any less curious about the new things the world offers.

Perhaps I should go be a hermit after this year ends.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


I still know the address by heart, where
The days were long and nights longer
No matter the rush, I always had time
It was almost like I could create time
Back then 2am was ‘oh, still early’
There was no sleep and little rest
It was okay to starve and keep running
The constant chaos made sense
The stress that gnawed at me
At the same time fulfilled me
When I bled I knew I was alive
The exhausted thrill fed my drive
Now I live a half-life of half-places
Half-done dreams, half-begun plans
A Half-hearted life between adult and child
But a rudder that chooses neither left nor right is a useless one
Maybe it’s because kid-me
Didn’t imagine a year beyond 24
I’ve lost my way
Because I’d never thought I’ll get this far
This uncharted terrain overwhelms me
So much so I’d rather the ship sank
And I go down with it.
Motivation - please find me again.
I say let's just move, one simple step at a time
But my head and my heart and body are split into different ideals
Making it to the end of each day
Is a blessing and a curse
I only know to keep moving
Even if I don’t know where is forward.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve with Intro: 화양연화 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life)

Lyric Translation: 
The rim looks farther away today; sighs are building on top of the court
The boy is afraid of reality, but his heart is at peace only when he throws the ball
Throwing the ball by himself; what I’m shooting at the rim are my countless thoughts and worries
I pretend to know the world but my body is still not ready
Shoot, the court is my playground
With my movements, a small ball bounces next to my feet
The results are as low as the floor, 
but I just shout out loud to the world that everything’s gonna be alright
But the world gives me fear, then just stop
Thoughts fill my head and instead of the ball,I throw my future
Because of the other’s standard of success
my worries spread like cancer again, goddamn it

Along with the thrown ball, laughter starts to spread
My breath rises to my chin, my dreams squirm about
The dribbles get faster, my heart gets happier
This moment feels like it’ll last forever but the sun is setting
When the night comes again, reality gets destroyed
When I snap out of it, I’m just a scared idiot again
I keep getting scared at the looming sense of reality
Others are running ahead but why am I still here?

Breathe or dream
Row the oars along with your heartbeat
If you are trapped in the other’s thin judgments
then the sun will set on your life like (how it does on) a court

What am I doin’ with my life?
This moment won’t ever come again
I’m asking myself again, am I happy right now?
The answer is already there - I’m happy

Lyrics adapted from Color Coded Lyrics

Suga (or Min Yoongi) has the incredible ability of shaping an entire message behind a singular thematic colour/sound/term-that-i'm-too-amateur-to-know. I think that's the draw for me, as someone who studied English Literature and is musically inclined. If you take a close listen, you can hear the sound of shoes squeaking as they would if a player is on the court, the bounce of a ball, the sound it makes when it clangs against the rim of the net. Suga used to play basketball in school; this is his tribute to his pastime - using it as a metaphor of his hopes and dreams. I wouldn't be surprised if he recorded the authentic sounds and added them as samples into this track.

(I could and would talk more about this but I think other blogs have already; also I'm on a tight schedule TT)

I think I am deeply drawn to the songs of BTS' rapline/hyung (older members) line, namely because they deeply resonate the feelings a twentysomething would have (or twentysomething me has anyway). There a sense of bravado - we've worked hard to get here, we're achieving some of our dreams, but also worry, fear, and despair - why does it seem like our actual dreams aren't complete yet, why am I still unsure about life, when will I actually get my sh*t together. And generally, they end their songs on a positive note. Probably why I blast them in my car, much to my family's chagrin (the language barrier is challenging). What can I say, I'm a sucker for relatable songs (note: not songs shoving positive messages down my throat). My fondness for spoken word also makes me very, very intrigued by rap music - because literary-wise, we can define rhyme and meter and other literary elements in them.

Jamie Cullum's album Twentysomething has that feel as well. I remember listening to the full album in my late teens and only understanding some of his thoughts. Perhaps I should revisit it.

Anyway. New Year's Eve - I just feel Suga's song.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I miss these guys~

Goosehouse is a group of singers/musicians from Japan. They have original songs but also perform covers. Usually their performances are done on via livestream, where they will talk in between their songs, which they upload in chucks after the livestream is over. Generally, all their performances are acoustic and done live. In fact, it's extremely difficult to find any studio versions of their songs online (except the ones that have recently become openings for anime shows).

They don't livestream that often, but it's pretty much a mini concert whenever they do. A good 5 or 6 songs would be performed in one go. I love how cute they are (even though the cutest looking one is like, 30 years old. Seriously, how????), and in some ways, it's fascinating to watch them grow and improve as vocalists and musicians. 

When I first started following them 4 years back, some of their vocals weren't as strong, and because they seem to be constantly picking up new instruments (especially Johnny), there were times where you can tell they're an amateur at it. When Johnny first started on his violin, it sounded a bit shaky and now and then there was a scratchy note. He sounds wonderful today. For a failed violinist like me, that's inspiring. 

They've moved to a bigger house, with better sound and video equipment, and sound consistently great. Most of them are slowly having their own solo or side projects with other singers, but they continue to work together. 

I used to have them on autoplay while doing my work, mainly because their songs and the way they perform remind me of my old Yamaha music school days. There's a nostalgic atmosphere to them. They are also one of my inspirations to try new instruments, and to keep having fun with music. Through their covers, I've discovered quite a substantial amount of other Japanese artists, some that I've become a fan of. 

Also, that melodicas are cool. I want one. 

Goosehouse also has a unique fashion style - somehow what they wear looks slightly strange but it suits them. I don't think I can pull it off, but it's aesthetically pleasing to look at. 

They're having a large tour around Japan this time, and recently they had their first overseas tour in Taiwan. I hope they expand to other countries, like here! 

All of this writing is just me procrastinating really. Looking back on this, I've written a horrible review for a wonderful group. =_= I sound so listless. I'm trying to learn not to edit though, so I don't want to change anything about this (I have already though....crap). Please listen to them instead; they make a better point about themselves than me. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Vampire bite wanted

I'm reminded of how Jo March in Little Women, when quizzed by Laurie about what she wanted (in the hopes that he could buy it for her) said, "Genius."

I desperately want that too. More accurately, I want to become a vampire, so that I can stop sleeping.

Of course, we rarely get what we want.