Wednesday, 30 May 2007

More words

How many of the words below do you know? By know I mean able to explain their meaning and know how and when to use them properly.
abjure abrogate antebellum circumlocution deciduous enfranchise fatuous jejune loquacious lugubrious moiety obsequious pecuniary precipitous suffragist unctuous winnow
My score? Zero.

These are some of the words every high school-leaving American student should know, according to American Heritage® dictionaries editors. The entire list contains 100 words. The editors claim that it is not a benchmark, just a measure of one's level of English language mastery.

To tell you the truth, I do struggle with these kind of words. They're not commonly used, so you don't see them often. A word that is used often and correctly reinforces our grasp of it. These words used very rarely and usually substituted by a more commonly-known equivalent word. But then again, they are not often used because not many people know their meaning. So basically it's another 'chicken and egg' situation.

Without a doubt, these words do have their place in the language. Sometimes similar words invoke different feelings and impressions. For example the words quick, fast and swift suggest a similar meaning. But they are not always a substitute for one another. It depends on the context and subject being discussed as well.

Should we add these words to our vocabulary? I don't know about you, but it is said that the ignorant are prey for the learned. I suppose another 100 new words wouldn't hurt, would it? Let's grab our dictionaries and all the best!

[ 100 Words That All High School Graduates — And Their Parents — Should Know ]

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Preview: Lovely Complex

Lovely Complex (LoveCom) is based on the manga by Nakahara Aya which tells the oft-told tale of high school love with a twist: height complexity. Koizumi Risa is the unusually tall girl and Otani Atsushi is the guy who wishes that he could be taller (since he's in school basketball team).

Right from the start it can be sensed that there's chemistry between the two, and they ended up being dubbed by their teacher as a comedy duo ("All Hanshin-Kyōjin"). The rest of the first episode had me laughing to the point of tears.

Both Risa and Atsushi are considerably unlucky in love, so they decided to hook-up one another with a friend. The plan backfired instead (the friends fell for each other), so they made a bet to see who gets a boyfriend or girlfriend first. And that also seems to backfiring too as Risa begins to develop feeling for Atsushi...

LoveCom is the series I've been waiting for some time. Shoujo comedy is a sadly ignored genre.

Shoujo is difficult genre to describe. The best way is experience it yourself. I'm drawn to shoujo mostly by the way how the characters are made central to the story. Most of time the emotions of the characters affect the plot greatly, instead of the other way around. In the end, you can't help but to feel acquainted with the characters, after seeing and feeling what they've been through in the story.

Unlike in other genres, shoujo characters don't wear the same clothes all/most of the time. Same goes for hair. The lead is usually a plain Jane, pining for for the shining armour-clad knight. And flowers bloom in the background, when feelings of love surfaces (an almost sure sign of something being shoujo).

So far the series, after 7 episodes, is a bit inconsistent in the comedy department. Some episodes like the first had me in stitches, while the rest focused more the story's progression. Not that it's a bad thing.

LoveCom's charms lie in its characters' foibles. Who really haven't struggled with a complex of their own? Risa struggles with a confused feeling towards Atsushi and the possibility of finding a guy to match her height. Atsushi himself also suffers from an inferiority complex, after a former girlfriend broke up with him for a tall guy (that's what Atsushi seems to believe, anyway). Plus he's all blur, unable to pick up on Risa's feeling although the clues are very clear.

LoveCom may not be the funniest or most original story I've seen, but interesting enough to make want to stay for the rest of the season.

(Many apologies for an image-heavy post.)

Monday, 14 May 2007

Teacher Man

Shortly before the paper we were working on was submitted, my employer and I went through a furious stretch of editing, rewriting and pruning of the bibliography. We worked remotely, updating one another via phone calls, SMS messages and emails. Several hour later, the paper was ready and emailed to New York, its destination. The storm had passed. We sighed with relief. Alhamdulillah.

I hope that this didn't scare you from ever considering to join academia, my employer remarked.

Nope, I told my employer, reading Teacher Man did that to me already.

Teacher Man is a reminiscence of Frank McCourt's life as a teacher in New York. It is the part of his life shortly covered in his previous memoir, 'Tis. I finally got around to finish the book, which was bought last year. I know from experience that once I pick up anything by McCourt, I would have difficulties putting it down.

This book confirms what most people think of the teaching profession. We all believe strongly in it. But it's basically a job that nobody really wants to do, understands or appreciates. Just take a look at what teachers wrote in the letters section of the newspapers' education pullout. As woefully described by McCourt, teaching is the "downstairs maid of professions."

But despite all that, McCourt held on. He braved flying sandwiches, ethically-diverse classes, administration interferences and personal crises to deliver his student the English and Creative Writing lesson they deserve.

He also never shies away from confessing his weaknesses: his drinking habit, his womanising ways and other things that may deem him as an unworthy teacher. Teacher Man is a cold and hard at a teacher as a person. I heard from somewhere that one of the most important lesson parents must teach their children is that parents are just humans. I guess this goes for teachers as well.

McCourt is undoubtedly masterful as a storyteller. Reading his books is like pulling a chair and joining him at his table. He sometimes mirrors the speech pattern of the person he's talking about, like the way some people refer to him as Mr."McCord" or Mr."McCoot". McCourt definitely has a keen eye for human idiosyncrasies.

Teacher Man is hugely humorous and personally heartfelt. An emotive read for anyone who's interested about education and teaching.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Friends o' mine

(The Naruto pic above is kinda cheesy, but I heart Gaara.)

I don't consider myself as a friendly person, nor am I known among people by that reputation. I'm mostly a loner (and an expert at that). In school I did my own thing. When everyone were having a good time at the badminton court playing 'galah panjang', I hung out at the library. If anything, that was my reputation.

My class teacher asked me, You go to the library at recess every day? She looked at me with such unbelievability. Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer, the one I didn't told her: Yes, because I'm super lame at 'galah panjang' and nobody wants to play anything else.

From childhood to the present, I've been comfortable being outside a group or clique. I do hang out with my regular buddies, but I never see myself as a core member. These people usually do things and go places together, and I'm around mostly to tag along. I'm more a fringe member.

I thought with all this I shouldn't have that many friends. But scrolling up and down my mobile phone address book reveal evidences to the contrary.

Let's see: there's my roommates, coursemates, schoolmates, classmates, people from the same college as I am, former team member from other courses who worked with me in management subjects, anime, manga & comics 'kakis', game 'kakis', people I know from the 'surau', neighbours, juniors, seniors, lecturers, mentors, advisers, intellectual sparring partners, those have helped save my skin at one time or many times over – How did this list get so long?

I do feel bad about not keeping contact with them. Sometimes I feel when I needed them, I kept them close. But when I don't anymore, I go my own way. I feel kinda selfish (and as I've been told, it's the worst kind of fish).

I try to make up for this during festivities. Thank God for multiple SMSes. A warm, fuzzy feeling trickles through my being when the recipients sends back a reply. It's great to know that they still at least remember you and keeping your number. Nowadays I try to contact as many friends as much as my mobile phone plan allows me, insya-Allah. And there's also IM and email for my faraway friends.

I'm writing all this mainly because I'm meeting with a couple of old friends from school soon. One of them is getting married and he insisted that we meet in person so he can hand me the invitation. Another is a proud father of a new bouncing baby girl, a dude whose calmness and perseverance I greatly envied, back when we were studying together.

I ran into another old friend this morning. Turns out she's a bank officer at my school's branch. (For last three years!)

And to friends who visits this blog to keep in touch with me all this while. Muchas gracias.
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