Sunday, January 24, 2010

Apropos Live Theatre

The Book of Everything

My daughters (8 and 12-soon to be 13 y.o.) were initiated to live theatre last night. We saw The Book of Everything at the Belvoir St Theatre. There is much to write about the experience and keeping the focus in this blog will be a challenge.

The play was fantastic: the actors, scenes, visual and sound effects and the script were all staged and directed most effectively. It was very entertaining and thought-provoking. In the course of 2 1/2 hours, it became clear why Thomas, the 9-soon-to-be-10y.o. main protagonist, wantED to be happy when he grows up....and what happiness means. In this context: it was articulated by Mrs Van Amersfoot --> happiness is not to fear anything.

My eldest loves performing and has had considerable experience in the amateur league, including being part of the Hornsby Musical Society's Annie, when she was 9. It was good for her to see how professional productions are different, yet the same. It was good for her to see how thoughts and emotions can be conveyed using sounds, lights, music, props, body movements, facial expressions and spoken lines. Among my favourites was how 'floating on air due to happiness' was depicted.

Live theatre is interactive: actors provoke and take in cues from the audience. Audience laughter, clapping, gasps and silences become part of the theatrical performance. In this show, we got to help enact the 'plague of frogs' by throwing frogs (green ping-pong balls) and making frog noises. As part of the closing scenes, some kids were invited to the stage. My two girls were among them; frankly, my 8 y.o. looked flabbergasted but she went anyway. The other was, as mentioned, a natural performer so she was in her element.

Live theatre is busy: there is so much to look at. There are no zoom shots, but spotlights help the audience to focus. Last night, we could see how Eliza's leather-leg was made squeaky as she walked. We saw actors come and go. We saw scenes transform...the use of a gigantic book for scene changes was creative, effective, simple and amazingly good.

My youngest said at the end, "Can we watch it again?" Obviously, she enjoyed it. She has only known movies and dvds that can be seen over and over again, at the touch of a button! Even if it wasn't a question of money (live theatre is more expensive than going to the movies) the experience could not be easily replicated. Mind you, I find it amazing that actors (stage crew, etc) churn out performances with presumably the same level of quality for each show; I guess that's what you pay for.

Anyway, it was a most enjoyable experience, highly-recommended....may there be more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Apropos Connectivity

Apropos Connectivity

I ended my last post with a 'promise' to explore connections and it's effect on the 'I'. It's taken me a while but here I am now.

Relationships are connections between various 'I's; that is, individuals relate to other individuals. Connections can be face-to-face or digital (or analogue, paper-based, etc). Regardless, this is no longer a question of virtual vs. real. More often than not, digital communities are real, i.e. a branching out, if you will, of relationships that exist in the "real world".

In a sense, there's never been a better time in history to connect. For those who choose to connect, technology is breaking down barriers of time, space, age, culture and race. It is possible to connect with anyone who wants to connect.

I see the effect on each 'I' to be three-fold: diversify, replicate, individualise.

It is possible to belong to different communities, each one feeding a personal need or interest. New interests can be discovered and pursued. One can be an expert in one field and a beginner in another. Various perspectives and contexts can be explored.

Each person is unique. Herein lies the irony, the more one diversifies and be like others in those contexts, the more one becomes individualised. In other words, an increase in connections increases the combinations that make up an individual. This is making a huge, though highly plausible, assumption that no two individuals have exactly the same connections, least of all perceptions.

In each meaningful connection, we leave a bit of ourselves in the other...and vice versa. Our existence becomes entwined in the tapestry of the other. Our views, values and stories live on beyond the physical 'I'. Of course, this consequence can and has been used as a propaganda-machine. Nevertheless, it can be positive. Mothers use their social network to replicate themselves; usually, this is not a 'big brother' approach but rather a way for mothers to ensure the safety of their brood.

In summary,
Each individual has a unique set of connections, a network of communities. This helps define the person, in constant evolution, whilst enabling him/her to reach out and belong.

What I haven't explored is the levels, layers, or degree of connectivity. That may take a while again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Apropos Sharing

One of benefits in studying philosophy at uni is that I learned about various philosophies as well as the philosophical process itself. It is a method of enquiry and rationalisation. I should really say processes or methods because there's more than one.

In this post, I will attempt a philosophical approach to the idea of sharing. My method will be based on the idea of the 'I', the 'other' or 'you', and the 'we'. While this may seem simplistic, there is no way I will go into a full philosophical discourse as that is just too tedious this time of day, and I'm not really trained to be a philosopher.

I-centric - Sharing as I give
Sharing is I-centric when it benefits the person doing the sharing. Regardless of intent, I-centric sharing ultimately makes the sharer better off than before sharing. Examples of benefits are feeling good, getting something in return, sense of belonging and learning.

Other-centric - Sharing as you receive from me
Sharing is other-centric when it benefits the target of sharing. The other is better off for having been shared to/with. It is likely that the I-sharer believes that sharing will benefit the other. It is only truly other-centric if the other is actually better off in the long run. Similar examples apply as with the I-centric except it's in the perspective of the other. Charities are probably the best example. I think this sharing is most akin to giving with a recipient in mind. Most teaching situations are a form of this sharing as in 'teaching to fish rather than just giving fish'.

Parents, and society in general, make it a point to teach children the value of sharing sometimes to the point of forcing it such as when siblings have to share a block of chocolate or children have to share play equipment at the park. These examples of forced sharing are I-centric because the individual learns about sharing - whether or not he/she values it is another matter. These are also other-centric because the target audience is aware of societal (family as core unit) expectations and values.

We-centric - Sharing as you and I together
Sharing is we-centric when it benefits both the I and the other and the target of sharing with the purpose of building a we. The premise is that everyone needs to be connected with others in a relationship made possible through sharing, i.e. sharing is a pre-requisite for connection. It is suggestive of commonality, something shared in common such as a common heritage or passion. In this sense, we-centric sharing encompasses as well as transcends I-centric and other-centric sharing. Sharing is possible just by being or existing with each other, and without the act of give-and-take. Sharing binds us with others. The more that is shared, the stronger the connection.

Maybe I'll go into connection next time; I'd like to explore how the 'I' or the 'other' retains or even enhances their individuality in a sea of commonality or within a web of connections.

For now, I'll stop here and invite anyone who reads this post to have a look at this project on sharing and maybe even choose to participate - It is a project with sharing as a process and product. I believe it aims for we-centric sharing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Apropos Croquembouche

I was assigned to bring dessert for a dinner party last Saturday night. The hubby pooh-poohed my suggestion of an Orange-Poppyseed cake topped with Orange Syrup. Too ordinary he said. Ha!

The challenge was on. I thought then Croquembouche! ...and I don't even watch MasterChef.

I've NEVER made this before although I have made profiteroles once years ago.

Add to this the insane idea of wanting to make sure I've done all the washing and cleaning as well as take the eldest to her dress rehearsal and back...before I could even get started with making anything. I did all these by 2.30pm at which point I started.

Julie had Julia Child but I had Delia Smith and Donna Hay. Delia guided me through making choux pastry (recipe also available online). I found that easy enough that I decided to upgrade the initial plan of whipped cream filling to a full-blown Creme Patisserie (Pastry Cream according to the MasterChef recipe). And since I was making that, I then decided to use the spare egg whites into a pavlova base - the children can have that for dessert since the croquembouche was for the adults.

As the oven cooled down from 220 to 150, I whipped up the pavlova base. With the pavlova baking, I set to work with the pastry cream (recipe from Donna Hay). That turned out just okay so I went back to consult Delia who suggested subtly that I can add liquor if I wanted. Sweet! In went some Butterscotch Schnapps. I accidentally poured in more than intended but it turned out yummy albeit a bit high in the alcohol-content.

I used Donna's recipe for the caramel - didn't need the glucose that MasterChef required. I filled the buns with the pastry cream, dunked into the very hot caramel and assembled my croquembouche. Afterwards, I swirled some toffee floss. I also made extra toffee swirls to decorate the kids' pavlova and used the most beautiful specimen to top the croquembouche (see right).

It was all over, including pavlova base and chopped fruit, in just under 3 hours. Did I say I washed up as I went along?

I know my work did not compare with the MasterChef's one. After all, I do not own a croquembouche cone. But, I think I had a fighting chance when compared to Delia's one (see below)....well, maybe.

I rose to the challenge and glad I did because it was appreciated and made a fitting end to a truly scrumptious dinner shared with a bunch of good friends. The kids enjoyed the pavlova as well. The outside was crisp but the inside was luscious marshmallow-soft. Perfect!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Apropos Problem-Solving

For my lesson this morning, I tried something I don't normally do - write questions the students need to answer before any teaching.

Bit of Background
I haven't seen my year 7 maths class for nearly a week, not counting yesterday which was used for a common spreadsheet assessment. I thought they needed something to remind them of the last lesson - division of decimals, capping off operations on decimals.

Lesson Today
I put up 8 questions on operations, 4 with whole numbers and 4 with decimals. Interestingly, none of them picked up that I actually used the same digits for the same operations - until I asked if they can see a pattern. That is, they really didn't need to 'calculate' twice ... but they did! Far from a gimmick, I really wanted to contrast operations on whole numbers and decimals with the hope that they will see they are building on previous knowledge (applied connectionism).

I also had a problem-solving question:
"Shop 1 is having a 15% off store-wide sale. CD1 normally costs $20 in that shop. Shop 2 is selling the same CD for $16.95. Show which shop is selling the CD cheaper and by how much." ...names have been changed
This problem provided teaching-learning opportunities for:
  1. Rounding (topic for the day, in fact)
  2. Discounting (percentage of a quantity)
  3. Smart-shopping (comparing prices)
  4. Justifying answers
Of course, the difference is only 5 cents which many students felt was not worthwhile going to shop 2 for but that's another matter altogether.

All up,the class was engaged and on-task - on a period 1 lesson at that. While this 'start' took longer than the anticipated 15-minutes due to pursued opportunities, I couldn't have asked for a better way to do this topic. I will certainly try to create more of such opportunities for connectionism and engagement. Finding a problem that's not only relevant and meaningful can be tricky but certainly worthwhile.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Apropos Activism

apropos Activism

1986 seems a long time ago but some memories run deep. Till then, I never thought of myself as an activist. Maybe it's the Jesuit education I was getting at uni at the time (Liberation Theology). Maybe it's the risk-taking behaviour of teens. Maybe the cause was right - People Power at EDSA.

Personal reasons varied but as wikipedia mentions, 1-3 million people were there. As part of the uni contingent, I went and stayed for hours, even at night, handing out food to the masses - pizzas, burgers, and sardines. Lots. Between midnight and dawn was the hardest - surely there were less than a million there and, peaceful or not, there was a sense that death was not unlikely or improbable; I still remember who I was with and snippets of conversations. During the day, however, fighter planes looked awesome not ominous. Later reports revealed, of course, that these planes were just a word away from firing at everyone. These memories were recently stirred by the death of Cory Aquino. She was a housewife turned activist, as a matter of consequence (her husband Ninoy was assassinated and people rallied behind her) and choice (she chose to be the beacon of hope, a head figure of the masses).

What turns a passive bystander to an activist? Everyone has his/her own reason. Ultimately, one cannot act and not be moved or changed.

This singular event in my life has highlighted a very personal reality - a very strong aversion against apathy. I am not a "tree-hugger" and probably never will be but I respect these people who make a peaceful stand (for the most part. I know there are 'altercations').

Not everything is worth fighting for but when it is, one must.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Thank you card

Apropos Using Stamps and Masks

I love stamping; I've been doing it on and off for years. Following on from a previous post on creativity as a process that can be repeated, I'm not really that good at documenting my creations. Anyway, I thought that blogging some of my home-made cards would be a good way of documenting not just the process but the product as well!

List of items used - Tim Holtz masks; stamps by Autumn Leaves and Clear Dollar Stamps (gr8 shop), Spellbinders Nestabilities, white cardstock, chalk, stamp inks.

Shapes were cut from the cardstock using Nestabilities. For the large circle, I attached the masks U and 8 (U/8 netball). I chalked it up with pink. Then, I stamped it with the background stamp using green ink. I gently peeled off the mask to reveal the white U8. The edge was inked with pink to make it stand out a bit. This was set on the plain white scalloped circle to highlight the U8.

For the small cirlce, I simply used my 'thanks' stamp on it using pink ink. This was adhered to a scalloped circle inked in green. The small shapes were adhered to the larger shape.

The large shape was attached to the front of a hot pink card (it looks a bit red on the photo though). Voila! A home-made thank you card to hand out to one dedicated coach who gave up so much time and energy to develop netball skills and sportsmanship.

I've never used masks before and I've got to say I enjoyed it. I'll experiment some more and with some success will come more postings. :-)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Apropos Creativity

I was reading a transcript of Sir Ken Robinson's presentation about Creativity in schools. This has really got me thinking about creativity. The article is well-worth a read (hence the provision of the link) and there are a few points I'd like to mull over in this posting.

Point 1: Creativity is "schooled" out, not in
The idea of Creativity being constrained and under-valued in the educational system is not new. Perhaps this is a product of the Industrial Age - streamline, keep things the same, avoid risks. There is a sobering truth in that for a vast majority, the amount of creative spirit is diminished throughout the schooling years. I was one. The irony is that creativity is valued post-school. The onus is on the individual to pick up the pieces and make up for lost time. I've been working on this and trying to give myself more opportunities to exercise creativity at work and at home.

Point 2: Creativity means taking risks
When most of your professional life is geared around risk management (prevention and mitigation), it becomes clear how creativity is stifled. It is sad that after creativity is constrained in school, it is further constrained in the workplace. I am glad some do take risks to give us many innovations (conceptual and real) that we enjoy now.

Point 3: Creativity as a process of having original ideas that have value
I remember a previous colleague who said very few things are really original. The idea of 'value' is also arguably personal. Nevertheless, it is a handy definition because if you have created something which is valuable - even if only you think so - then it is not a waste. I particularly like the notion of 'process', harking back from my Process Management days. Processes lead to products. Processes can be honed and improved. Processes can be repeated. Processes can be shared and taught. Need I say more?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I've always loved the word "Apropos".

Perhaps it stems from my post-modernist view of 'everything is relative'. Perhaps it's because, in conversations, I could quickly change gears or topics and would often have to back-track and go "apropos...". Perhaps I've always been a fan of parenthetical remarks - digressions, in other words.

Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure... the word Apropos has served me well and will continue to do so. What better term to name my blog then than the word itself?

Of course, someone else has thought of it already so I've had to add a suffix of All. Appropriate again as I intend to write about a wide range of topics.

So there, the official launch of AproposAll.