Year2008

on schooling

Initially I thought this would be a long entry, but the more I think about it the less I have to say. Maybe because I’ve already said it, or maybe this will be a long entry. These are only the first few sentences. Also, these are again random thoughts in disarray.

What is it about school that bothers me? Do I need to be bothered about it? I think if I wasn’t bothered, I’d be insane. Or maybe I’m insane because I’m bothered.

In our “Leadership and Thinking Skills” course, I enjoyed the content but I think that there was a gap or a disconnect in the way it was being taught by the professors and how it was being absorbed by the students. I find that the students don’t speak up when they disagree with something. They are afraid of something. Maybe they’re afraid of looking foolish in front of the rest of the class? Afraid of disagreeing with the professors? Afraid of being wrong? I’m not sure what it is exactly, but the schooling environment does very little to discourage this fear. This is how you produce “yes men” or “yes women”. People who will walk out into the work force and say “yes boss” because it makes them look good and leads to that promotion, instead of considering the proper consequences of saying “yes boss”. I don’t want to be a “yes man” unless I agree.

But this isn’t a problem that is related to this specific course, it’s a larger issue about the state of education. I don’t pretend to know any solutions, I can just state what I find problematic.

I would like to think that it’s not just me who sees certain absurdities. I know it’s not. It’s foolish and self-righteous/holier-then-thou to assume that we are unique in what we go through. We are not unique.

There was this one point in class where I called out a professor on this concept of using metaphors and how well they apply in certain situations. Whether I was right or wrong is irrelevant, the point is that I brought it up, and in the end the professor gave us a cop out answer. Which is a shame. But during the break, a bunch of students came up to me and told me they were thinking the exact same thing and were glad that I spoke up. I’d like it if they spoke up as well.

If people speak up more, it allows the professors to realize that students don’t understand what they’re saying. It allows the professors to rethink what they’re saying, and perhaps present it in a different manner, or reiterate and correct what the students are thinking. This way we don’t have education based on assumptions. Students don’t have to cry and complain only after they get their marks back (because, you know, that matters so much). If you disagree with something conceptually, please bloody hell say it! I don’t say things because I like hearing the sound of my fucking voice, I actually give a damn and a half.

It’s easy not to say things and I understand. There’s a flow and we’re all part of it. It’s uncomfortable to go against the grain. I get it. You put your head down, slug through your courses, get your degree and you’re out. It’s done. You needn’t be bothered.

I choose to be bothered while I’m in the system. I don’t want to play this grading game. I’m not part of any competition. I’m not aiming for any prizes. There is no grand design and there is no cheering crowd at the finish line. There should be more to school than resume padding.

Maybe I’m mistaken in my interpretation of things. Maybe I have it all wrong. I know there’s still ways to go before I get a broader understanding of things. But I expect better, from myself and from the university.

But I am also a problem to myself. I don’t have myself figured out enough. My thoughts aren’t fleshed out properly. I’m stuck somewhere and I’m not sure where. My mindset is not that of a working person and is not that of a student. And even if I’m able to adopt either or both, I’m still not sure if I can solve the problem that I am to myself.

If time has taught me anything it is that I lack discipline. If I am to accomplish anything, in school or at work or in “life”, I need to regain a certain sense of discipline and focus. I don’t have this right now. Even with work and school, with this exhaustion and with this supposed “lack of time”, I’m not as good as I can be. Sometimes it is, but other times good enough simply isn’t.

So I’ll try and start the new semester with renewed focus and see how long it takes me to tumble down.

No, I didn’t say everything I wanted to say, and this entry is not as long as I thought it would be. Consider yourself spared.

donnie darko

From 2003:


Name: Donnie Darko
Directed By: Richard Kelly
Written By: Richard Kelly
Type: Drama, Science Fiction
Year: 2001
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, James Duval

I won’t even begin explaining anything about this movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal was brilliant. The story makes you think.
One of the best of 2001.

When you’re done watching this movie your mind will say “whao”, out loud.
And if it doesn’t, then I’ll give you your money back or you are stupid.

Rating: 8.5/10
If you liked Jake’s acting, pick up “October Sky”

ek chalis ki last local

Ek Chalis Ki Last Local (2007)

I saw this when I was in Mumbai last year. This movie goes along the vein of the Pulp Fiction/Snatch type films but it’s not a rip off, it’s inspired by those films. I liked it.

The characters were off the top and the situations absurd; making for one crazy movie.

I don’t get people, what’s with all the Abhay Deol hating? He did fine in this movie, and so did Neha Dhupia. Good on them for choosing to do the movie.

8/10

no country for old men

No Country For Old Men (2008)

I liked this movie, I liked the performances. Brolin and Bardem were great. It wasn’t the best thing since toasted subs, but it was good.

The scene at the gas station store was just plain creepy/freaky, much like Chigurh himself. I don’t need all my movies to have some form of redemption, I’m okay with a movie telling a story from point A to point B.

I didn’t mind the slowness or the lack of music (see Gerry). And what’s with all this talk about the ending? The ending was fine.

  • The coin don’t have no say. It’s just you.

  • Point bein’, even in the contest between man and steer the issue is not certain.

8/10

hunger

Hunger (2008)

The first thing in the film that stands out is the use of sound. There is no music, none that I noticed. Every sound bit seemed to have been heightened. Shoe steps, doors closing, and everything else. It reminded me of Gerry.

I didn’t know much about the IRA or Bobby Sands before watching this film, and I can’t say I know much now. I’ll have to read up a bit on that.

Visceral, that is how I could described most of the scenes in the movie. That is how I’d describe most of the movie. There is very little dialogue and the pace is very slow (again, reminding me of Gerry), but the imagery is very powerful in most instances.

The conversation scene between Sands and the priest was very well placed, clocking in at about 18 minutes in a single take. It did take me a while to adjust to the accent and certain words I missed out completely.

I don’t know much about the story, so I can’t comment on that. The film has its flaws but is very well made.

9/10

whale rider

From 2003:


Name: Whale Rider
Directed By: Niki Caro
Written By: Witi Ihimaera (novel), Niki Caro (screenplay)
Type: Drama
Year: 2002
Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton

Set in New Zealand, Whale Rider is about Paikea Apirana (Castle-Hughes) who has to overcome certain aspects of the Maori culture. She also strives to gain the respect and recognition of her grandfather Koro (Rawiri Paratene).

Yaser dragged me along to watch this movie, and I’m glad I went. The overall theme might be cliche but the movie itself was anything but; a very real movie with great performances. Keisha Castle-Hughes’ performance has to be one of the best child performances ever; she does a great job to capture the complexities of Paikea’s character. Definitely worthy of an Oscar. I wonder how she will adapt to the characters in her future movies.

Don’t miss this movie. If you are the emotional type then bring along your handkerchief or tissue papers because you’ll shed a couple of tears. Yaser alone cried enough to fill up a medium Sprite glass (please don’t try and confirm this with Yaser). I didn’t shed a tear however, but an emotional movie nonetheless and a very emotional performance by the cast.

9.5/10

man on wire

oddly, absurdly, insanely inspiring, and yet disturbing.

the film does a good job of capturing the thoughts, the relationships and the flaws.

man on wire

slip

Did my fingers slip during that shuffle? Is their card where I want it?

People are still chattering all around us and the music is still playing loud. I had moved these sounds into my periphery, but now I’ve moved them beyond that. There is nothing but uncertainty in this moment, this moment is as silent as stone.

So I’m supposed to show them a card that isn’t their chosen card? But what if I turn it over and it is their chosen card?

“No! That’s not the card!!!”

So far so good. Now I have to make their card appear. Will it appear?

“Well, if this isn’t your card, then what’s the one on the table?”, I point to the card on that table. Everyone turns their heads to look at it. It has been sitting there a while. I keep pointing to the card. Indicating that someone should turn it over.

Someone does.

Well? Is this it? Is this your card? Please be the card. Please be the card.

A few seconds of silence. I could hold out my hand and feel the silence coming down. I can’t do anything to change it. It’s falling on my hand, but it is not in my hands.

Then, suddenly, an eruption of wonder.

Phew.

“Wow! How is that possible? That was amazing!”

Yes it was. It was as much a miracle for me as it was for you.

Subhanallah.

Was this a trick? Could have fooled me.

2008: year of the blog

Actually, it was year of the rat.

But as far as I’m concerned, all I did this year was blog. Which is somewhat kind of sad. I blogged more this year than I did from 2003 to 2007 inclusive. That’s insane.

And if in 2007 you’d tell me that I would do that. I would tell you that you’re crazy. And the content I’ve posted, if you told me that’s the content I’d post, I’d tell you you were crazy-insane.

But blogging isn’t an accomplishment. Mind you, I am fairly pleased with some of the content on the blog. It ain’t all good, or even close, but hell I put it up. But that isn’t an accomplishment of any kind. Like learning how to play the guitar, that would be an accomplishment. And I’ve been wanting to learn how to do that for years. I even blogged about it in this cringe-worthy post.

2008 has been a good year though, along with all the ups and downs it comes with, it’s been a good year. It’s interesting because I can look back over the years and sort of follow myself and see how each year has either made a difference or affirmed something in me/about me. But life really turned interested that way since I turned 21, before that it’s all a blur. Hah.

Oh yeah, I switched jobs and started part-time school and host of other things. But none of that really stands out, I don’t even remember that stuff. All there is, is the blog. =/. Clearly I need to actually do something.

Would I have done anything differently this year? Yes, I would have. I would have bought a large flat big screen television. Not that I’d watch it or anything, I’m content downloading television and watching it on the macbook, I just want something to hang on the wall.

kyun?

hum kaun hai?
tum kaun ho?
mein kaun hoon?

nahin humare jaise hazaroon?
kya tum aik hi ho?
kya mein aik hi hoon?

phir kya farkh?
tum mein aur uss mein?
mujh mein aur uss mein?

phir kyun yeh sab?
tum kyun ho?
mein kyun hoon?

a metaphor is like a simile.

“I don’t even know the difference between an adjective and an adverb”, I said, in a shy, unknowingly tone.

what will I do?

What, oh what, will I do?

I took the next week off from work. I have an exam on Thursday and a (small) paper due Monday. In my mind I’ve divided the time up, in terms of where I will spend it. I will spend Friday night (tonight) working on the paper and finish it off on Saturday. Then, starting Sunday, I will pull out the humongous Financial Accounting textbook and it’s accompanying Case Book, go through each chapter and draw notes on the important points. From those notes I will make the cheat sheet I’m allowed to take into the 3 hour exam. I will have Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to study. That’s four days.

So far I’ve spent today reading a small graphic novel I picked up from the book sale at work. I picked up a whole bunch of other books too. I don’t understand. I still have piles of books I have not read, that I ought to read. I have books I’ve borrowed from friends, those books I ought to read. But I read this book first, the new one that I just bought. And I read it when the plan in my mind was to start on that paper. Did I make mention of how I don’t understand?

In reality I know I will do the paper on Saturday, or maybe even on Sunday. It’s due Monday after all. This plan in my mind will mould itself to the shape of wasted time. But really, if you enjoy the time you waste, is it really wasted? Maybe it’s just misplaced somewhat.

I’m here writing this post, about how I’ve planned to study, but will probably spend that time not studying. My point exactly.

Maybe I will stare a little at the static internet, if I stare long enough the words and images may change. Maybe I will watch a TV show, or two, or three. Perhaps I will watch an entire movie, or two. I just might read the new books I now find around me.

Maybe, just perhaps maybe, I will study.

What will I do?
What will I do?
What will I do?

you do not call the shots

This is a story from high school. This is a story I tell a lot. I’m not sure anymore if all of it is true or exact. It’s possible that every time I tell it, it changes a little. So now it’s morphed into what is presented below.

A story from high school – my last year of high school – about 7 years ago. The names have been changed or shortened not to protect anyone, but because it is easier to type this way. The head of our computer science department had left the year before and a new department head was hired. Mr. O never went to teacher’s college. He was hired during the time when it was okay to hire teachers without teaching degrees; I’m not sure if it is still this way.

The students were able to quickly determine that Mr. O was not only a poor teacher, but also fairly incompetent in matters of computer science. I was part of the computer council at school that year and we decided we ought to bring this matter up to the principal, Mr. S.

We all sat in his office, we raised our concerns, and he seemed forthcoming. I wasn’t expecting any drastic change, but hoped for at least something to happen. A few weeks passed by and I believe we raised our concerns to the principal again but Mr. O remained a clueless teacher. Then a few weeks after that, Mr. O was late coming to class. I was frustrated with the lack of change and started to speak to my classmates about what possible actions we could take. One idea that cropped up was to talk to the guidance councillors. I thought, why not all go together, book appointments one after another and all talk about the same issue. We had to make a point somehow.

We were able to collect about 10 students, we crowded the guidance councillors’ office and started to sign up for appointments one after another. The head guidance councillor noticed us and invited us into the meeting room so we could discuss the issue together. She lead us to the room and said she’d be back with some paper. By the time she returned, 10 more students had joined us.

In the while she was gone, the students had decided that I speak for them. So when the guidance councillor returned, I listed off the points we had collected. She took note, saying that we were making good points. She then decided to bring the principal into the meeting.

Maybe he was already having a bad day. He came in with a stern, authoritative tone and said something that amounted to, “This is the person we hired for this role, and you guys will have to learn how to deal with him. I know some of you are really smart, but you can’t expect all your teachers to be smarter than you.”

I responded to this with, “I’m not sure how you expect us to deal with the situation. How are we supposed to tell someone who controls our marks that they’re not doing their job properly? I want to know who hired this man.”

I want to know who hired this man. I think that was the straw that broke Mr. S’s back. His face turned red, and he started to speak directly to me, fingers pointing and all. He said many things. I don’t remember all of them. I remember him telling us that he placed ads in reputable newspapers like The Globe and Mail, indicating perhaps that smarter people would respond to them. I recall rolling my eyes a little to that point.

He really must have taken great exception to me demanding to know who hired Mr. O. I remember Mr. S saying, “If you’re going to take this down that route, you might as well just leave.” He pointed to the doors to the meeting room as he said that.

I really don’t remember all the other points he made. He was mad and angry. I remember the last thing he said. I remember it clearly. “You are a student in this building, you do not call the shots.” He was pointing at me and staring me right in the eyes.

Clearly, Mr. S had interviewed and hired Mr. O.

When we left the room all the students were giving me high fives and fist pumps. I, of course, was more than slightly terrified. It’s one of those moments where you’re terrified because of the moment itself, not because of consequences or anything else. I didn’t even know what to think next, or if this would result in anything at all.

To his credit, Mr. S audited the class about a month later. He surveyed the students. At the end of the year Mr. O was either let go, or his contract wasn’t renewed. I’m not sure which.

I had another run-in with Mr. S that year that ran in parallel to this story. But that’s another story for another time.

Regardless of what really happened, I’d like to think that we were able to get a teacher fired on the basis of incompetence. That’s something that is nearly impossible.

apparently I keep losing ironies.

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