Thursday, March 30, 2006

This I Believe

In my lifetime, if I can write half as well as her, with half as much heart, humor and humanity, I would be happy. Sarah Adams- not a Pulitzer Prize winner or a New York Times bestselling novelist, but a simple English teacher from Washington state- on why we should all be cool to the pizza dude:

Be Cool to the Pizza Dude

This is part of a collection of audio essays from NPR's This I Believe, a project started in the '50s by Edward R. Murrow to engage Americans and encourage them to share the things which guide them through life. These essayists aren't famous people, they aren't celebrities with an image to sell; they are people like you and I, writing about people like you and I- people from red states, blue states, fly the Dixie flag, the rainbow flag, swear by Kanye, only listen to Carreras, splurge on organic, can only afford processed. Just people.

Listen, and feel your heart strangely warmed...

In the words of my wise husband, nothing beats a good public radio station.
In the big pizza wheel of life, sometimes you're the hot bubbly cheese and sometimes you're the burnt crust. It's good to remember the fickle spinning of that wheel.
- Sarah Adams

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Soundtrack for today is...

...Kings of Convenience and Damien Rice.

This partly has to do with the misery that comes with missing them performing in Singapore, and partly because they just seemed the perfect people to be listening to on a day like today. It wasn't a particularly spectacular day; in fact, it was kind of grey and wet, as these on-the-cusp winter/spring days usually are in Ann Arbor. But for some reason, being the only person on the bus at 6.45am and watching the day wake up, I was struck by how pretty this little town can be even with bare trees and cloudy skies. There's kind of a rugged beauty to it all, and an amazing sense of promise of what will be in just a couple of weeks...

The music was just a great accompaniment to these somewhat pensive sentiments- the gorgeously layered strings of KOC on the one hand, and the soulful, quiet heart of Damien Rice on the other, made my 20-minute trip to school one of the happiest ones I've had in a long while. The rain was less depressing, more refreshing; the bare trees less a sign of winter cold than spring's imminent coming; and even the morning mist felt less shroud-like than usual.

Try it for yourself one day: when things seems just that little blue, put on my friends Erlend, Eirik and Damien. You'll know what I mean... :)

Parallel Lines
What's the immaterial substance
That envelopes two
That one percieves as hunger
And the other as food
I wake in tangeled covers
To a sash of snow,
You dream in a cartoon garden
I could never know
- Kings of Convenience

Monday, March 27, 2006

Beth Orton- Conceived

To usher in Spring (or so we're hoping everyday), here's the cute new video from Beth Orton, our favorite one of the season:

Warning: this video is rated 'M' for muppets. We bear no responsibility for sudden convulsions or violent nausea resulting from over-exposure to creatures otherwise known as adorablis muppetus.

(P/S: It takes a while to load completely.)

Wedding Bells

Woo-hoo! A shout-out to our dear friend Yong in Austin who's getting hitched in July!! Congrats, congrats, congrats!! Even though it's going to be in Korea and none of the SI folks are going to be there, I'm sure he knows out warmest wishes are with him & Dasan (even if Stan is probably shaking his head, sighing, "Another one bites the dust...")

And Yong, here's a little something to help you on your way towards internalizing the plural pronoun:

Maybe nothingness is to be without your presence,
without you moving, slicing the noon
like a blue flower, without you walking
later through the fog and the cobbles,

without the light you carry in your hand,
golden, which maybe others will not see,
which maybe no one knew was growing
like the red beginnings of a rose.

In short, without your presence: without your coming
suddenly, incitingly, to know my life,
gust of a rosebush, wheat of wind:

since then I am because you are,
since then you are, I am, we are,
and through love I will be, you will be, we'll be

-SONNET LXIX (Pablo Neruda)

Congratulations again Yong!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

There's brandy, and then there's Pisco.

Ok, so I think I'm officially having a hangover headache. We weren't drunk or anything (at least I don't think we were... I had enough wits about me when we came home last night to prepare two salami sandwiches for today's lunch, and I distinctively remember taking a shower, so there you go...), but I think the last time we had so much alcohol was at Jude's graduation last year. With the semi-clarity that one gains the morning after, I've concluded that it wasn't how much we drank but what we drank that did us in. Three Piscos- that's what we had between the two of us (and beer later at /aut/, which is a different story altogether, and one I believe Jude can tell better than I can...)

Anyways, about Pisco, these Chilean brandy things are small, sweet and lethal, and Leopold's makes a mean one. You start sipping on one of them, and before you know it, you've eaten the maraschino cherry that you usually detest, left nothing but residual ice in your cup, and a warm glow has started spreading from your gut to your face, leaving a nice rosy hue no M.A.C. product can recreate (the first time this rosy-cheeks phenomenon happened to me, it was 1995, I was at the Hard Rock Cafe with my best friend, it was a burbon coke, and I swore I was going to turn alcoholic just so I could walk around with a perpetual and perfect "natural" blush. Yes, yes, I was shallow like that...)

On the bright side, we slept better than we ever had in a long time. Tells you alot about our threshold for alcohol. We were out cold for 8 hours straight. We're talking dead sleep... Anyways, work has been a little sluggish as a result, and so instead of reading, I'm sitting here in the living room nursing a dark fragrant coffee, and savoring the lovely citrusy smell of the lemon custard bars I just put in the oven. If only everything I put in my mouth didn't taste like sawdust... :(

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Harry and the Potters in A2

Harry and the Potters are coming to Ann Arbor!
March 25th, Saturday
Ann Arbor, MI
University of Michigan - Michigan League Underground

This band was highlighted on Pitchfork (see our previous post) as having one of the top live shows of the 2005. Apparently, their fanbase is made up mainly of harry potter reading, third grade - teenage females. They keep up a mean tour schedule playing high schools, public libraries etc. Should make for an interesting evening :) Be there or be square (urh ... couldn't think of a better catchphrase there).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rethinking “a highly qualified teacher”

So, I usually don't take this space to talk about my research, not seriously anyway. I mean I talk about working with kids, churning statistics, and watching tons of Sesame Street videos, (which someone commented made me sound like a dorky, seriously over-qualified babysitter), but I just never think of a blog as the place to talk about academic stuff. If you want to read about low-income children, pathways of poverty and social resilience, go read a journal article.

But I make an exception today. Seeing how my life for the past two weeks or so has been all but consumed by this conference paper that I finally submitted an hour ago, I feel invested enough in what I worked on to share a little of that with you.

In a nutshell, my analysis focuses on the notion of teacher quality and whether or not a highly qualified teacher produces the same outcome for all children. I mean, it seems like common sense right? The more qualified a teacher is, the better children will perform. Well, yes. Sort of. Not really...

This is what I found:
The two lines represent the test scores of children from two different types of schools- the blue line represents schools where there are few minority children, and the red line represent schools where more than 50% of the children are students of color (these schools also tend to be much poorer). What the graph shows is that although test scores increase for all children as teachers become more qualified (duh, you would hope so...), there continues to be a persistent gap between them. Worse still, it seems as if the gap between children from low minority schools and those from high minority schools actually widens as teacher qualification increases. What this suggests is that not only are teachers not helping to close the achievement gap between the two groups of kids, as teachers become increasingly qualified, they actually appear to be exacerbating this gap.

Counter-intuitive you say? Not really if you think about it carefully. So here's my spiel: demographically speaking, in the next 20 years or so, America's school population is going to become increasingly diversified. Profoundly. In less than 10 years, 40% of this country's children will be children of color. But at the same time, teachers entering the teaching force are increasingly middle-class, female, and White. In other words, unless something is done, we're going to have on our hands a social and cultural chasm between students and teachers.

I argue that some schools of education are slow or unwilling to respond to this change. They are preparing teachers for a homogenous cultural and social world that does not exist and the result is that too many teachers lack the skills to work with diverse students and in complex social contexts. They get maybe that one token class on multicultural education where they receive pad and stereotypical conceptions of difference and diversity, easy answers to tough questions, and all in all, don't address the hard stuff. So, if higher teacher qualifications just means having taken more education courses which inadequately or wrongfully train teachers to work in conditions of high poverty and social disorder, it is any wonder why children in high minority schools benefit less than children from low minority schools when they get highly qualified teachers? The largely white, middle-class, female teacher population is simply ill-equipped to go into schools where so many of the children do not share their same social and cultural background.

I taught a class in multicultural education last year to a class of all White, middle-class preservice teachers. I want to think I did a decent job in getting them to think hard about what it means to teach in schools where the kids aren't growing up in the same way that they did. I made them uncomfortable and sometimes unhappy when I mentioned issues of privilege, access and equity. But I hope it was worth it. They need to know these things. They need to know that teachers must be able to teach ALL children effectively. As a teacher, you can't just go, "Oops, I'm sorry Jane, I just can't teach you as well as I can teach Mary over here. Have a good life." If we are truly as committed to education as we say we are, then we cannot tolerate a two-tiered education system that serves some students better than others.

We cannot afford to, because our children cannot afford to.

424 SAR stands down (1990 - 2006)

[click for larger version]

It has been a long time since I last thought about these guys. In fact, if it weren't for an unexpected phone call this morning, I probably would not have known that the unit was standing down. Having spent a good part of my youth with these guys, I have to admit that I am feeling a wee bit sentimental after hearing about the fact that the unit is standing down. In fact, as I am writing this, the guys are having their final parade back in the old camp. Don't get me wrong, I probably wouldn't like to don the ole' camouflage uniform again, but the closing of the unit means that I probably would not have a reason to see the people with whom worked, played and sweated it out with since the age of 18.

The National Service experience was certainly not easy for me and I have ambivalent feelings about my experience in the unit. However, indulge me in a moment of nostagia here. Here are some hard-to forget memories of the time spent at 42 Singapore Armoured Regiment:

- Sargent Jothi's midnight pep talks. The one which I still remember today was about him telling us that "the only constant in this world is change" when we were disappointed about not being able to book out of camp because of a high key recall.

- The feeling that you get when you have completed the final obstacle on the Standard Obstacle Course (the ramp) and are running towards the finish point.

- Saturday afternoon clean-up sessions where you know that you are going to book-out of camp and the radio is playing while you are doing your chores.

- Before lights out talk-cock sessions with Benedict and Lionel sharing smokes and drinks. (Which I AM sure that they are going to do tonight).

- The CO telling us on our first day in camp that "Once armour always armour" and that we had no hopes of transferring out to any other unit.

- The weird nicknames that we gave each other: small fuck, slut, gillardo, heejack ...

- Army catch phrases that we pick up: "Shout like thunder, move like lightning", "Don't pretend", "wake up your idea", and our degratory term for officers ... "occifers".

- Riding shotgun on top of the tank with the vehicle commander as it goes hurtling down a slope.

- Using a sharpie marker to cover up the dent that I made on the tank while I attempted to drive it (and it does look like I got away with it).

- The lizard which chirps "fuck you" in middle of the night in Camp Cresendo, Thailand.

And I am sure the list goes on. Feel free to add to my list in the comments :)

To the gents of 424SAR C Company Platoon 2 : It has been a pleasure indeed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Taking a break from writing my conference paper, I got my hair lopped off today. 6 inches. With a razor...

On another frivolous note, my shoes arrived. Suffice to say, Camper has helped my soles regain their long-lost self-esteem... :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guantanamo: Habeas no more ...

Habeas Corpus: "You have the body" (Latin)
"A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody."
I know that it is unlikely that many of the readers of this blog would have a spare couple of hours to spend listening to a streaming radio show and lecture. But I feel strongly enough to blog about this and suggest that listening to these 2 streaming boradcasts would be well worth your time.

- the first is a 58min NPR broadcast of This American Life called "Habeas Schmabeas" that actually interviewed a couple of Guantanamo detainees. This is the first time I have actually heard directly from any detainee from Guantanamo and the show does an excellent job of discussing the status of the detainees I found via BoingBoing. What was eye opening for me were the personal testimonies of Badr and Abdullah (sp?), two Pakistani men wrongfully detained as terrorists. (What kills me is the sense of humour that these 2 detainees still had despite being incarcerated in Guantanamo). The show also delves into the historical background and reasons for the presence of Habeas Corpus in the law.

- the second is a streaming broadcast of Noam Chomsky's lecture "Illegal but Legitimate: A Dubious Doctrine for the Times" which he delivered on Oct. 28th 2004 at the University of Michigan's Law School. I think that Chomsky's lecture provides a highly insightful account of the long documented account of states developing legitamacy for taking unilateral action. While this is interesting, the part of the lecture that pertained to the NPR show is when a student asked Chomsky what he thought about Guantanamo. To paraphrase Chomsky's reply, "Ask yourself what we are doing in Guantanamo in the first place."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A lost cause...

...or how Jude describes shoe-shopping for Serene Koh. I really ought to enjoy shopping for shoes- most women do don't they? They fight over themselves for lovely Manolo Blahniks, prim and strut in satiny, dainty Jimmy Choos, and argue over which Stuart Weitzman shoes are more droolsome- pumps or heels... And me? I walk in and out countless shoe stores, each time more disheartened as my affiliation with the Yah-Yah Sisterhood of Shoe Lovers dissipates with every shoe I cannot fit into. I am only half the woman I should be.

I have flat feet.

And that, my dear friends, has been the bane of my existence ever since I realized I was entitled to a life where I could wear more than just sandals, flip-flops and sneakers. After years of painfully swollen feet and awkward visits to shoe stores where I had to endure the mild amusement (at best) or unabashed derision (at worst) of shoe salespeople, I have come to the sad conclusion that there are only a handful of non-sneaker shoes that fit me, and even fewer that I like enough to buy. Naturalizer's and Scholl's are the epitome of comfort of course, but hardly anything to shout about in the style department. So where does that leave me? Camper's and Birkenstock's I have discovered, neither one, unfortunately, are easy on the wallet. Doesn't anyone out there appreciate the torment of a flat-footed woman on a budget and who appreciates a little fun in her shoes? I get it that I'll never be one of those girls who can sashay effortlessly in 3-inch stilettoes- my feet (and every other part of my body) isn't designed that way. But does that mean I'm destined to a life of frumpy brick-like excuses for shoes?

I bought my first pair of Birkenstock's almost four years ago and broke them in by walking all over Montreal. These Mary Jane's remind me of Audrey Tatou in Amelie which means they make me happy :) I've worn them with anything and everything, from shorts to dresses, and they're still faithfully taking me everywhere- I love them to bits!

Jude bought me my first Camper's from Chicago last year and they've been my most precious shoes since. They're the cutest things I own (I adore Camper's Twins collection) and light as a feather. I'm so blessed to be married to a man who gets what I look for in a shoe...

Which brings me to why I'm shopping for a new pair of shoes. I have a conference in San Francisco in 3 weeks and I need a pair of formal shoes. I could wear my Camper's but my suit is black; I could wear the Birkenstock's, but I think I might need a little heel action. I have gone through's entire collection of black women's shoes, dragged Jude through two malls, and annoyed a couple of sales people in the process. Can it really be that hard to find a pair of versatile black shoes that don't make me look either like a 18 year old party-girl or a 75 year old woman going to her 50th wedding anniversary? So anyways, after much self-flaggelation and disappointment, here's what I have to show...
Ladies and gentlemen, my second pair of Camper shoes:

[click for multi-view]

Friday, March 10, 2006

Singapore Ga Ga finally opens in Singapore

So, Singapore Ga Ga finally opens in Singapore. I heard about this film back in May 2005 and based on the trailer, I am very much looking forward to the day when I can finally catch this film. The talented filmaker, Tan Pin Pin, tries to capture comtemporary Singaporean identity and culture through found sounds and little known Singaporean musical jewels (aka the pianist Margeret Leng Tan) that mark us on the world stage. Serene and I were so bowled over by Ms. Tan's previous documentray short, Moving House, that we managed to get it on DVD. Hopefully, it won't be too long before Singapore Ga Ga comes out on DVD too.

I actually met Pin Pin during a talk about presevation and archiving in Singapore. When she heard that I was from Ann Arbor, she immediately asked whether I could get her copies of the now very famous, Found Magazine. I am sad to report that I have yet to fulfill her request and will endeavor to do so ASAP :)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

In good company

As I continue to reel from my disappointment and frustration at Hollywood's dim-wittedness, here are some other recent Oscar upsets where a good film won over a great one (or even won at all...). These winners will fade into obscurity but it is the runner-ups which will be seared into audience's collective memories and film history.

Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now

Ordinary People over Raging Bull

Forrest Gump over The Shawshank Redemption

Braveheart (???)

Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan

A Beautiful Mind (???)

Chicago over The Hours/ The Pianist

It wasn’t buzz or hype that killed “Brokeback Mountain”; rather it was a combination of apathy, contempt, ignorance and timidity that led “The Academy” to confer its highest honor to a film that was remarkable for its mediocrity. However, the “Crash” phenomenon will have its fleeting place in the sun and then die out. True greatness endures and “Brokeback Mountain” will have a lasting legacy. As far as I’m concerned, The Academy Awards are now as negligible as The Grammys.
- From

Monday, March 06, 2006

"Crash" and burn

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!! The world is not right. Travesty- a complete and utter travesty of good taste and judgment. How can I live in a universe where a glib, preachy, two-dimensional take on racism beats out a profound and unbearably haunting tale of love, longing and loss? I swear the Academy has completely and irrevocably lost whatever little good sense they had left after allowing Chicago to win in 2003 (another seismic tear in the film industry cosmos). I actually told Jude that if Crash wins, I'd never watch the Oscars again, but promptly took that back- I might just change my mind... I've never been this upset after an Academy Award ceremony before. Brokeback Mountain was unjustly and brutally robbed and even if Ang Lee did win for Best Director, Hollywood has simply shown that it can give an award to a man, but isn't brave enough to give the same tribute to an idea, a concept, a culture. Insufferable *&%$#@*&!

The Windy City

So we're back home and Chicago was fabulous as always. It's such a handsome city- vibrant, bustling, yet still charming and courteous. As always, we only spent a couple of days there but it was still a good trip with lots of eating (no surprises there), walking (I love this aspect of a city- that you can walk almost anywhere...), and discovering. We forayed out into the outer distrcits this time and unearthed the Wicker Park/ Bucktown area. Somewhat gentrified and chocablock of vintage clothing stores, hip record stores (see Reckless Records- I almost had to physically dislodge Jude from the premises...) and a gem of a second-hand bookstore, Myopic Books. I also almost bought the most droolsome pair of black Mary Janes from a John Fluevog shop in Wicker Park. Note operative word: almost.

Honestly, we would have spent the entire day AND night there did we not then crash (or so Jude would like to think) an art exhibition opening. I don't quite know how to describe Kirsten Ulve's work- a digital media artist maybe. She does commerical stuff like product ads and caricatures for Entertainment Weekly, but is a really enthralling artist in her own right as well. Her works are whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, and definitely not boring. Jude and I were really close to buying a print of one of her pieces, but we figured investing in original art at this point in our lives would be nothing short of indulgent...

Speaking of indulgence, can two people on a three-day holiday eat more than we did? If we hadn't walked so much, I think we would have collapsed in the middle of the Magnificent Mile from a gastro-intestinal arrest. Some highlights:
1) Our favorite restaurant in Chicago, Grand Lux Cafe. You can't beat this place- awesome food, generous portions (read: huge. The servers even warn you before you order), reasonable prices, and an awesome Gustav Klimt meets Art Deco interior. We've been to Chicago four times, and we've been to Grand Lux all four times.
2) Comforting, heartwarming Singaporean/ Malaysian food at Penang in Chinatown. When I first laid eyes on the Hainanese Chicken Rice and Penang Char Kway Teow, I thought I was going to cry. I think we might have overdid it a little, and by the time we were done, there wasn't room left for Bubor Cha Cha or an Ice Kacang...
3) Jude brought me to Russian Tea Time (aren't you proud of us Stan??) where we had a really hearty meal of Borscht Soup, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (with a beet and bean salad that I didn't quite care for actually), and a tasty, crispy Chicken Tapaka. Oh my god, and that onion rye bread thing that they serve at the beginning... to die for...

For those of you who know us well realize that we could not have possibly have had only three meals, so just know that apart from these, we also partook (does this word even exist? partake, partook?) of a whole myraid of snacks, coffee, cakes, Italian take-out and two servings of MacDonald's. Oh, and before I go sit in the corner and repent of my gastronomic sins, for those of you contemplating a trip to Chicago, go check out the museum shop at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Without compare, we agreed than this has got to be the most interesting of all the museum stores we've been to, and we've been to MOMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal. In fact, we might have spent more time in the store than in the museum itself (the exhibits were a little lacklustre to tell you the truth). Good stuff for sure.

Ok, on a completely unrelated note, just to inform anyone who might be contemplating contacting me for any reason tonight; barring a life-threatening emergency, unless your name has six letters and begins with 'A' and ends with 'N', or if you have anything you absolutely need to discuss with regards to Jon Stewart and the Oscars failing which your respiratory system would give way, please do not call me. I will ignore you. From 8pm EST till goodness knows what time tonight, Serene Koh will be unavailable to the rest of the outside world. Thank you for your kind cooperation.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My picks

Brokeback Mountain
Let's see if Hollywood has the guts to give the award to a film that apart from spawning an entire repetoire of bad jokes and even worse parodies, has extended a daring yet heartflet call for us to comprehend the sorrow that accompanies any love that dares not speak its name...

Ang Lee
For the man brave enough to make that film.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
As TIME magazine succintly put it, the only way he won't win the trophy is if a meteorite strikes Earth on Sunday night...

Reese Witherspoon

Paul Giamatti
Please give it to the man who was so brutally overlooked last year.

Rachel Weisz
Can I say that any woman who is capable of bedding Ralph Finnes after just one date should deserve any award.

Ok, it's a toss-up for me here between Crash and The Squid and the Whale, but I have a feeling the latter might be a little to Sundance for Hollywood.

Brokeback Mountain

Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Because Gromit makes me happy.


Memoirs of a Geisha
I have to admit, even though the movie wasn't great, it was beautiful...

Brokeback Mountain

Memoirs of a Geisha

March of the Penguins
C'mon! They're dressed for the occasion anyway!

God Sleeps in Rwanda


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the
Simply for making me want to look like the White Witch even though she's eeeeevviil...

John Williams (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Even though I really want Gustavo Santaolalla to win for Brokeback Mountain. Those strings made me cry on the way to school yesterday.

"In the Deep"

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation

Our Time Is Up

King Kong

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
What's the difference between this and Sound Editing???

[Ok, you *know* that no thought whatsoever went into my choices for the last four categories right?...]

War of the Worlds
Ok, so both Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning annoyed the *%#! out of me, but those alien things, yeeks!...