Monday, 29 October 2012

The Danger of a Single Story

"So that is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become...Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person" - Adichie 

 I just wanted to share the recent TED Talk my Gr 8s have been viewing in class in light of our current unit and their upcoming Chiang Mai trip. It is by Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adichie. In it, she explores how all our stories intersect, overlap, compliment, complicate and enrich our experiences. But she further explains that even if this is so, there is still a tendency for a single, definitive story to emerge that ends up defining people.  She eloquently warns that if we only hear ONE story about a person, culture, country, we open ourselves up to incomplete, unbalanced understanding/knowledge/definitions/experiences of that person, culture or country.

Just in case you need to quote some lines, you can find the complete transcript of the TED Talk  here...

So what did you think?  I would love to hear what you thought of her assertions.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Holiday Round Up

I have a post coming up about what I've been up to these past few weeks but right now, I just wanted to touch base and share my holiday round up of your blogs; oh, and this video which I have been trying to meaningfully find a way to share with you for weeks.  Guess, this is that time...

How will you make the last few days of your break count?  Tell me about it.

Now for your blog posts ...
Visit your RSS Feeds, read, comment and enjoy!

  • Here is an excerpt: ..."happening in our English class discussion too. Everyone is sitting as a circle, all ready to share there point of view and what it means to them. Anyone can share their own idea, without getting distrusted by anyone. Its like a real life version, of when you are staring at the Google readers, waiting for someone else to post something, then commenting on it. The difference, is that we are face to face looking at each other and stating their own comment. All the statement, and comment about it is the first draft which is not edited at all. And maybe that is the beauty of discussion. Talking face to face, crushing or supporting each others comment, without editing."
  • New comer, Supanan shares her views on blogging 
  • An excerpt here too:  "Blogging made me think more about the world that I'm living in. Blogging also made me to have my own opinion and seeing others opinion too. If everyone just agree on one thing than everyone will miss out on different perspective."
  • Rommy's asks a great question here.  Can you define normal?  And shares her ideas on perspectives here. Both awesome. :) 
  • Natalia lets us peek into what she loved about her break
  • Min Suk shares a video (a rendition of Gangnam Style (acoustic version) and go ahead and read some of his interesting posts here
  • Attention, ColdPlay fans, Lucy talks about The Break Up here (warning: Glee Spoiler Alert) 
  • Another great post by George on seeing and meaning. Read it here.
  • Insightful post on perspective by Celia. Read it here.
  • Auguste insightfully shares his ideas on perspectives here
  • Love this this line from Ethan's post, which you can read hereI think writing with a different point of view is a skill and we need to have a good awareness of others in order to pen down their thoughts, I really have a newfound respect for authors who do that so well.
  • Are you a foodie? Then check out Nadia's post
  • Love love love the poetry on Suzanne's space.. Check it out here
  • Need some advice on what to do during the last few days of the break? Clara has some suggestions. Read them here
  • Elisa's holiday thoughts and misadventures, cleaning and discovering! Read about it here and here
  •  All Community fans out there, check out Emily's blog post on Abed. :) 
  • Love Emily's post on swimming. Make sure you read until the end. Wonderful writing here.
  • YOLO so read Shruti's blog here  
  •  A beautiful post on Silence by Ella. Read it here
  • Lucas looks closely at this link. Read about it here
  • Navya talks about William Blakes' verse here.
  • Niki shares some photos. Find out where she went during the break here
  • Phoebe asks the question why? Wondering why? Read here
  • An interesting juxtaposition by Rosie. Which would you prefer? 
  • If you love someone, what do you do?  Sam posts a suggestion
  • Kayman and his infinite passions. Read about his current preoccupation here 
  • Avni and Sarah write about their Sibu experience. Read about it here and here
  • Pallav writes about autobiographies here and shares a pretty useful video.  
  • Jack's stream of consciousness revealed here.  See what he talks about. 
  • Arjun and Dev also talk about their trips to Sibu. Check their posts out here and here
  • Finally, make sure you check out Mr. Raisdana's Holiday Land post.  A lot of cool stuff happening in his students' blogs as well. :)  
Anyway, I hope you are all getting a lot of rest.  Can't wait to see you all again, next week. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Poetic Justice

Now this, this is poetry in motion.  
Check out Carlo's recent project. Remember him? He was the director of "The Haircut."  Again,  I just wanted to share something that inspired me today. And this is it.  I love how Carlo always tries something different and daring to hone his craft; how he uses people closest to him (like his wife) to create what's beautiful and of course,share that beauty.  Thanks, Carl.  Enjoy everyone.  See you soon.  

How about you? What inspired you today?  Share? Please. 

Fire Dance from Carlo Ledesma on Vimeo.
Fire Dancing is a form of Poi, a Maori art that involves spinning a set of tethered weights around a person's body in rhythmic patterns. It is a skill that takes patience to learn and years of dedication to master.

In most fire poi videos, the camera is locked off and the dance is captured as a whole from this static position. While that works in showing off the complexity of the moves, it doesn’t quite immerse the viewer in the whole experience.

For this video I wanted to slow the movements down to capture the lifelike characteristics of the fire, show how close it gets to the dancer's face and body, and to emphasize the grace and focus needed to control this dangerous yet beautiful entity.

Fire Dance was shot in Freshwater Beach Sydney, using a Red Epic.


Fire Dancer: Cat Juan-Ledesma

Director: Carlo Ledesma
Cinematographer: Sidat de Silva
Editor: Enzo Tedeschi

Visual Effects Supervisor: Matthew Graham
Visual Effects Technician: Jimmy Shen
Titles: Mark Bowey
Colourist: Sie Kitts

Makeup: Nicolle Adrichem
Camera Assistant: Richard Hawkins
Fire Safety Assistant: Alex Lee

Composer: Samantha Fonti

Produced by:

Matthew Graham
Carlo Ledesma
Enzo Tedeschi
Julian Harvey

Copyright allOrange Films 2012 all rights reserved

Etgar Keret's Ten Rules for Writers

Your move
I really wish I had awesome writing tips and rules growing up as a young writer.  Here's another bunch from Etgar Keret.  Take what works for you and write, write, write. :)
Well, I hope you are all having a great break. I miss you guys to bits.

1. Make sure you enjoy writing.
Writers always like to say how hard the writing process is and how much suffering it causes. They’re lying. People don’t like to admit they make a living from something they genuinely enjoy.
Writing is a way to live another life. Many other lives. The lives of countless people whom you’ve never been, but who are completely you. Every time you sit down and face a page and try—even if you don’t succeed—be grateful for the opportunity to expand the scope of your life. It’s fun. It’s groovy. It’s dandy. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
2. Love your characters.
For a character to be real, there has to be at least one person in this world capable of loving it and understanding it, whether they like what the character does or not. You’re the mother and the father of the characters you create. If you can’t love them, nobody can.
3. When you’re writing, you don’t owe anything to anyone.
In real life, if you don’t behave yourself, you’ll wind up in jail or in an institution, but in writing, anything goes. If there’s a character in your story who appeals to you, kiss it. If there’s a carpet in your story that you hate, set fire to it right in the middle of the living room. When it comes to writing, you can destroy entire planets and eradicate whole civilizations with the click of a key, and an hour later, when the old lady from the floor below sees you in the hallway, she’ll still say hello.
4. Always start from the middle.
The beginning is like the scorched edge of a cake that’s touched the cake pan. You may need it just to get going, but it isn’t really edible.
5. Try not to know how it ends.
Curiosity is a powerful force. Don’t let go of it. When you’re about to write a story or a chapter, take control of the situation and of your characters’ motives, but always let yourself be surprised by the twists in the plot.
6. Don’t use anything just because “that’s how it always is.”
Paragraphing, quotation marks, characters that still go by the same name even though you’ve turned the page: all those are just conventions that exist to serve you. If they don’t work, forget about them. The fact that a particular rule applies in every book you’ve ever read doesn’t mean it has to apply in your book too.
7. Write like yourself.
If you try to write like Nabokov, there will always be at least one person (whose name is Nabokov) who’ll do it better than you. But when it comes to writing the way you do, you’ll always be the world champion at being yourself.
8. Make sure you’re all alone in the room when you write.
Even if writing in cafés sounds romantic, having other people around you is likely to make you conform, whether you realize it or not. When there’s nobody around, you can talk to yourself or pick your nose without even being aware of it. Writing can be a kind of nose-picking, and when there are people around, the task may become less natural.
9. Let people who like what you write encourage you.
And try to ignore all the others. Whatever you’ve written is simply not for them. Never mind. There are plenty of other writers in the world. If they look hard enough, they’re bound to find one who meets their expectations.
10. Hear what everyone has to say but don’t listen to anyone (except me).
Writing is the most private territory in the world. Just as nobody can really teach you how you like your coffee, so nobody can really teach you how to write. If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels right, use it. If someone gives you a piece of advice that sounds right and feels wrong, don’t waste so much as a single second on it. It may be fine for someone else, but not for you.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

What inspired you today? Fragmented musings of a girl on holiday

I know, right? Term breaks and holidays exist for a reason. They are necessary and need to be honored. But it takes discipline and skill to stop a lot of the things we do when we work -- dispositions and habits of mind that I am still slowly learning.  It is doubly hard when the /my professional and personal lines are blurred and quite tangled up.  My work makes up a huge part of who I am. What I value as a human has everything to do with what I write and what I do with you guys.  It is also tricky because I am staying put in Singapore to enjoy my new city instead of flying off somewhere far to "unplug".  :) Anyway, there are no vacations for writers, I guess?  Thinkers, mullers, sharers and over-analyzers alike.  No such thing.  So here I am.  Writing and writing you.  And this won't be long.  I just wanted to share three things that I inspired me today.  

 A quote by a writer,  Joan Didion

"To shift the structure of a sentence alters the meaning of that sentence, as definitely and inflexibly as the position of a camera alters the meaning of the object photographed. Many people know about camera angles now, but not so many know about sentences."

a poem by Rumi

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
From Essential Rumi

and this video by Aaron Koblin


These ideas consumed me the whole day -- ideas of restructure, allowing everything in to learn and relearn, and how our world and storytelling are ever changing, shifting blobs of important stuff.  I wish I found a way to remix all three pieces together to form a new whole but all I had in me was to gather the bits and enumerate them in this manner.  Bad or good thing?  I don't know.  Maybe I just wanted to keep in touch with you guys.  And well, practice what I teach.  Whatever the case, I meditated on Rumi's and Didion's words, and watched Koblin's videos until my eyes were dry. It feels like a fragmented, incoherent dream right now, sharing this with you.  Maybe tomorrow, it will happen, come together.  Maybe the following day, I can remix.  Or not.  Maybe this is my version of a vacation.  I don't know.

Anyway, what about you? Where in the world are you and what inspired you today?     

Monday, 8 October 2012

On Dealing with Distractions

A couple of years ago, I spent a summer in New York and the friend I was visiting introduced me to another awesome writer/artist/actor/performer, Miranda July.  She is quirky and unique and really interesting.  I love her sense of style and find her artistic sensibilities totally endearing.  I remember seeing her in this indie film called "You and Me and Everyone We Know" just a year before finding out she was also a writer.  Clearly, she and the movie left an impression because my friend didn't need to convince me too much to get a copy of her collection of stories. 
I think this is where I fell in love with simple book covers and seeing yellow and black together on different surfaces (read: classroom color motif.)

Reading July in Anilao, Batangas, 2009
Anyway, while reading your blogs and traversing through Twitter feeds and lurking in Facebook this evening, I came across this video by her called,  "A Handy Tip for the Easily Distracted."  I thought of sharing it with you today. Let me know what you think. 


In light of my recent posts on this and this, I thought it was timely that we also look at the pitfalls of distractions, procrastination and delaying tactics.  What can we do to ride these waves? Are they always bad?  Do they serve us sometimes?  Or are they like the Bad Idea Bears whispering irresponsible deeds in our ears?   As writers/bloggers, it's also part of our disease (as Mr. R calls it).  It will happen, moments where we want to write/say/create/build/share something important BUT some other thing gets in the way. Like, tweezers, according to July. And we need to be prepared to recognize it, then ride or fight it.  What do you do when you are so distracted you can't seem to get through that post? Can't clear your RSS Feeds?   Write a comment here or a post an entry if you want to really think and write about it more lengthily.  Would be awesome to know your thoughts on this. :)  

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Round up 3.0 plus a reblog and some music

Yup. It's about that time again -- round up Sunday and we are at Round Up 3.0.  It's timely too because if you read my earlier post , where I talk about writers' block, etc. coming up with a beefy list of your awesome posts just proves that the dry spells are seasonal and can be overcome.  
Anyway, here's another friendly reminder -- make sure you take the time to read over your RSS feeds, okay, and then visit, connect and comment on some of this week's round up of posts.   Here goes...
First up, take a look at these posts from the 7th graders as they share how and why people tell their stories. I took the liberty of quoting some lines.  
  • Boeun opens up here. "But when I am in a room all by myself, that makes me easy to think and I feel more brave and comfortable at writing. "
  • Caleb convinces me of the importance of sharing our lives with others.  "Stories are shared because if no one ever their stories it would be like we walked around the world with duck tape covering our thoughts and opinions about life, no one would be able to connect with anyone, and it would be as if you were roaming empty with no one but yourself to share with, you wouldn't grow as a person you'd just stay the same."
  • Georgina explores the different ways we can tell our stories.  "But thats not all the ways to share their stories, they can share them through paintings, sculptures, talking, everything that can show.I share my stories through art. I find it the best way to show my feelings. Where colors can express emotions, art is my escape."
  • Jimin says it like it is.  "So why do we share our stories to the world? We share because we want people to know, we want a voice in our world, we want something to change for us, something better for us. We want to express ourselves, in a way we can relate to, a way we can do without being scared to do so. A way we can change ourselves."
  • Kristina writes a heartfelt post behind her why. "We share our stories because we want to be able to connect with the people around us and find out things that we have in common. I share my stories to make my life more interesting and worth while. I mean, if I didn't share my past experiences I wouldn't know half the people I know now. I guess, that's why I believe in sharing stories. It doesn't matter how you share them, its just the fact of sharing them."
  • Denyvi looks at identity, heritage and art here. " Wether sharing your own personal experiences would come through writing a book or creating a piece of artwork, your personal identity is something that only you will be able to take hold of, so seize the day, make things happen, and live life to the fullest without any regrets."
  • Freya affirms her own process.  "So myself is me. Just me. No one else, but me. The best way for me to express myself and my personal experiences is to me, is to just be able to tell it like it is as if I am talking to you. I'm not brilliant at using lots of detail and showing vs. telling, but I do try. I've found that my writing is best and is easiest to me, when it's more casual. Just like for our blogs, it is very casual and simple. Which makes it more enjoyable. It is more relaxing that way and more simple."
  • Natalia candidly tells her  truth. And am glad she did.  "Identities is a funny word. No one has a true identity, its true. Theres always an inside you which is more confident, more loud and outgoing then the person you show you are. Admit it. At some point of your life you have felt this way or you are feeling this way.  Everyone has their little secret deep inside which they won't admit which is: I'm scared that I would be judged if I be my real self." 
  • Rebecca talks about what it means to be unique. "Being unique and original is how people see you for you."
  • Animesh' take on Why?  "We should share our stories because it is part of us as humans..." 
  • Aru kills it with two awesome posts.  Here and here.  Check it out.  "When someone tells you a story it talks about a moment. A moment which might not pay any importance in your life but as soon as someone shares it with you, it has already become a part of your life."
  • Dhruv's hilarious take on sharing objects and stories. "Our stories are not something that we shouldn't listen to. Telling our stories is not a bad thing. It is good. It makes us understand ourselves, understand others, and understand the human race. Our stories are full of learning and they will teach us forever. Keep telling them."
  • Ella also kills it with these insightful posts.  Here and here.  "Every single person on Earth has the right to tell a story and share something. The world is like a patchwork quilt, each piece unique and random. Our stories come from the deep pockets of the world and ourselves. We share because we want to. We share because we care. We share because we love. We share because we live."
  • Mizuki puts it simply here. "We share these stories because of one simple reason. We are human."  Full stop.
  • Navya asks herself an important question.  "We share stories to tell people about ourselves. If you hear a person's story, you might be able to make a connection with them, or you might not. But either way, you will have a little more knowledge of the person."
  • Nikita talks about photos here and how they also tell stories. "By telling our stories to others, I think we are actually sharing part of ourselves with them, a glimpse of our life, our experiences, and over all our personality.I think this sharing is important as it helps you to express yourself to others and let them express themselves in turn and maybe collaborate with them better." Check out her post on Art as well. Pretty neat.  
  • Make sure you stop by Rosie's blog. Lots of posts on different things. Visit, connect and comment. :)  Her story in photos is pretty cool.  
The 8th Graders also carved some time to let us in on what they are are some of their posts:
  • Rosie - two posts here and here. From the things you guys say in school to Free Hugs...go check it out. 
So wow. That's a lot of great stuff coming out from your amazing spaces.  Keep it coming.  And for those of you not sharing quite as much, here is my message courtesy of Anais Nin and Alexi Murdoch.  If it's only fear...then there's nothing to fear.  Come on. Join the conversation.  
"You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them." 

Anaïs Nin in The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947
(inspired by Brain Pickings)

For Mr. R.'s round up, click here. A lot of great stuff coming out of their blogs too. :) 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

On Being Creative Creatures

"Some days the genius will be in you, and you will sail. Other days the lead will line the slippers, and you’ll be staring into the void of your so-called creative mind, feeling like a fraud. 
It’s all part of the big ole cycle of creativity, and it’s a healthy cycle at that."
Musician Jamie Lidell echoes Tchaikovsky

Let's talk a little bit about creativity and inspiration.

Art Room at St. Mary's School in Sagada, Mt. Province, Philippines
It's true. There are days where we can write, create, invent, remix, paint, shoot and develop/manipulate material with no problem at all. We've all had those, right? Where the ideas come pouring in and you can't stop moving your hands and your spirit to arrive at a magnificent piece of art.  A blog post melts on white space like butter on a hot pan.  Paintings emerge effortlessly on the canvas; your vision and reality a complete match. Song lyrics float in the air. Photos speak a thousand narratives just from the light hitting the subject's eyes.  It seems like, when our muses cooperate, the work is easy. When the ideas are within our reach and are overflowing, the process feels like a relaxed day sunbathing by the beach, cold mango smoothie in one hand, an annotated book in the other.   

What happens though, when it's the opposite? It's as if you're facing a brick wall and you feel like the corners of the same cramped room are closing in?  We've all been there too, right?  Your nose is pressed against the gray grooves of the exposed brick. There is no way left, right, up or down. You can't see your own hand an inch from your face and all that's real is the deep rise and fall of your chest from your belabored breathing. You eventually conclude that Humpty Dumpty scored after all. At least he could see the horizon where he sat on the wall.  Well, right before plummeting to his death, of course.   

I guess you can say that I am 'I see the glass half full' kind of person.  I like to focus on days like the former and less on the latter.  I usually like to ride the seasons and not force the issue when am not feeling so creative.  I also try not to believe in writers' block.  I try not to feed it, enable it, acknowledge its existence.  I constantly deny that it ever happens to me.  Most of the time,when my muses don't appear and the words  or my photos just don't come out right, I chalk it up to sleep deprivation, carbohydrate withdrawals or joy (yes, I have a very easy time when I am miserable or in pain but not so when I am content and happy).  When I let some time pass, lurk in twitter, have meals with good friends and maybe after a power nap, the words and ideas eventually come.  So I don't sweat it.  Like I said, my glass is half full not half empty.

Anyway, as budding bloggers, you will probably have to develop a strategy of your own to fight these creative slumps. Because yes, there will be days where writing a post will be a cinch, a walk in the park, easy as 1, 2, 3.  But there will be other days where even just responding to a  unit question will be like pulling teeth. (First one to spot all the cliches I used in this paragraph will win a prize).  :)  On days like this, it won't hurt to refer to the advice of other writers who have been there and done that.  For now, check out these two great artists, Craig Costello, creator of KRINK and Jack White from the White Stripes.   From being a risk taker to pushing yourself  outside of what's comfortable to developing a disciplined work ethic and surviving failure, these two creators speak candidly about their process and habits of mind.  

Here's more advice from other great creators/thinkers:    

My strategy for getting myself out of a rut is to sit at my desk reminding myself of what the problem is, reviewing my notes, generally filling my head with the issues and terms, and then I just get up and go do something relatively mindless and repetitive. At our farm in the summer, I paint the barn or mow the hayfield or pick berries or cute fire wood to length…. I don’t even try to think about the problem, but more often than not, at some point in the middle of the not very challenging activity, I’ll find myself mulling it over and coming up with a new slant, a new way of tackling the issue, maybe just a new term to use. Engaging my brain with something else to control and think about helps melt down the blockades that have been preventing me from making progress, freeing up the circuits for some new paths. My strategy could hardly be cruder, but it works so well so often that I have come to rely on it. - Daniel Dennet 

How can you defeat the snarling goblins of creative block? With books, of course. Just grab one. It doesn’t matter what sort: science fiction, science fact,* comic books, textbooks, diaries (of people known or unknown), novels, telephone directories, religious texts — anything and everything will work.  Now, open it to a random page. 
Stare at a random sentence. Every book holds the seed of a thousand stories. Every sentence can trigger an avalanche of ideas. Mix ideas across books: one thought from Aesop and one line from Chomsky, or a fragment from the IKEA catalog melded with a scrap of dialog from Kerouac.  By forcing your mind to connect disparate bits of information, you’ll jump-start your thinking, and you’ll fill in blank after blank with thought after thought. The goblins of creative block have stopped snarling and have been shooed away, you’re dashing down thoughts, and your synapses are clanging away in a symphonic burst of ideas. And if you’re not, whip open another book. Pluck out another sentence. And ponder mash-ups of out-of-context ideas until your mind wanders and you end up in a new place, a place that no one else ever visited.  Marvelous. -  Jessica Hagy 

How about you?  Do you believe in writers' block?  OR the artists' dry spell?  What do YOU do when you are confronted with either?  What's your strategy to get back on with your muses when you feel like they've all gone on vacation?  
I  would love to know.   Leave a comment or blog about it.  :)   What would you suggest to others going through the same thing?  

post inspired by Brain Pickings.

Friday, 5 October 2012

New Page Alert

Just wanted to drop a line to let you know that I added a new page to my class blog.  Make sure you check it out.  A lot of it was inspired by Mr. R.'s initiative to have a page on UWCSEA's 5 Elements and Learner Profile. Let me know what you think.  Don't forget to read my challenge for you at the end of that page.

Have a great weekend!

Ms. P

Escher's Metacognition