Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holidays 2006!

My dear readers, my friends :)

Heres wishing you all happy holidays and a Merry Christmas.

I am going to disappear until next 2007. Its that time of the year for introspection, plan, and change. Something big is brewing, and come 2007, we will all know.
Here's a poem i discovered which i would like to share with you. i don't know who the author is, but i could not have said it any better.

My Christmas wish for you, my friend
Is not a simple one
For I wish you hope and joy and peace
Days filled with warmth and sun

I wish you love and friendship too
Throughout the coming year
Lots of laughter and happiness
To fill your world with cheer

May you count your blessings, one by one
And when totaled by the lot
May you find all you've been given
To be more than what you sought

May your journeys be short, your burdens light
May your spirit never grow old
May all your clouds have silver linings
And your rainbows pots of gold

I wish this all and so much more
May all your dreams come true
May you have a Merry Christmas friend
And a happy New Year, too ..

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Of "Classical" conditioning

Graduate school gives students like me to revisit concepts that were covered during those undergraduate years, but are somehow important. Classical conditioning is one such concept as it covers major areas in graduate school. This cant stressed enough as it covers areas starting basic learning, to forming attitudes, to treatment models. They all bring in this oldie, the classical conditioning paradigm to an important status.

Before I get lost in my own thoughts, classical conditioning is a theory of learning that explains how by repeatedly associating an neutral-event with a naturally occurring event pair, will result in the association of the neutral-event with the naturally occurring event. For example, Lets say each time you click on my blog address you get excited (clicking on my blog and getting excited are the naturally occurring pair) and each time you do this, someone rings a bell (this is the neutral-event). Now, classical conditioning will predict that with repeated pairing of these 3 events (click blog – excitement – bell), you will start to associating the bell with the excitement that was elicited by you reading my blog! What this means is that later on, when the bell is rung, even though there may be no astrorat-blog, you will feel excited!

Isent that cool? My great-great-grand mom who told my great-grand-mom who told my grand mom who told my mom who eventually told me that hanging out with “bad company” will get me associated with the qualities of the bad people, even though I might not be bad my self. She (great-great-grand mom) obviously knew something about classical conditioning even though she dident have an education! I am not sure if credit goes to Aristotle who talked about the law of contiguity long before Pavlov rang a bell when his dog salivated, or to my great-great-grand-mom who saw her husband get into trouble for hanging out with the wrong company.

However, even though the origins of the theory remains debatable, one thing that I cant seem to answer or find any reasonably logical answer to is what’s so “classical” about classical conditioning? As if there exists another form of “conditioning” that was developed from “classical” conditioning: a “neo-classical” conditioning of sorts.

But, a search for a neo-classical conditioning framework, and/or theory proved futile. I asked the learnard professors, lecturers, and esteemed doctors of my university and they gave me the look, as if to say “don’t you have assignments to work on?”. But, my search continued and I would have nothing to do with their threatening looks. I thought to my self that “I will get to the bottom of this”.

And I did (I think). The only satisfactory answer seemed to come from a 2nd year undergraduate student who I quote: “its called classical cause some old-fella wrote it leeh”.

Coming to think of it, that really was not satisfactory as I had first thought. It was a cyclic answer where the said student simply restated the meaning of “classical” as being written by someone in the past. I guess, there’s wisdom in remaining quit, as did my lecturers, when they were asked the same question.

The question still remains and I still do not know why text books, lecture notes, research papers, presentations, and professors refer to a “classical conditioning” framework when in fact they are referring to a “conditioning” framework. Where or what is “neo” classical conditioning?

The truth, I am told by some prominent actors, is somewhere out there.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Al Jazeera speaks English

Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel, has launched its English channel operating from Doha, Washington, London, and Kuala Lumpur!

I am excited because Al Jazeera is said to be a “new point of view”, that is said to “bridge the divide between civilizations”, it “thrives to provide all points of views”.

Following the events of September 11, all eyes were on Al Jazeera as it used the access it had developed in Afghanistan to interview Osama Bin Laden. It was the interview that neither CNN nor BBC could have ever got. Al Jazeera’s Arab perspective on events drew criticism from the West as inflammatory and sensational. During the start of Bushs bloody campaign, Al Jazeera was caught in between wild accusation from both sides. It quickly got the reputation of having links with “terror” groups.
This video on YouTube adds some perspective

I am looking forward to seeing a news channel that paints the picture of the other side of the coin. For years, CNN and BBC were the only news channels I could access. Sadly, their views have never been complete. Their audience forign, and their message strange.
Certainly I am not sure if Al Jazeera represents the “right” from CNN and BBC’s wrong. But I am certain, that I would have access to another side, which would keep global events in perspective.

I hope that Al Jazeera, does not follow suit of its western counterparts and engage in its own political agenda. Al Jazeera is well positioned in brining misconstrued Arab nations to the rest of the world. By broadcasting in English, an existing gap in communication has been isolated. My hope is Al Jazeera will bring the positive elements in Arab & European nations and America, that have been recently been dominated by negative elements lead by extremism, radicalism, and blatant racism.
Heres hoping, that their perspective will remain fresh and unbiased, though out!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blind Justice

The world woke up (a week ago) to the conviction of Saddam Hussain, ruthless dictator, tyrant and murderer. My CNN and BBC was on my tele, and they talked about the joy that this conviction has brought to the many Iraqi people. Rightly so. After all, this is Sadam Hussain and he no doubt deserves to hang.

The world does owe the credit of getting a “terrorist” to its knees to Mr. George W. Bush Junior and his iron fist determination to get rid of them evil war mongers.

I wonder if Justice was really served?

GWB certainly has credit for himself for what’s unfolding. Ex. President Saddam Hussain AKA Tyrant Dictator is accused and has been found guilty of killing 200 (and more) innocent Iraqi civilians. George W. Bush is directly responsible of is known to have killed 654,965 (estimated by Johns Hopkins University) Iraqis. 200000 of those deaths have been caused by directly by coalition forces while the rest is attributed to the raise in civil unreast as a result of the coalitons distruction of civil order. This he (GWB) justifies as a way to serve justice to the Iraqi who were killed by the Tyrant Dictator.

To justice to be served, George W Bush, should hang along with Saddam Hussain.

I am told that the al-queda (spelling) which devastated my American friends in that horrible day of September 11. I fail to see however, what connection Saddam Hussain or the million people who paid with their lives in Iraq have to do with that day. The Al-queda I am told is linked more with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Then there were the weapons of Mass destruction. A loose term that we all have gotten so versed with. The means many different atrocious things to different people. To me it means an atomic bomb. The library attendant I just spoke to while typing this text is reminded of a serious nerve gas. To some of my friends, it’s a bomb that’s so large that can kill a million people in a faction of a second. This is, after all, what “mass” destruction. Killing in the masses.

The media tells me that investigations so far have not found any such weapons of mass destruction in Iraq nor is there evidence of an large scale plan to build them. In fact in an embarrassing let down, ex secretary of state Mr. Colin Powel accepted that they were mistaken. Mr. George W. Bush in fact has been the only recoded Mass destructor to date. His direct responsibility of killing the million or more (and I am told that this number is not an exaggeration) innocent, unarmed, Iraqi women, children, and men.

During my undergraduate years, I was told that the perfect murder is one where not only is the criminal able to escape, but is able to blame someone else for the crime. George W. Bush essentially has escaped without bearing any responsibility for the crimes that he has, and is currently committing and has in-fact done it so well, while the rest of us point fingers at Saddam Hussain. No Doubt that Saddam is evil. George W. Bush is no different.

I am reminded of the Nazi regime, and its killing spree. Milgram has thought us that obedience is a factor that can achieved with little or no effort. In fact, Milgram’s studies on obedience has showed us how Adolf Hitler was essentially able to otherwise innocent people of the German army into hilling machines. Millions of innocent Jewish people died during the days of the Nazi leadership. Hitler was ambitious to rid the world of the ‘less desirable and inferior’ Jewish race. They after all could be terrorists.

The American soldier that is made to believe that its making its nation proud, essentially is a killing machine of the Bush regime. Of course the enemy this time is not identified as a race because that is wrong. But the enemy is a group that is capable of committing untold atrocities to humanity. George W. Bush, like his counter parts Hitler and Saddam Hussian are cold blooded killers. He too should hang, if Saddam is to hang.

Justice I am told, is blind. It, has been made a cripple, for justice has been manipulated for the benefit of the GWB. Justice I am told, is impartial. But this impartiality has been compromised by persons who share the ranks of Hitler. Justice has been raped by ruthless leaders who control it, to plunder other nations of its wealth, and resources.
The sentiments of the American people are not far off than my own. The elections speaks for its self. Though justice prevails eventually, its disturbing that 49% of Americans still support the war.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Celebrate, do not tolerate

I was reading today’s national news paper and stumbled across a headline that spoke said something about how one of this nations political head thought that “tolerance and hard work” is the key to development.

This “tolerance” does not in any way imply respect, still less approval. Rather the opposite, it implies only a willingness to indulge – i.e. tolerate - something of which one disapproves like, for example, corruption, threats, and complacency.

The proponents of tolerance should understand from the start that they are on sufferance, or permission implied or given by a failure to prohibit. It is not a matter of the public not having objections to what they want to do, but rather of the public's objections not being so grave as to justify prohibition, still less persecution.

Ministers, are very foolish to push at a door which is far from wide open. Asians have a history of using the tolerance rhetoric but for leaders to assume that this will be the key to success is foolish. I am reminded of a lecture at the end of which I was frozen in awe when the speaker showed that beyond mere tolerance comes celebration. To celebrate differences whole heartedly as the key to nation building.
A multi cultural society is not peculiar to Malaysia, and is rather foolish to assume so. It is not enough for the ‘tolerator’ to make an effort to overcome prejudices, unless the tolerated also makes an effort to reciprocate. This message go out loud and clear: we need more than mere toleration. For is nation building is to it must be an exercise of celebration all both parties.

Is any one ready to drop their prejudices to celebrate?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Skill: Typing

I learnt a new skill… to type (yes you heard me right) correctly. Its not just about random key strokes. Believe me, now that I am getting it right, I can type way faster than I used to. I wish I had learnt this when I was slogging all those papers during my undergrad years, or when I was frantically trying to keep up with lectures (I typically type my notes cause it gives me greater flexibility)

It really is difficult to start. There’s that tingly feeling that your brain experiences when you take on a new task (I believe it’s the motor neurons going on over drive trying to form new connections – correct me if I am wrong). But, soon, the conscious typing becomes unconscious! And you can be on your way to burning the keyboard.

The diagram below is self explanatory. The keys are color coded so that you know which finger should be doing the jabbing on what key. All this finger business is tiring!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Poison Air over Kuala Lumpur

There is no double meaning behind that title. IT is what it is. The quality over Kuala Lumpur remains dirty. I guess gossip was right in saying that Malaysian would grab anything that is free. In this case, it is the free smog courtesy of Indonesia.

The media of Malaysia are starting to ignore the smog/haze. Last week, I read about the tourism minister getting upset over the fact that the Australian and most European consulates had issued travel advisories about visiting Malaysia. He was saying how angry he was for being singled out, when the situation was equally bad in Singapore and Brunei. But, what he did not say, is that the government of Singapore has been more proactive in protecting its visitors against the poison air. For example, health advisories and health screens were stepped up. The media in Singapore spoke about the impending danger of breathing the noxious air. As a middle class foreigner, I have not experienced any kind of concern expressed towards my health. All that had happened was the thumping health expense that’s now exceeded my budget thanks to demand-supply relationship of the cost of medical care.

A concerned Malaysian named S. C. Chea writes:

First of all I must say that it is unusual that all English newspapers here including yours have chosen the word "haze" to describe this unhealthy air that has been produced annually by Indonesia since the 90s and that flows across the Malacca Straits to pollute neighbouring countries. "Haze" should not be associated with air pollution. The proper word for it is "smog" which is really atmosphere with suspended micron-size particulates wheras haze is atmosphere with condensed water vapour which was commonly experienced at places like Templar's Park in the 50's, 60's and even in the early 70's.

Having said this, the other thing is that we seem to have accepted its annual occurrence as if the two seasons in this country are not the rainy season and dry season, but the rainy season and smoggy season, and it is alright with us. Come on, what is wrong with Malaysia and all of us? Let us make no bones about this. Indonesia is the culprit. No need to make excuses for her - she is poor, she has wide territories to govern blah, blah. Even the Director-General of Tourism Malaysia said that the situation is not alarming.

The health of this nation must not be negotiable. Indonesia is responsible for causing untold damage to the health of our children and feeble senior citizens whether it is Indonesians doing the burning or Malaysian companies in Indonesia doing it. It is coming from the soil of Indonesia wafting across the Straits to pollute our air.

This problem is exactly like nations sharing the same river system. The country on the upper reaches of the river polluting the river is deemed to have committed an act of war to the country on the lower reaches of the river. Trans-border pollution whether polluting the water of another nation or the air of another must never be tolerated or condoned. The most recent case is the chemical contamination of a river in northern China which also runs through Russia to the Baltic Sea. Here is a one-off case and yet China has to pay damages to Russia. In Malaysia's case it is an annual affair since the 90's and it is alright with us because compared with other places it
is not too bad! The mentality of all of us is nothing if not amazing. We shouldn't and mustn't accept that Indonesia is too poor to do anything about it. Being poor is no licence to commit such atrocities!

S.C. Cheah



Very rightly, s/he points out some interesting facts.

1. People in Malaysia are getting complaisant about the fact that they are being systematically poisoned yearly. People do not realize that the smog carries with it long term respiratory complications including the increased susceptibility to lunch cancer.

2. The Malaysian media is not doing enough as an independent body to highlight the smog.
3. There a lot of political finger pointing with no real action. I would have expected some senior delegate to be in Indonesia right now to discuss the end to this atrocity. But, nothing of that sort is happening. Even if it was, the media is not saying anything about it.
4. Polluting the air around your nation is an act of war. I wonder how Singapore will react if Malaysia was to poison their water will just a little bit or arsenic.
5. How differently would Malaysia and Brunai have reacted if it was Singapore and not Indonesia that was causing the smog (I will leave my allusion to your imagination)

Every one seems to think that the rain will clear the smog away. How foolish can some “educated” people in important positions get? Nothing is going to change unless you stop the root cause of the smog. The burning in Indonesia MUST STOP immediately.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bloody F***in HAZE - Updated 10-Oct

I write this blog at a time when I hear the sweet sound of thunder and see the dark clouds gather outside the noon sky. The sight of lightning, out side my office window helped me bring a sigh of relief. But for how long? But, the sudden rain disappears as rapid as it came, only brining the dreaded smoke lower.

If you are not sure what I am talking about, or were wondering if I was paying homage to the rain god… that’s not it… The haze in Malaysia has been horrific. No one in the government seem to care, and excuses range from “its not all over Malaysia”, “its not all the time”, “we are doing something about it”, “it isn’t at a dangerous level yet”, to the plain denial of the issue. However, make no mistake about it, most parts of Malaysia (including KL) have been blanketed by dense smoke. Visibility is sometimes reduced to a mere 50 feet. My eyes turned red, with the veins almost popping out. A fake doctor (yes, there are those too) said that its called conjunctivitis.

The explanations given by the government (if at all), are unsatisfactory. The fingers keep pointing at tree burning Indonesians. However, unsaid is what the Malaysian government is prepared to do to protect both its citizens and its visitors. To date, I don’t see any advisory about how to protect your self, what you can do, and what specific steps are being taken by the government to ensure that the people in Malaysia are being taken care of.

One MP when asked the question if Malaysia was going to protest to the government of Indonesia replied that ‘Malaysia can respond in many ways’ and goes on to talk about it being necessary to act rather than talk. However, these words don’t ring right, cause talk is all that has happened so far.

The Indonesian government has said that there’s nothing it can do and has requested people to pray for rain. That really sums up the kind of learnt helplessness that’s evident in this region. No one seems to care to wear a mask, or protect themselves.

People in Malaysia have grown complaisant about what is happening to them. Choosing to cover their faces with a handkerchief or a tissue, is an exception than the norm. One guy in the LRT laughed at me for wearing a mask. I told him to f**k off and jump in the flames if he has nothing to do. Life seems to go on. The picture that has been painted is that the haze is here for now, it will clear soon, and then things will go back to normal. Some even make it seem like a seasonal thing. Advisories such as “stay indoors”, “don’t exert your body”, “drink lots of water” are meaning less when no concrete health measures are offered.

Fake psychologists, fake doctors, and fake ministers of parliament! I don’t care about them any more. This haze is man made. Its criminal. Old people are choking and people will die as a result of it. There are hundreds or more who are falling ill. Those in power seem to want to “wait” for the weather gods.

In the mean time, I have got conjunctivitis, asthma, and a headache. I really really want to leave Malaysia.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UPDATE
The Malaysian Department of Environment has promised to take open burning serious. It also has updates of the haze levels in different areas in Malaysia. This includes your unfriendly neighbor lighting up the garbage. Its been made technically illegal to openly burn stuff in Malaysia. But, who’s really enforcing that any way? Besides, this haze is not due to the little fires created by the friendly neighborhood pyromaniac, its caused by the systematic burning of plantation in part of the crop renewal cycle each year.

Major media is reporting that the "wind direction has changed and so the haze is clearing". That’s a f**ing retarded way of saying that we have swept it under the carpet for now. The damage is being done, the fires still continue, but the wind of course is taking the problem else where...
ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION Complaints pertaining to the environmental pollutions can be made via mail, phone-call or submitted directly to the relevant Department of Environment State Office's. DOE's HQ Control Room in Putrajaya operates from 7.00 a.m. to 11.30 p.m. daily inclusive of weekends and public holidays. Complaints can also be forwarded to:
Department of Environment Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Level 1 - 4, Podium 2 & 3,
Lot 4G3, Precint 4, Federal
Government Administrative Centre 62574
Putrajaya
Hunting Line : 03-8871 2000 / 8871 2200
Complaints Line: 03-8889 1972
Fax: 03-8889 1973/75
JASLINE :1-800-88-2727

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Smokers 1 – Nonsmokers 2!

At least that’s what happened from my point of view!

Yesterday, as I comfortably sat down to slurp a bowl of noodles at the food court (called the “mamak” in Malaysia) before attending my first day of grad school, watching the beautiful ‘birds’ walk past, it became apparent that in Malaysia, smokers light up where ever they please with no regard to the non-smokers.

The warm evening soon turned bad when this women in her 30ies sat in the seat in front of me, quietly took out her reading glasses, her the days news papers, and her lovely pack of cigarettes. What happened next was something that was well practiced and unconscious. Paper unrolls, reading glasses are worn, fingers reach for cigarette ever so gently, and slowly inserts the precious stick in mouth. Wait… she realized that she was missing her lighter. She then reached over to her hand bag, searched frantically as though it was her heart-medicine, nearly knocking over her cup of tea in the process, and found her lighter. The cigarette got lit, and she kept puffing away.

I love smokers because when they smoke, they want to share the beautiful smoke with other people and in the process, they get so excited that they fail to ask if the other people around them actually want their little delights. This little lady was no different. She keep sending her puff straight at my face.

Those of you who know me, will know that, the sinus in my nose has a life of its own. It tends to get really pissed when there are air contaminants and reacts with very violent sneeze. This condition has been pretty horrid to the extent that OTC nasal medication doesn’t work for me any more.

My reaction to this woman who was smoking my face was:

*aachhooooomm*

The first time I did that, I covered my face with a handkerchief (yes I own one), stooped down, and apologized.

And then it struck me. I am going to make sure that the next time I sneeze, I was going to do it on her face, and I was not going to be sorry about it.

This is exactly what happened in the twenty seconds that followed

Me: “aaachhhooooooooooooommmmmmm” (note: direct at her face while watching all the saliva go from me to her in slowmo)

Woman: *stares at me* (she was probably thinking that I was the ugliest creature alive hehe)
20 seconds pass by...

Me: “aaaaacccchhhhhhhoooooooooooommm” (note: you guessed it. Direction = her face. Accompanied by the tiny droplets of saliva from my mouth all in slowmo. Reminds me of a scene from the matrix. Saliva goes by while everything goes to slowmo.)

Woman: (really pissed off sounding really angry) “Don’t you know how to sneeze with your mouth close or say sorry” (she stares at me)

Me: “aaaacchhhhoooooooooooommm” (again at her face and sounding very angry and really loud) “EXCUSE ME… BUT YOU DON’T SEEM TO CARE WHEN YOU BLOW YOUR SMOKE ON MY FACE AND YOU DO SEEM TO THINK YOU HAVE TO APOLOGISE FOR MAKING ME SMOKE YOUR CIGGERATE”

Woman: (looks totally pissed off and ready to rip me off to pieces) “Bh…..” (interupting her)

Me: (even loud and drowning her voice) “IF YOU THINK ITS OKAY FOR ME TO TAKE THAT SHIT FROM YOUR MOUTH, THEN YOU CAN TAKE MINE”

Woman: (getting red) “ghrr…” (as i interupt her yet again)

Me: (Pissed off but in a calm tone) “Just shut up. If you think you have the right to smoke in the air that I breath, then its just too bad. If you want me to stop sneezing on your face, then stop smoking on my face. Get a lawyer if you cant deal with it”…

“aaaccccchhhhhhhoooooooommm”

She: (looking irritated I guess.. I wasent looking at her any more) *gets up and leaves*

Students around me: (probably nonsmokers too) *start clapping*

Me: (in Bahasa Malaysia) “Abang ahh.. lagi satu tea-o-lima-o-panas” (translated: Brother, one more hot lemon tea please)


I am not going to be nice about the smokers out there. Some of those who smoke in Asia take advantage of the fact that the non-smokers have been too nice to them. These smokers surround themselves with an air of invincibleness. As a citizen of the world it is my RIGHT to live in a clean environment. It is my right to be able to be at a public place and be assured of clean air. I will do WHAT EVER it take to protect that right.


I shall not be nice about the fact that money hungry law makers don’t care about the welfare of non-smokers. I shall not be nice about the fact that besides “increasing the price of cigarettes” (a strategy that doesn’t really stop people from smoking because people will pay what ever it takes to sooth their addiction to nicotine) and the odd “tak nak” (meaning: don’t want) billboards, no real legislation is carried out.

You will see people smoking inside police officers, at bus stops, at hospitals, at railway stations, at government agencies, and other places of public interest. No real law exists that bans the use of cigarettes in such public places.

I shall then take have my own way of dealing with smokers.

“Accchhhhoooooooooooommmmm” And its going to be on your face.

Loving it!

The Fake Psychologist continues to pub hop… opps class hop. This time I love what’s going on in class. First day of “semi-graduate-school” and am studying among lawyers, med doctors, psychologists, priests, and other super duper students! Comments, thoughts, opinions are flying around at free will! The class is charged and is being facilitated by a super cool lecturer! I am totally motivated now!

One tiny step in the grad school world, and perhaps one step closer towards becoming a real psychologist!

There’s still the concern of finances at the back of my mind, but I choose not to let it bug me for now. Not dead yet!

And this means that yours truly will have more tales from the darker side ;)

Friday, September 29, 2006

a little babies story

It goes like this:

Long time ago, there were three bears, papa bear, mummy bear, and baby bear. Baby bear went to papa bear and said “papa bear papa bear, can you tell me a story”. Papa bear says long time ago, there were three bears, papa bear, mummy bear, and baby bear. Baby bear went to papa bear and said “papa bear papa bear, can you tell me a story”. Papa bear says long time ago, there were three bears, papa bear, mummy bear, and baby bear. Baby bear went to papa bear and said “papa bear papa bear, can you tell me a story”. Papa bear says…

You can imagine that by now every one listening were tumbling with laughter.

I find it really curious that a two-year-old was able to know humor attached to the way he said it. As I was looking at him (in typical fake psychologist ways), he had mischief all over his face.

I am amazed!

To understand this story (and to be able to communicate it efficiently) needs an understanding of meta communication processes. That is the understanding of how communication by itself works. He needs to understand that the sequence of the story is cyclic, and hence, needs to understand how events in the world are related to a time-order. On top of that you also need to know that a bunch of grown ups think of it a mighty funny.

Amazing right?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The conflict is back

Recently i wrote about the conflict in Darfur.

I am sad for even though i wasent the first to write of the atrocities and the murder, the worlds turning a deaf ear yet again. Apparently, Sudan does not have the Bin Ladens, the Sadams, or the George Bush's that it takes for the international community to respond fast enough.

Even the great Malaysian Dr does not seem interested.

I just got an email and it says:


Sudan Darfur: Send UN Peacekeepers Now!

Message: Thousands of people in Darfur (Western Sudan) are still being killed, raped and displaced, despite the signing of a peace agreement on 5 May 2006. TheUN says's around 23,000 peace keepers are needed to protect civilians and implement the peace agreement - we say they are needed now! Sign our petition to send a UN peacekeeping forceto Darfur NOW. We want 23,000 signatures for 23,000 peacekeepers.

Add your blue helmet to our virtual peacekeepingmap: noise.amnesty.org/darfur/act

Thanks very much for the support.

WHY does it take 23000 signatures to have peace keeping forces in Darfur when no such signature was required in the israel-Lebanon conflict or the Iraq-American conflicts. The great vito nations are debating about is human life in Sudan is worth their time.

Prime time media barely mentions the Darfur conflict. Sometimes in mentioned in passing, the story of great invasion takes precedence these days.

While i write, i am saddened that, the rape, killings, and displacement goes on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A story

I would like to share with you what a fellow blogger and very close friend, Nadine, blogged. Communities rely on its stories to enculture people. This story, i feel is largely missing in "modern" society (though not in all parts of the world, KL and Singapore are not exceptions). More and more our societies are becoming individualistic. And in this entry, i found that what could makes human being, a truly 'superior' species.

All credit goes to Nadine for sharing with us her story:

Da Stone Soup Moral

The Wisdom Of Sharing- This is one of my favorite parable stories I wanna share with y'all. Depicting our human nature when it comes to our everyday wants & needs.

"There are many variations on the story of stone soup, but they all involve a traveler coming into a town beset by famine. The inhabitants try to discourage the traveler from staying, fearing he wants them to give him food. They tell him in no uncertain terms that there's no food anywhere to be found. The traveler explains that he oesn't need any food and that, in fact, he was planning to make a soup to share with all of them. The villagers watch suspiciously as he builds a fire and fills a cauldron with water. With great ceremony, he pulls a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffs the brew extravagantly and exclaims how delicious stone soup is. As the villagers begin to show interest, he mentions how good the soup would be with just a little cabbage in it. A villager brings out a cabbage to share. This episode repeats itself until the soup has cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets-indeed, a substantial soup that feeds everyone in the village".

This story addresses the human tendency to hoard in times of deprivation. When resources are scarce, we pull back and put all of our energy into self preservation. We isolate ourselves and shut out others. As the story of stone soup reveals, in doing so, we often deprive ourselves and everyone else of a feast. This metaphor plays out beyond the realm of food. We hoard ideas, love, and energy, thinking we will be richer if we keep to them to ourselves, when in truth we make the world, and ourselves, poorer whenever we greedily stockpile our reserves. The traveler was able to see that the villagers were holding back, and he had the genius to draw them out and inspire them to give, thus creating a spread that none of them could have created alone.

Are you like one of the villagers, holding back? If you come forward and share your gifts, you will inspire others to do the same. The reward is a banquet that can nourish many.

*NJ* (L)

I would like to add, that this idea of sharing should not just be within humans, but should be shared with the rest of Mother Nature. Trust, you would know that the limits to the application of this story is defined by you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Life as a Production Assistant

Remember my post about the essentials of casting? Well, here’s another one to help you understand another role in the production business. This ladies and gentlemen, is the lowly position of the production assistant!

If you have been wondering why someone will want to start out as a production assistant, the answer to that is pretty simple. Many young directors who have made their digital video short films and are beginning to understand the fundamentals of filmmaking look for jobs on a feature film or a production company that makes TV commercials. This is because short films don’t put enough money in their pocket. However, the problem is, the production companies have already filled important positions like director, cinematographer (or director of photography), producer, editor and all the other cool jobs and don’t see where a punk a few shorts will fit except as a… yes you guessed it.. lowly production assistant.

Being a PA is not glamorous, but a great place to learn the ins and outs of production and make a meager living (compared to what the other members in the team get). It’s a place to learn the ropes as one executive producer (lets call her k) put it.

As production assistant or PA, you get see how ‘paid professionals’ interact on the set and get to see gear that would easily fill up several credit cards. We’re talking pro dollies, jib arms, powerful lights, c-stands, tracking shots and high-end camera packages.

But, how on earth do you land on such a job?

You need to start networking with production companies. You need to brush elbows with people who have been in the industry. Ask questions and make friends. If you impress them, you may have an in at a production house. I know friends who sent their resumes with degrees in film making, and like I said before, they had to start out as a PA! I shall not get into the discussion of the economics or the ethics of making it almost mandatory that new staff start low.

More interestingly, this is written for those of you who are trying to get into the business and more importantly, is about some tips about surviving once you are in.

Some important things to remember about your first pre-production meeting are:

1. When you get hired, don’t forget to ask for details of your job. For example, you need to know how to get to set, how long is the shoot, if there’s any thing that you need to take, your call time, etc. Some production companies require you to work with the before production (pre production) and during the production. Find out exactly what you are in for.
Confirm your rate! Some pay by the hour, some by project, some don’t pay PA’s and get work done by hiring interns.

2. Don’t walk in the door five minutes late with a lame excuse. Keep in mind, impressions (no matter how useless in the real world – debatable) count in this industry. So do make full use of impressions.

3. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Seniors tend to get nervous when the young punk comes up with bright ideas. I am not sure about the rest of the world, but this tends to happen in Malaysia.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask a questions. Every one knows that you are new so you are entitled to ask.

5. But, do not start ask a barrage of questions about every piece of gear. It will drive people crazy. Remember, you are not in class, it’s a paid job. Besides, if you pay attention, you will learn.

6. Don’t bloat about your latest DV short. Most of the time, these guys are spending more in 20 minutes than you did on the entire short. Besides, they are not interested in your art. Most guys are in this not for the love of film making (even though they will tell you other wise), but are in it for the money. So, don’t piss them off.

7. If you are asked to do something new, or one that you do not know how to do, do not try to bluff your way through. The production house will not call you for any more jobs.

8. Don’t start handing out your ideas on how to get something done. Production crews have been doing their thing for a long time. Even though your idea is really awesome, just shut up. They do not appreciate a “DV, punk” telling them what to do. I typically approach them when they are on break, and ask them for they “opinion” about my new idea.

9. If there is an issue with safety, then do be loud! But, confirm the threat first. I know PA who have gotten into trouble for not brining out safety issues.

10. On the set, you need to pay attention to the flow of things. Try anticipate a need. If you see a light being set, extension cord handy or your hand on a c-stand if they need it. If the director calls for a camera placement where some items are in the way, be ready to move them. If the set is starting to run low on something (coffee, food, water) be ready get some more.

Sounds pretty menial rite? It is! Remember, you are there to learn and this is probably the only way you are going to be on set, so enjoy the experience. It is probably not the most pleasant experience, but, a little bit of thick skin will take you the extra mile.

Make sure you have the following with you:

Comfortable shoes:
You are most likely going to be on your feet for more than 10 hours, so make sure you are ready.

Appropriate clothing:
Check out the weather forecast if you’re shooting outside. I’ve been on a shoot where we’ve started on a hot day and end the rain. Obviously, I wished I had prepared. If you’re going into a corporate office environment, you shouldn’t be wearing a dirty t-shirt that looks like you slept in a box. A hat however, is always handy.

Notepad and pen or pencil:
You may be asked to get stuff (coffee – remember thick skin) and you will have to know the 16 different flavors that was requested, and the 38 other instructions. Also, some directors get very excited when they talk to their PA’s and forget that the lowly PA’s are really nervous, and speak so fast that you might not be able to make out what was said. If you whip out a pen and small note pad and take notes, you will look prepared and may score points. Besides, excited directors don’t like to repeat and offer to speak in other languages for clarification.

Change:
Always have some change for parking meters if you sent to run errands.

A map of the area:
keep this in your car (or any other place). Getting lost on set, and come back late will get you on the bad books with a lot of people. Most modern production companies will have specialized personal taking care of catering, and transport, but, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

A fanny pack:
You can cram goodies that can be used when lunch is late. Though some production companies have their own junk food, you probably wont have time to be helping yourself. M&M’s, Mars bars, and jelly beans are my favorite!

Cell Phone and Charger:
Some production companies will abuse your phone and you’ll end up using up all your minutes with no reimbursement. So, you might want to check if you are being reimbursed before you offer to whip out that phone.

Gloves:
I learnt too late that gloves are good for protecting your hands if you have do heavy duty dirty work. I had to coil cables that were running though a drain. I Will let your imagination fill in the rest.

A Leatherman Multi-tool or similar tool:
They just come in handy in all kinds of circumstances. I did not have this until recently and the micro leather man that I am now using has saved my life several times.

Marker:
You just might want to label things.

Flashlight:
I carry a small mag light. You may end up wrapping up at night, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and...well, you get the picture.

Sunscreen:
For those sunny days. It will save you from skin cancer. Use one that is water proof (cause you just might get wet), and one that has a SPF greater than 70.

Bug spray:
Mosquitoes can get mighty nasty where ever you are. On a recent shoot, I was nailed twenty times in one minute by the bloodsuckers. On another shoot, I found too late that sand flies had gotten me about 50 times!

In case you have to do some grip work, make sure you have the following with you. Most production companies will have these items in their tool box so you do not need to get them. So you might want to check before you go.

3 prong adapter:
(Sometimes called an Edison adapter) so you can plug lights into 2 prong outlets. On a recent shoot, I discovered too late that I absolutely needed an adapter too keep the baby-talents entertained.

Cloth pegs:
Used to attach gels to lights. They come in handy. And its kinda cool to whip one out when the chief grip asks for one ;)

Gaffers tape:
This amazing product can be used for anything from securing cables, marking start positions, creating labels, sealing reel cans, you get the picture. Make this your best friend on set!

A cheap circuit tester:
You can test to see if an outlet is hot before running a light to it. I always carry one, especially on location scouts.

A belt clip:
I don’t own one yet (dont have long terms plans here). But I can see that it will be useful to carry all your tools + the very essential bottle of water.

Once you survive the first day (you will), make sure you thank the production team for taking you on. If the crew’s going out after the shoot, you may want to go along to get in with the crew. This helps in finding outer opportunities to work on the team.

Once the shoot is complete, remember to thank who ever brought you onboard. Check in occasionally to see if there is any new work, but don’t be a pest. Once every two weeks or so should be enough. Become friends whoever does the hiring ;)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Article removed...

I have come to realize, from the long responses that I have received from kai ting and *k, that my pervious post does not convey the message that I intended to get across as eloquently as is acceptable.

I apologize for the short coming, and the confusion, and inappropriate rhetoric that was used within the passage. Obviously, a mistake has been made, and I have removed the post before it can do any more damage.

The article was written in the sprit that women should be respected more than they currently are. But, that message did not, as I had said earlier, come out right! I shall work on this piece further, and have it ready at a later point of time J

My thanks to *k and kai ting, for pointing out flaws in my writing. Thank you for pointing out an error before it went too far.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The worm song...


A few weeks ago, one of my executive producers (lets call her K) sang a song which stuck in my head like glue. I loved the song the moment I heard it! Well, K, ofcourse did a good job with the vocals, and though I wish I could have brought to u the entire version, I have here the lyrics!

Its called the worm song, i love it for what its worth, and it goes something like this:

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
Guess I'll go eat worms,
Long, thin, slimy ones; Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.
Up comes the first one, up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Nobody loves me, everybody hates me
Think I'll go and eat worms
Long ones, short ones, fat ones, thin ones
See how they wriggle and squirm

I bite off the heads, and suck out the juice
And throw the skins away
Nobody knows how fat I grow
On worms three times a day
Ohh...nobody loves me.

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
Think I'll go eat worms.
Big fat juicy ones, Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm.

Chomp off their heads and squeeze out the juice
And throw their tails away
Nobody knows how I survive
On worms three times a day.

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me
I'm goin' down the garden to eat worms
Long thin slimy ones, short fat fuzzy ones
Ooey gooey, ooey gooey worms

Long thin slimy ones slip down easily
Short fat fuzzy ones don't
Short fat fuzzy ones stick to your teeth
And the juice goes slurpin' (slurping noise) down your throat

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
think I'll go eat worms...
big fat juicy ones, little slimy skinny ones,
hope they don't have germs!"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The greatest joy in the world: a place called home.

Home… this word can have many definitions. To some of us, it can be a place where we rest, to others it can be where they are at peace. To some others, it can be where their loved ones reside. It can be where people are most comfortable. It can be where tears roll down, a place of worship, a place of joy, a place to sing, a place to think, plan, decide. Or a place where personal history is crafted.

My definition of a home can be best be described by the following. Some of us come to realize that we know no such place. And sometimes yearn for what others call home. In the many poems written about home, I take refuge in knowing and dreaming that perhaps someday, one day, I will belong in a place called home.

For 27 years I had been searching not knowing what it was.
I thought it was fame, thought it was fortune, thought it was glory.
None seem to ease the tension that made me search for more.
Alas, I realize… all my life, I have been searching for a place called home.

These lines mean a lot to me. Along with this realization comes the release of emotions that have eluded me for so long. Better late than never they say!

I have spent the past weeks pondering and literally stepping into low gear. Not wanting to blog, not wanting to talk, not wanting to go places, but just wanting to be alone. Some of those I know, understood, but some, did not. But that’s okay, for it was a great investment in myself. No cost I reckon can equal the benefit of gaining personal insight.

Home I guess, I where the heart is. But, what do you do if you don’t have any such place? Where do you then keep your heart safe? Where then do call a home? I guess for now, I shall never know the answers to these questions. But, perhaps, I have moved a step forward in knowing that I yearn for a place to call home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Peranakan": Marriage Practices of a Dying Race

The Peranakan community (or culture) are a dying race in the south east Asian region. Many people currently struggle at reviving the unique culture. This paper was written in honor of the Peranakan community and its people. It was originally presented by me for a course in Intercultural Communication in Malaysia. It is kinda long and I apologize for that. This paper outlines the customs involved in a Peranakan wedding, and some history behind it. Enjoy :)

Prior to the fifth century AD, Chinese records did not contain many references to the Nanyang, (Levanthes, 1994) which is the general term used to refer to the South Asian region. It is generally accepted however that before the inception of large sea going vessels, the ‘Persian trade’ occurred overland from West Asia to the northern parts of China. The availability of ship building technology increased use of sea routes to transport goods from the rest of the world through the Nanyang, and into China (Levanthes, 1994). This trend led to the rise of ports of call along strategic points of their voyage, namely in the Malay Archipelago. Thus, the exotic marine and jungle produce of the Malay Archipelago was drawn into the international trade of early Chinese (Lee & Tan, 2000).

The Malay Archipelago borders two monsoon wind systems. The channel of Malacca are geographically located at the ‘end’ of the monsoons, thus allowing ships to wait for a change of winds until they could continue further, or return homeward (Levanthes, 1994). Thus, by leaving China with the northeast monsoon at the end of the year, they sailed back home with the southwest monsoon in the middle of each year. Therefore about five months was spent at each port. The long periods of stay enabled them to set up a second home in Malacca (see Charney, Yeoh, & Kiong, 2003, for a description of the Chinese diaspora). During their extended visits at the port, the Chinese men took wives to look after their businesses when they returned annually to China (Levanthes, 1994). This essay is concerned about the unique culture that was created through the mixing of early Hindu Malay and Chinese visitors to Melaka.

Peranakan, Baba-Nyonya, Baba, Baba Chinese, Straits Chinese, or Straits-born Chinese are terms that are used to describe the descendants of the early Chinese immigrants to the straits settlements of Malacca, Penang, and Singapore. In both Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, 'Peranakan' means 'descendants' (Kuake, 2006), while Baba and Nyonya refer to male and female descendants respectively. The initial diaspora of Chinese from the early Ming era into the straits settlements created an interesting mix of Malay and Chinese traditions.

The religion of the local Malay population at that time was mainly Animistic or Hindu (Lee & Tan, 2000). Even though the current constitution of Malaysia defines ...........


I have removed the rest of this essay as i am told that students from HELP University College social sciences class have been plagiarizing it.

Common you guys, shame on you.

If any one of you would like to read the essay, please email me at astrorat@gmail.com and i will mail you a copy.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

24 hour star... - updated

Wow.. time truly is flying by. Its been a month plus at the production company and I am learning lots of new stuff. Its really a shame, but I have not been thinking much about psych. I have not had the time to read.

However, interestingly, a Malaysian daily called “the sun” featured me in its education section. They had asked me a few questions about clinical psych and based their article on that interview. That’s my 24 hours of stardom!

You can check it out here

if the page asks you for a user email and password, type astrorat@gmail.com and enter the password "astro"

UPDATE: Also note: look out for the 6th June issue :D



Sunday, May 28, 2006

Casting: A Guide - Updated!


I have been occupied with casting people in the production house that I am freelancing. Casting (similar to auditioning in the drama word) is a tedious process. It was elusive and no one wanted to set aside a few minutes to explain either. I guess disclosing this information would threaten their own job security.

Hence today, I have outlined a step by step process that any beginner could use. It has nothing to do with psychology. But, I guess when a psychology student works in an area that he’s not familiar, he starts documenting and writing papers about everything.

i am submitting this work process paper to the company that I work with so that they can give it to new recruits who unlike me would not have to struggle to learn unexplained facets of production! But keep in mind that this process is what typically happens when people are auditioned.

The process typically starts when the director (sometimes a producer) requests for casting and briefs you on the job

1. Brief from director:
a. Budget
i. Budget for talents
ii. Budget for advertising
iii. Budget for casting agencies (typically 20% of talent budget)

b. Scripts and story board

c. Special instructions: things that you need to look out for and stuff that you need to avoid.

d. Deadlines

e. Your fees

2. Plan documentation and casting sequence
a. Casting registration
i. Forms: amend and create casting registration forms to capture important information about the talent.

b. Serial number: serial number each talent to keep track forms

c. Equipment: Photo camera, video camera, computer, dv tapes, large hard drive: determine if the production house provides this equipment of if personal equipment needs to be used

d. Photo and video archival strategy: determine how photographs and video recordings are named, and stored. This should include a strategy to name dv taps in a logical manner.

e. Working hours: determine a work schedule. Typically casting starts at 11AM and ends at 7PM. This schedule should be adjusted to suit talent needs.

f. Contact email and phone number: determine how talents can contact you when necessary.

g. Work space:
i. Determine where will you be working
ii. Determine where will you cast the talents? Will it be outdoors or in a dedicated casting room?iii. Determine if the casting area will be shared with other members of the staff.
iv. Determine obtain props that will be required for castingv. Find a comfortable waiting area for talents to wait their turn

h. Casting assistant:
i. What role does s/he play
ii. Determine how could s/he enhance the talents casting experience and to the overall success of the process

3. Talent recruitment
a. Direct talent recruitment strategy:
i. Advertising budgets: Determine how much it would cost to advertise on leading local news papers. Advertising is done though media agencies. Scout for a media agency that provides maximum coverage for minimum cost.

ii. Posters to be designed: design and print posters that you may place at strategic locations. iii. Payments must be tracked: Both media agencies and community notice boards charge a fee for their service. Provide sufficient information to accounts department to prepare necessary checks

b. Agency:
i. Casting brief: email or fax a brief to the agency requesting for talents. This brief also acts as an informal agreement to do business, and hence will need to be signed by you.
1. Name of commercial
2. Roles: brief description of the type of talent required (age, sex, skin color, height, etc etc)3. Budgets (additional 20%?)
4. Caution: dealing with agencies need care. Casting agents have been known to bargain for more fees for the talents they introduce. Make sure you establish a rapport with the agency before working with them.

c. Word of mouth: inform other producers, friends, workmates, about your requirements.

d. Ex-talents: look out for talents who may have already worked with you. Look for prior records or speak to other producers in the organization.

4. Casting sequence
a. Plan: what you will be doing during casting. How will you photograph, and video the talents.

b. Plan: what you will make your talents do

c. Decide: what expressions you will look out for

d. Plan: what dramatic routines will the talents have to do

e. Decide: how best you could communicate your requirement to the talent.

f. Determine: if you are required to keep the original storyboard confidential. If so, determine an alternate storyboard for your talents

5. Petty cash:
a. Get: petty cash from the producer.

b. Maintain: records of all money transactions. Hence you will need to retain all bills and invoices for accounting purposes.

6. Start casting
a. Introduce yourself: “hi hows it going? My name is X, and I will be casting you” works!

b. Explain budgets and shoot dates. Proceed ONLY if the talent consents (* agency clients are NOT advised of budgets)

c. Provide brief information about the TVC, shoot dates, and evaluation process.

d. Registration and waiting period: make sure that talents who are waiting their turn are comfortable. Ask the receptionist or casting assistant (if theres one) to help them with filling up forms.

e. Dealing with nerves: even experienced and professional talents may feel nervous or awkward. Some strategies to put your talents at ease include:
i. Small talk, chat
ii. Smile
iii. Tell them what they will be doing and where they are going
iv. Ask them if they feel nervous, and help them deal with it.
v. Assure them that they are doing a great job (even if they are not) while casting.
vi. Be honest if they are mucking up.
vii. Use humor. Jokes about mistakes in casting helps (e.g. Yesterday, I accidentally casted a guy waiting to collect a check)
viii. Tell them that you will be photographing them, and ask if its ok.
ix. Make sure they are completely relaxed before you proceed. Don’t rush them even if you have a busy day.

f. Photographs
i. Close-up portraits
ii. Medium shots with and without pose
iii. Long shots

g. Introductory video
i. Close up introduction of name, age, and height
ii. Close up profile: turn to left and right. Ask the talent to turn left, and then turn right.
iii. Long shot

h. Video of scenes
i. Explain scene and do a practice round
ii. Remind yourself of the casting sequence
iii. Perform at least 2 takes per scene.
iv. Repeat for each scene.
v. It will be useful if you act out the scene. It helps when they know that you are willing to work with them.

7. Before ending the casting session
a. Thank them for taking the time to come.

b. Show them the way out

c. Remind them of important deadlines (e.g. Selection announcement, shoot, etc)

8. Evaluation of talent
a. Dramatic quality: Ability to easily act out the scenes required

b. Emotional expression: Ability to act out variable emotions.

c. Aesthetic quality: Does s/he look attractive for the casted role.

d. Cooperation: If the talent is cooperative with the casting executive.

e. Comments: additional comments that may be useful in selecting or rejecting a talent for a particular scene.

9. Presentation to dop/director/producer
a. Select the top 50% of talents based on a systematic evaluation (refer to evaluation forms)

b. Print out the best portrait-shot, on non-photographic paper with low quality printer setting, of the talent.

c. Prepare short video of the talents
i. Name and height
ii. Introduction sequence
iii. Scenes casted

d. Explain the talents strengths and weaknesses (as per your evaluation) to the dop/producer/directore. Record comments made by the audience as appropriate.

10. Recast:
a. Call short listed talents in for recasting if necessary

b. Explain why you want them in, and what it means to you.

11. Presentation to agency
a. Prepare high quality portrait prints of talents short listed by dop/director/producer

b. Mount pictures on a black presentation board.

c. Categorize the pictures as necessary (e.g. By scene, by role, by age, by gender. This depends on the story board)

d. Prepare video to accompany the pictures on either dvd or dv tape.

e. After the meeting, record details of short listed talents

12. Tentative confirmations:
a. Inform direct and agency talents about the tentative selection.

b. Advice talents and agency to keep shoot dates free.

c. Gather additional information from talents (e.g. Shirt size, shoe size, etc)

13. Presentation to client/agency
a. Repeat step 9, but this time publish the photographs to a book. You will have to work closely with the producer as the photographs will be a small part of a larger project.

b. After the meeting, record the details of short listed talents

14. Confirmation
a. Inform direct and agency talents about their selection.

b. Following information must be made clear to both agency and talent
i. Wardrobe fitting dates and times (obtain from producer)
ii. Shoot dates and times (obtain from producer)
iii. Shoot location and time (obtain from producer)
iv. Directions to shoot location if no transport provided (obtain from producer)
v. Information about shoot (e.g. Food, first aid, nearest doctor, duration, toilets)
vi. Pickup time (and drop time) if transport is provided (obtain from producer)
vii. If visitors are allowed or not (seek advice from the producer or director)
viii. If personal photographs/cameras are allowed on set.
ix. Your contact number

15. Wardrobe fitting:
a. Liaise with producer.

b. Organize food for agency, client, staff, and talents. Plan the menu ahead of time.

c. Organize talents for the fitting

d. Photograph them in their costumes. This photograph will be used by the producers to reconfirm the wardrobe with the clients. It would be useful to preplan a well light area for this purpose.

e. Print photographs on the same day and submit to the producer. This will be used on shoot day.

16. Pre-shoot
a. Provide information about the shoot as needed. Eg. Maps, addresses, call times, etc.

b. Liaise and organize transport for the talents

c. Arrange for any kind of comfort items that’s necessary for the talents.

17. On shoot day
a. Arrive early and set up a place for the talents to gather

b. Greet talents and agency on arrival and escort them to a waiting area and keep them comfortable.

c. Provide information about the shoot as needed.

d. Explain food, drinks, and toilet arrangements as needed

e. Make sure talents and agency are comfortable and are taken care of.

18. Payments
a. Agency client
i. Obtain invoice before making payment
ii. Pay the agent
iii. Obtain signature and company seal acknowledging payment

b. Direct client
i. Make cash or check payment
ii. Obtain signature acknowledging payment

19. Close job
a. Provide accounts department with all invoices and bills.
b. Collect your fees!


20. Go party with the rest of the crew!


Note that this sequence was intended to be a guide and is by no means a bible of sorts. Items within this document is meant to be adopted and used diligently, as seen best.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Learning curves

New learning experiences have always intrigued me. Be it in IT, management, advertising, public relations, psychology research, human services, movie making, partying, or my latest stint in a production company. Learning experiences in each case have been varied.

In IT, it started out as fun, excitement, and eventually the excitement died down. I later found my self working under the management side of things. Then again, there was the excitement, and sense of newness. Psychology was a little different. It started out as exciting, became extremely difficult, and then evened out and stayed exciting. I still find it exciting. And now, there’s the movie making experience!

Right now, the experience is an uphill struggle. I have been going home exhausted and utterly wasted. But, the work has so far been rewarding. I have been learning what to pay attention to while casting people for a shoot. The company that I have been working with, does tons and tons of TV commercials. The current project is for a particular brand of diapers, and as you can imagine, I am working with children!

Now, here’s when all that experience and knowledge in Psychology comes into play (or should I say, work). I am learning from experience that working with children is NO child’s play! Though I have been casting about 20 babies (between 1 ½ to 3 years of age) in their diapers I can tell you that its not easy. We (my self and the casting manager) get first brief the parents on what the shoot is about and then let the baby just play in the special “casting set” that’s set up for the kids! We then try to get them to do specific actions, such as getting the babies to look at the diapers, getting them to spin around, and to run around. All normal child like activities don’t you think?
I remember the theories of development that I learnt during the 2nd year of my psych program. Hats of to Ainsworth for the patience in observing the kids and then arriving at patterns of attachment style. This particular cast requires that parents keep quite during most parts of the shoot, while the Casting manager and I, do our little special sequence of shot. The bright florescent lights, on the play mat however does not help and leaves some children running to their parents. This is however not the case with a some other kids. And they are completely comfortable with the fact that they are doing strange things with two strangers!

I have met all kinds of attachment styles in the past 3 days. The secure babies, the preoccupied babies, the dismissing babies, and fearful babies, and I should add, the EXTREMLY fearful babies. Some of them get so frightened, that they literally freeze. They just stand there and stare at you. They neither cry, nor move, nor blink an eye. They just stare!

Though casting setups are typically strange for children, the experience is strange for me too. But interestingly, i have appreciated dealing with strange situations. I am not sure what kind of attachment style I have would fall under, but I cant help ponder how my own attachment style influences they way I deal with ambiguous situations today. I cant help wonder in what ways is my need to explore, my desire for varies experiences, and my need to seek out novel stimuli related to my childhood experiences. No doubt, the children who I am casting may have stories of their own. But, more importantly, I wonder what they will turn into in the next 20 years. Will their attachment styles stay? Or would varied life experiences change the way they encounter learning experiences?

My own learning experience at this production company has been challenging. I could not think about putting my thoughts together until today. Life was a hectic rush, with every stimuli novel and difficult to process. As I slowly learn the culture in the company, I am now taking time out to process those thoughts! I should say that its really difficult, but its happening slowly but surely.

I shall leave you with more photographs at my recent hiking trip to the southern part of Malaysia (Johor). Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

up the hills: putri gunang ledang

I am jus back after a 2 day jungle excursion at the Johor national park. Johor national park (on the south of Malaysia, near Singapore and about 4 hours from KL) is home to the mountain called “putri gunung ledang” (this leterlly translates to “princess on mountain 'ledang')

The event was organized by the Nanyang press, as a occasion to celebrate the successful fund raising campaign. ACTS (A call to serve; and NGO that works with refugees in Malaysia sponsored me), and is probably the only NGO in Malaysia that works to support refugees in the country. Many thanks to all the people who donated to this cause.

The mountain climb was super exciting. About 40 of us stayed at the Johor national park. The day climb can best be described in pictures and a short movie. I am in the process of editing a short clip of the two days, but will leave you with sights at the top!
water fall at the bottom

View at the top
amoung the clouds

Among the hills

The fake psychologist is currently working as a production assistant in an advertising company. Am currently working with the casting manager, selecting babies for a commercial that’s being produced! Why am I doing this? Well.. I need the money to put me though 2 more years of grad school. I should add that the experience, is *wonderful*. What’s so cool about these shoots is that they film on 35mm. To movie makers, this is means that its created on the real thing.. the tape and gives perhaps the best known quality after recording.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Research colloquium with a cuppa

Fellow blogger and friend, Serena made me realise how much I have started to worship the awesome kick-start from the wonderful wonderful warm cup of coffee. Final exams are around the corner, and i realise that frequent the kitchen to grab a yummy mug at least 3 times each night. She is right its a great "engine-starter”, however unlike her, I restrict my self to the less exotic instant coffee :p

My university just concluded its 11th research colloquium and like all other times, I shall take the time to comment on some of the good, bad, and… ermm. Lets just say, not so nice of the presentations.

Its lovely to see the university organizing its self (eventually) and improve its quality. I strongly believe in the notion that student quality is truly reflected in university quality.

This semesters colloquium saw from improvements: the colloquium is a day long event showcasing student research in psychology. Most research is done as part of course requirement and represents the creative minds of the students of HELP’s psychology program.

1. Improved sign-up mechanism
Kuddos to Edmond Kwok for taking the initiative to develop and host hucers.com. Those of you who do not know, HUCers handles the tedious process of student signups. Thus, it allows students from HELP to sign up for the colloquium sessions.

Sad to see however, that the website is not supported by the university. I am not going to get into a discussion about the politics of this (there certainly is some) but I want to raise the question why.

In terms of improvement, I would like to see the new system bounce an email to each student reminding them of their signup information. It could come as a timely reminder.

Though the next step would be to have an automated attendance checking system (at the entrance), but that I reckon would not happen due to budgetary concerns.

Good job Edmund!

2. Key note address
Just like the heading, students were left guessing till the last moment: “by whom?”

Ok seriously, who would want to go for a key note address (unless you want to kill time on a Saturday afternoon) when you don’t know whos talking?

But on the brighter side, at least there such a thing. I reckon that future marketing campaigns from the university will carry the information about the talk that happened (no pun intended).

I am not sure if this “talk” took place though. I dident attend ;)

3. Presentation arena and atmosphere
This is an area that I feel needs to be improved. There are a couple of things that dosent rock.

a. Formal dress code:
While formal dress code was made mandatory for the presenters, it seems a little strange that judges, chair persons, and attendants (those taking attendance and ushering) lack the kind of dressing that the occasion calls. I shall not mention names, but whats up with this particular chair-person who wore jeans and t?

Formal dressing should apply to all, in my opinion. Education should be communicated though role models. And if the role models feel that its not that important to be dressed formally, why should the students feel any different?

b. Stage area:
This needs to look decent. The stage in 3 (out of 6) of the venues looked like a total wreck. The multitude of wires made it look like an engineering disaster. I guess some of you may not agree with me, and feel that how “neat” hall looks is secondary. However, keep in mind, that the colloquium is a showcase of the best of student work. This is an opportunity that students take to ‘show off’ their talents.

I know that some of you will be quick to point out the typical students don’t take such an attitude towards colloquium and that students have started treating the event as just another day to get by. But that blame really lies in the way colloquium is presented to students.

I feel that the sprit of the colloquium lies in what its made to represent to the students. If the university slacks in its organization of the event, students will respond in a similar way.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that the sole organiser, Winnee, (who’s been whisking her magic for a long time now) has been and is doing an absolutely amazing job. Colloquium has come a very long way under her guidance. The pace at which she has organized events is something that we should learn to envy. But, she could do more with increased support from other faculty members.

For one, a change in attitude by some staffers who have been quoted as saying out in their class “oh damn, colloquium is a waste of time”. That kind of attitude doesn’t help.

I propose an upgrading of colloquium, as a day of celebration on the student calendar. I propose the creation of a colloquium committee, (much like any other event). The committee should be represented by both members of the faculty and a healthy proportion of both junior and senior students.

I feel that involving students into the creation process will not just generate ideas, but will keep students actively interested in the success of the day.

4. Food!
Kuddos to the Peer Support Group, for providing refreshments (at a cost though). I have heard complains about the cost burning a hole in the pocket. I think its time for more variety.

I feel that the involvement of a club (PSG) in the colloquium is an example of student participation. Its good to see the PSG turn up and make the delicious dishes available to the participants. I am hoping that the next colloquium has more clubs participating (all not selling food of course).

5. Guests, Outsiders, and Visitors:
I touched on this during my last post on colloquium. The department could do better and play an active role in opening up this event to members of the public. It’s a great marketing strategy if you think about it. Research colloquium showcases what you talk about in the paid adverts and road shows. What’s a better way of increasing public awareness about a psychologist-to-be (their sometimes-quassi experiments) than by inviting them to colloquium.

It time we had industry leaders, lecturers/researchers of other universities, government spys, members from the ISA, interested citizens, could all be present to listen to the student achievers present their research. Heck, i
want my mommy to see me present :D

The upgrade of the audience would naturally encourage both staff and students to produce better quality research.

6. Staff presentation:
There’s so much of staff research (at least that’s what the brochure says). Why not use colloquium to present this research? I am sure staff members will be equally excited as students to present their work. This has many advantages.

-Helps students learn first hand about how the pros do it. What a better way to improve your next presentation than by watching the gurus take a shot at it.

-Help those present learn about ongoing university research, thus increasing the overall awareness of ongoing research.

-Boost the self-esteem of staff members. Why leave all that hard work hidden. Lets hear it.

-Opportunity for students to know about research that the university is undertaking. Might give potential ‘future’ researchers some ideas.

-Gives some staff members a taste of what it means to be a student. Lets face it, some talk a lot about research presentations, when they themselves would be nervous to present.

-Encourages staff to indulge in more research work (in case the brochure isent that accurate).

That is all! …. For now…

For those of you who may be students like me, shame on you for wasting time reading blogs. Shouldn’t you be reading your texts or something ;)

And since you have come so far, good luck for exams.

See you all after the 28th! :D

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

beyond the barbed wire: refugees in malaysia

Malaysia: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR, 2006) claims that nearly 40 thousand refugees have been registered by them, Kuala Lumpur. Independent sources from other local NGO’s reckon that the real number of refugees (registered + unregistered) exceed hundred thousand

Where do these people come from? What are some of their problems? Are they dangerous people? Those were some of the questions answered by the 11 minute documentary “beyond the barbed wire” created by *ahh hmmm* yours truly.

While the title represents a sense of escape from captivity, the documentary aims to show that this escape is far from the utopic freedom that refugees have dreamt of from the confines of their ‘barbed wired’ world.

However, life beyond the barbed wire poses a whole new set of problems. In Malaysia, they are constantly persecuted and treated as criminals, thieves, crooks, and evil monsters here to do harm. Refugees are thoughtlessly deported back into the original misery. As Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN convention of human rights, just treatment of asylum seekers is a dream.

Stories of torture and murder at government detention centres pop up when ever you speak to refugees. Those who have tried to make this issue public have been ostracised and persecuted with the claim that they have brought shame to Malaysia. But, the real shame lies in the governments lack of concern for human suffering. For what ever reasons, Malaysia does not go public about the current refugee situation.

Where do refugees in Malaysia come from?

Majority of the Refugees in West Malaysia come from Burma, and Acheh. Then there are the refugees from the island of ‘Indanar’ of Philippines, in east Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak - the land of orang-utans).

Burmese refugees arrive in West Malaysia via land routes though Thailand. They are usually smuggled across the border via links with various “agents”. The Achehnese refugees tend to come in via boat (but I am not entirely sure).

On arriving in Malaysia, they are persecuted under the immigration act, and are condemned as “illegal immigrants”, a term that’s frequently used to refer to refugees by local media. This stereotyping, leads for the mistreatment of a population who are already stateless and homeless.

While the documentary does not explore the various political domains, it focuses on the human aspect of a refugee. The documentary is designed to help the typical refugee break existing negatives perceptions of who refugees are. It tries to show Malaysians what it would feel like to be one?

This documentary is was successfully made due to the contributions from the following persons. Ai Ling the cinematographer, Nadine the producer, Tessa the assistant producer, Sangeeta the production assistant. And then, there are the non-technical team of supporters and reviewers. The most important are Katrina J, and May Kuen. It was a real pleasure directing and editing!


on site!






I am currently trying to find a place to host a copy of the movie. But until I do that, please write to astrorat@gmail.com for a copy. Bear in mind, that it is about 50MB in size!

Other resources

Human Rights Watch: about the role of UNHCR in Malaysia:

Human Rights Watch: article on refugees in Malaysia:

Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS): report on Acehnese refugees in Malaysia

Refugee International: article on Malaysian refugee:

ReliefWeb: article on Refugees in Malaysia:

Suram (Malaysian human rights group): article on Refugee issues in Malaysia:

Tenaganita: article to release refugees held inhumanly:

Tenaganita: article urging to ratify UN convention on Human rights:

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (Malaysia): Urging government to protect and not abuse refugees during “crackdown”:

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sujiatun: Action now...

My post on Sujiatun seems to be receiving much more attention that I had hoped for. There is call for concern about the accuracy of the details provided about the events taking place. Some have gone so far as to exclaim that nothings going on because some western agency said so.

What seems to be forgotten however is that in the midst of these arguments of the accuracy of numbers lie numerous eyewitness accounts of torture, abuse, murder, and brutal killings involving the Chinese government and the said Hospital. These events have been related to a group of people who practice an alternate form of exercise called “Falun Gong”

There was this imminent feeling that some keep missing this very point. Regardless of how the message was formed, framed, and presented there IS an important message. And this message is that there is something going wrong in Sujiatun.

“The Sunday service” person seems to assume that the worlds issue can be solved only with rationalization, and accurate debates. However, debating for the definitional accuracy does nothing to rectify the issue at hand. Research to find the truth is more important. Without accurate information, you have nothing. Our primary concern as citizens of this world should be protecting each other. And when you hear muffled cries from you neighbour, we MUST investigate. If we do not know what the sounds is, we still investigate. We still want to know the truth. We do NOT alter our cognitions by telling ourselves, “oh.. its just my neighbours tv”. “Sunday Service” prefers to think nothing of it, choosing instead not to investigate the truth.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not been to the said hospital in Sujiatun. But, when I hear of eye witness account of torture, I know that humanity is not doing something right.

It is relatively easy to hide under a “system” of policies, procedures, arguments, and prefer to rationalise the world outside the US by means of rhetoric. Empty rhetoric is what Sujiatun does not need. Empty rhetoric is what happened when the heads of states from the world argued about what defines ‘genocide’ not so long ago. The result of that was the massacre of a million or more Rwanadan people. Lets not forget other places in the world where definitions, arguments, and empty rhetoric caused the deaths of innocent people. People who could have been saved if the world had reacted sooner.

What more do we need to hear? Do we need to see a million more dead Chinese nationals before a though investigation is justified? What in the name of humanity are some of us thinking when we agree to that question. We need to write to our parliamentarians, write to our papers, speak out in public, tell our friends UNTILL a recognised and credible organization such as the United Nations investigate the incidences.

We MUST NOT deny a fair trial just because the presenting evidence is unclear. We have a duty to investigate and find the that truth now.

-------- Amended information: what can you do ---------

steph raised a very important question: what can we do?
keeping in mind the limited nature of information and its questionable accuracy:

1. Spread the news to your friends.

2. Contact your governments to demand that they conduct an international investigation on the Sujiatun events;

U.S. Department of State
http://www.state.gov
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
+1 (202) 647-4000
+1 (202) 647-6803 (China Desk)

Finding U.S. government representatives, please go to below website:http://www.congress.org

3. Contact the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour, and demand an urgent intervention from their offices:

Hon. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General
United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY 10017
Press Office: (509) 510-2563 ext.: 6343
inquiries@un.org

Louise Arbour
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
1211 Geneva 10 Switzerland
Spokesperson: +41 (22) 917-9375
Press Relations: +41 (22) 917-3309
External Relations: +41 (22) 917-3965
Fax:+41 (22) 917-0092
jdiaz.hchr@unog.ch

4. Contact delegations of the International Committee of the Red Cross in your area and ask for their intervention: http://www.icrc.org

5. Visit China. Visit Sujiatun. Visit the hospital. Talk to the people there. Get a feel of whats going on your self. Investigate. And share your findings with the world.