Audaces fortuna juvat

Working towards my dream

Archive for November, 2007

Miss Saigon: A Woman’s Enduring Love and Sacrifice

Posted by C Moon on November 30, 2007

Recently Yuna Kim, a Korean figure skater, won Cup of China (November 8-11, 2007) and Cup of Russia (November 22-25, 2007), both of which are the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. She selected Miss Saigon (from the musical Miss Saigon) for the short program. Her performance reminded me of the musical Miss Saigon, which I watched in September last year at the Sejong Center for Performing Arts in Seoul.

The scripts, lyrics, and music of the musical were written and composed by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. They were inspired by a photograph on a magazine, a Vietnamese woman giving up her daughter at Ho Chi Minh Airport for the daughter’s better future in the USA.

Miss Saigon successfully portrays pure and enduring love between an American GI and a Vietnamese woman toward the end of the Vietnamese war, a mother’s love sacrificing her life for her son, and a man’s dream of elevating his social status and gaining entry to America, and grief from the war.

Miss Saigon conveys its themes exquisitely by blending seriousness with joyful satire. Pure love between Kim and Chris during the imminent fall of Saigon, the appearance of Viet Cong and Thuy, who is Kim’s intended husband in their early childhood, Kim’s enduring love for Chris, Kim’s struggle to give Tam a better life, and the problems that remained after the war are presented in a serious tone. In contrast, Engineer, who wants to raise his social status and seeks for a success in America, and Vietnamese bar girls, who wish to be picked up by GIs for the night, delivered their lyrics and music in a rather jocular way.

The musical presents a series of conflicts and tensions that capture the audience in a strained state of mind: Vietnamese and American as transaction parties, Vietnamese and Viet Cong as wartime enemies, Chris and Thuy as love rivals, Kim and Ellen as Chris’ Vietnamese and American wives, and Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City as the two contrasting names for a city. Each character reflects personalities that can be found easily in any society. For example, Engineer symbolizes the Vietnamese who is against Ho Chi Minh. He dearly wants the entry visa to America, the land of promise, and treats GIs nicely in order to get it, but revile against them when they do not give him what he wants. Kim and Ellen struggle for their love and neither can give up with her own rightful reasons. Kim’s love is not only toward Chris, but also toward her little son, Tam. Ellen heard about Kim, and understands Kim’s situation but also cannot give up her love for Chris and marriage, which lasted for years.

Miss Saigon mirrors a small society. While Engineer is driven by the hope for class elevation and American Dream, Thuy is driven by an ambition for success. Thuy betrayed Kim and her family to seek a position in the Communist government, and comes back to Kim to gain her love, despite the fact that he was the cause of her parents’ death. Ellen and Chris justify their thoughts of leaving Tam and Kim in Southeast Asia for their own relief. They do not consider other elements but their marriage, when they say that Kim will understand their decision.

The flow of the musical was flawlessly smooth with the active Engineer leading the story (that is, scenes and acts) forward. Engineer plays a dual role of a character with strong worldly desires and a coupler linking scenes and acts in a natural way.

There are many characters in the musical, wanting for something such as love and success, but the only character who actively seeks what he wants is Engineer. Others say that they want to achieve something, but the whole story is moving along by Engineer’s plan to make his way to America. For example, Engineer’s desire to get to America made possible Kim’s move from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok and Chris’ reunion with Kim. I wonder whether the musical would become stronger and more appealing if characters like Kim were more active in seeking their goals.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Miss Saigon 08” by flickrsampaist on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces, Poetry & Literature | Leave a Comment »

Coolies or an Elephant?

Posted by C Moon on November 28, 2007

Literature often makes a commentary on the society in which it is conceived. In his essay Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell employs satire to show that power and the ways in which power is misused are dangerous and destructive both to the victims and to those who wield it. Overall, I felt uncomfortable with this essay, not because it was weak in delivering its themes, but because both the Burmese and George Orwell described in the essay totally contradicted my values. In my view, they are examples of hypocrisy, arrogance, and cowardice.

George Orwell recounts the times when he served as a police officer in Burma, for its colonial master, England. He states that imperialism is “an evil thing,” and that he is on the side of the Burmese. However, he is one of those who are enslaved by his own superiority over the Burmese. Though he is aware that he has nothing superior to the Burmese, he is obsessed by the burden that he has to look better than them. Hence, he says, “A white man mustn’t be frightened in front of ‘natives’; and so, in general, he isn’t frightened.” He is driven by the others’ expectations rather than his own will. Although he “knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him [the elephant],” he becomes anxious about his status among the Burmese and shoots the elephant, feeling unable to resist. Contrary to his stance, he says, “… I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant.” I think that George Orwell in the essay is rather childish, justifying himself by arguing that it was not his fault but that the others were to be blamed. He wasn’t able to stand what he had done, desperately trying to escape from the dying elephant staring back at him. He tries to convince himself that he did what he could do in that situation and that he is not responsible because others made him do so.

The attitudes of the Burmese also bother me greatly. I agree with Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The Burmese depicted in the essay seem to be those who are weak to the strong and strong to the weak. As can be seen from the following sentence, “No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress,” they did not want to risk what they had, and thus gave up their liberty. They detest the Europeans, including George Orwell, but they take all that is offered to a colony. As can be seen from the following quote, “As I started forward practically the whole population of the quarter flocked out of the houses and followed me. They had seen the rifle and were all shouting excitedly that I was going to shoot the elephant,” they expect protection. After the elephant was shot, “The Burmans were already racing past me [George Orwell] across the mud,” to feast themselves with the meat readied in front of them by an oppressor whom they did not like. Though George Orwell claims that the Burmese controlled him as a way to get what they wanted, it seems to me that the Burmese, like hyenas waiting for the kill, had only the desire for meat. The Burmese had adapted to the colonial system, feared the power, and thus forgot to rise against the imperialists.

Furthermore, I felt especially uncomfortable with Orwell’s conversation with other Europeans, “… the younger men said it was a damn shame to shoot an elephant for killing a coolie, because an elephant was worth more than any damn Coringhee coolie.” It was a thought formed by being raised in the imperialist nation. Both the oppressed and the oppressors later ended up losing their liberty. The imperial system dictated their relationships to one another and barred them from ever stepping out of these roles. The simple decision of whether to shoot the elephant left Orwell’s hands as soon as he began to live while suppressing his beliefs in Burma.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Balance” by Bethany L King on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces, Poetry & Literature, Some Good Reads | 2 Comments »

What Would You Say?

Posted by C Moon on November 26, 2007

picture-4.png

Today, I want to share a moving lecture by a 47-year-old computer science professor from Carnegie Mellon University. The following video is the last lecture by Professor Randy Pausch, who does not have much time left due to illness. In the lecture, he does not talk about computer science but his life journey. He tells us how to achieve our dreams and more importantly how to lead our lives. The lecture lasts about eighty minutes, but you would never regret spending that amount of time 🙂

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Polaris – Star Trails” by Odalaigh on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in Some Good Reads | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is School a “Prison”?

Posted by C Moon on November 24, 2007

Is school a “prison”?

According to Shim in his blog post Students or Slaves, it is so. Surprisingly many classmates in my school say so, too. Shim talks about how school has limited his thoughts, how it has made “students” machines that strictly follow the future set by the adults. He asserts that school makes students regard a certain path as the “right way.”

I do not agree with Shim’s argument. Extending his argument, any institution, organization, and system deem restrictive. It is true that school is not a place of laissez-faire, but it does serve a good purpose.

I definitely maintain an unabashed love for school and community. For me, school means not only friends, but also challenge, opportunity, and learning. I formed my dreams through my experience in and out of school.

In my childhood my visions were quite different from what I have right now. I wanted to become a professional athlete and expert in martial arts. Though I still love physical activities and martial arts, and continue practicing them, I will not choose to become a professional athlete anymore. It is not because I am not adept enough but because I want to explore more exciting, interesting fields. While taking courses in mathematics and science and exploring them further by myself, I discovered the joy of decoding the unknown. It may have been possible for anybody to find what they want to pursue in their life without attending school, but it is school which has given me the chances to explore diverse subjects, some of which I became enchanted with.

Another benefit of attending school is to have friends in various shapes and colors. Similarly to learning, one can make friends without attending school. For example, connective writing, blogging, is a good medium. But, in that way, friends one makes will be limited to his interest groups. It is both a good thing and a bad thing. Friends with similar interests will understand each other easily, and help to further their knowledge in the subject of common interests. However, it narrows down their viewpoints and limits their social network. Friends in school vary widely. Some share my interest while some others do not. Some want to become designers, teachers, businessmen, or professions that I never thought of pursuing.

Currently, I am planning to direct (or assist in directing) a play next semester, something I never imagined to do before. I took a drama class last year and enjoyed writing reports on plays and taking roles in performances. Directing is a totally new challenge to me and I hope to experience the elements of drama from a different perspective. Trying a new thing is worrisome in one sense but some level of anxiety about it is the driving force of a step forward. After all, school is filled with not only rules and homework but also challenge, opportunity, friendship and fun.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Photo of Harry and School Friends” by cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces | 1 Comment »

Every Even Number Greater than 2 is the Sum of Two Primes

Posted by C Moon on November 23, 2007

Every even number greater than 2 is the sum of two primes.

picture-1.png

The above proposition is notorious Goldbach’s Conjecture, which remained unsolved for two hundred and fifty years. We can check empirically that the proposition holds for small even numbers.

4=2+2
6=3+3
8=5+3
10=5+5
12=7+5
14=7+7
16=11+5
18=11+7
20=13+7
22=11+11
24=13+11
26=19+7
28=23+5
30=23+7
32=29+5
and so on.

But unless we prove it for all even numbers, we cannot call it a theorem. There are always possibilities that it holds for small even numbers and fails to hold for extremely large even numbers. Then, can we prove it definitely?

Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture is a mathematics novel. But it does not require mathematical knowledge in enjoying it. The plot evolves around Goldbach’s Conjecture and a mathematician, who devoted his whole life in trying to prove it. Through Uncle Petros’ life-long devotion to this seemingly simple proposition, the novel reveals the passion, tolerance, and efforts that mathematicians pour into their studies. Uncle Petros, a key figure in the novel, is in some sense a tragic hero who is hubristic. He thinks that mathematics is only for the “talented,” and deters his nephew from becoming a mathematician. He is bewitched by the Conjecture and continues to search for a solution, but he does not cooperate or share his byproducts with other mathematicians, believing he alone will be the one to prove it. In his early 20s he was praised as a genius, but in later years his pride made him an isolated mathematician with no tangible mathematical exploit. He became exhausted and died with his works unpublished.

The following is part of a short posting that I’ve found on the internet, reflecting the book’s charm.

Name a book you own that you think no one else on your friends list does: Uncle Petros and the Goldbach Conjecture(Apostolos Doxiadis). I’m hoping this will change, though. Cool Math novel!

The author himself is a mathematician, but he does not talk about details on Goldbach’s Conjecture. Rather, he hints that the proof on Goldbach’s Conjecture may not be possible by introducing into the story Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems that some mathematical problems can never be resolved. Difficulties in seemingly simple propositions are the charm of mathematics. I am especially moved by the sentence, “Every person has the right to expose himself to whatever disappointment he chooses.” As far as I understand, the author asks us to aim high rather than take an easy path.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: front cover of Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture, taken by myself

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Science & Math, Some Good Reads | Leave a Comment »

Step Forward

Posted by C Moon on November 23, 2007

Surfing around the Internet, I discovered an inspiring speech delivered by John F. Kennedy. The following is my favorite section:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Oftentimes, people give up trying to pursue their dreams, simply because they are hard to attain. But is there anything that can be achieved without effort and challenge? Obstacles in front of us let us realize how seriously we want to get something done. People who are easily subdued by difficulties are those who are not so eager to reach their goals seriously enough. We should not fear to tumble over in daring step forward.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Reach for the Sun” by Scott Ableman on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces, Some Good Reads | Leave a Comment »

Friendship Math?

Posted by C Moon on November 22, 2007

picture-6.png

These days people try to explain everything through mathematics, technology, and science. I recently encountered with an interesting post, featuring a topic called “Friendship Math” (in the velocity section). Can everything be explained with these objective tools?

No doubt that math is the most elegant, perfect language, successfully explaining many subject matters in an objective and concise manner. It is imperative that scientists attempt to explain everything including human behavior through mathematics. The post says that “The hardest part about mathematically describing friendship is constructing a good model.” However, for the time to come the so-called good model is expected to be deficient in measuring the intensity of the emotion, which differs from individual to individual. The simple model includes variables such as “positive affection” and “negative affection,” whose measurement is still hard to establish. As we all know, human behavior is oftentimes irrational and unpredictable.

Even though everything around us may not need to be explained scientifically, scientists will surely endeavor to explain everything scientifically. Yet, there are many things that we cannot explain well with science, such as love, friendship, and affection. But, on the other hand, we shouldn’t be saddened too much by science’s failure in decoding love, friendship, and affection with sufficient explanatory power. The universe is full of odd bumps and twists. And the unexpected make life interesting.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: (1) a drawing of characters in “Saiyuki” by my friend 🙂

(2) “Math on the Wall” by alist on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces, Science & Math | 2 Comments »

Reflection

Posted by C Moon on November 17, 2007

Last evening, I returned to school to watch the 2 1/2-hour long play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I went there with some expectation and indeed the performance was very impressive. It reminded me of the “happy” times I had in the Drama class and club in the last school year.

This time of the year is the season of university application for seniors like me. It provides me with opportunities to look back what I did and chart what I plan to do. I know that I spent my time sometimes in a wasteful way and other times in a useful way, but yet I think even those wasteful moments helped me to establish my own perspective on things and matters. My dad, who is an ardent worker, seems to be disappointed with me for my occasionally poor time management. However, at the moment of exhaustion, indecision and uncertainty, seeming waste of time is not only useful but also necessary.

As soon as university application is over, I hope to have more time for non-requisite things, such as reading mysteries and myths, solving puzzles, and practicing martial arts.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Let Sleeping Children Lie” by stewickie on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces | Leave a Comment »

My “Evening Stroll”

Posted by C Moon on November 14, 2007

Evening Stroll

picture-2.png

Walking down along the stream,
The night creeps in.
Along with the rhythmic twittering,
Encircled by the glow of the setting sun.
Laying aside worldly affairs,
I stare into the sky.
The minute movement of trees,
The red color wide spreads itself.
I feel the wind, I feel the deep,
I wake in every nerve.
And ready to walk the way I desire.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Photo Credits: “Sunset at Walden Pond” by glsims99 on Flickr

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in My Thought Pieces, Poetry & Literature | Leave a Comment »

Check Out These Great Blogs

Posted by C Moon on November 6, 2007

Today, I want to briefly introduce three of my favorite blog selections 🙂

Becker-Posner Blog Provides me with different perspectives on wide-ranging current issues.

Not Even Wrong Mainly talks about String Theory; it features topics on science and math.

lifehack.org Gives obvious but easy-to-overlook advices.

Take time to visit them and look around!

I will comment more on these blogs in coming days since I am tied up with too many things such as college application.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posted in Some Good Reads | 2 Comments »