People

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My trip to London was an eye-opening one, not because of the intimidating Big Ben, but because of my newfound respect for the London cabbies. There I sat, bewildered by his puzzling speech while he spoke humbly about his hard earned taxi license. Having ferried a countless amount of both Londoners and tourists over the past 17 years, there is no street or road alien to this experienced cabbie who had ferried my family around. I had vivid memory of him gesticulating wildly with his wrinkled hands to express the hardships of passing The Knowledge- an extremely challenging geographic test of London for any driver considering to be a taxi driver.

After doing some research on my own, I indeed take my hat off to them. We seldom think twice of the cabbies who ferry us around during peak hours, often even chiding them behind their backs for their undesirable attitude. London taxi drivers are required to know the city at the back of their hands, a mind-boggling task that demands commitment, effort and patience. Imagine having to memorise all the geographical locations of all the places in Singapore, just two times more, with the fastest routes to arrive there. In an article of Reader’s Digest that covered the same topic, it states that having to take five years to complete The Knowledge isn’t unusual, and I’m certain that the cabbies-to-be face multiple setbacks from failing The Knowledge when faced with the most arduous questions set by the examiners.

In an interview with the Reader’s Digest, a taxi driver in London states that receiving the coveted green-and-gold badge of a cabbie is extremely emotional, with many successful drivers crying upon seeing their badge, a representation of the intense memorization and hard work they had been through. You might think that this is possible by just cramming information into your mind by poring over the maps of London, however perfect knowledge of the city’s routes are only gained through hands-on experiences with the city itself. Driving through various backstreet routes daily and around the city are part and parcel of preparation for The Knowledge.

These unsung heroes are indeed indispensable to the city, let’s be more appreciative of them and think twice before we make rude remarks to them. They deserve our respect for what they sacrifice to serve us, and that is undeniable.

Emma Ho (1W)

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Funeral

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I watch from my seat, as everyone pays their respects.
I don’t care. Not one hoot.

Everyone’s been awfully aloof and cold, to me, at least. They don’t reply when I speak to them, or even lift their heads to look at me.

They’re all too wrapped up in their grief over the corpse.
Why?
It wasn’t like she was the most likeable person ever.

My face twists into a sneer as I remember her ‘legacy’.

Always annoyingly boastful of her wealth and her children’s academic success at New Year reunions, shoving her uneducated and ignorant opinions down her relatives’ throat, forever decked out in a hideous leopard-print dress that hugged her disgustingly pudgy figure.

Nasty. It always made me think of a potato horrendously gift wrapped in leopard-print paper.

I cringe physically.

Why am I even here in the first place? Wait, how did I get here?

Everything is fuzzy.
The last thing I remember is blacking out on my bed…

My thoughts are interrupted by a melodramatic wail preceding a screech sounding like it came from the depths of Hell as someone flies into the room.

“UWUAHUH! I’M SO SORRY I’M LATE!”

Oh God. That woman, just as noisy as ever.

Wait a minute…
If she’s here, then…

I stand up, walk to the coffin and peer inside.

I’m attending my own funeral.

April Ang 2H

People: Florence Welch

You may not have heard of Florence Welch, from Florence and the Machine (stylised as Florence + The Machine). She is largely unknown by all of us as her music is not under the pop genre, which most of us listen to. Florence Welch is an English songwriter, singer as well as the lead vocalist of the band Florence and The Machine. Her debut album, Lungs, was certified five-times platinum by the British Phonographic Industry, while her second album, Ceremonials, received positive reviews from music critics who praised the instrumentation, Florence Welch’s vocals and the production of the songs. Her most recent album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful may be more well known among all of us. To date, it has received five nominations at the 2016 Grammy Awards, as well as many other awards.

What strikes me more interesting about Florence Welch is her singing and dressing style.  Florence has a unique wide contralto voice range, whose vocal range is the lowest female voice range possible. The contralto voice range is a rarity among female artists nowadays. as most female artists either have the alto voice range or the mezzo –soprano voice range. Florence’s dressing style is also one of a kind, and has gained plenty of attention on a global stage. Originally brunette, she dyed her curls red and her dressing style has been known to be “daring but nonchalant”. Florence is often styled in long and flowy dresses,  but early in her musical career, she dressed in a tomboy style.

Florence’s music lyrics are mostly influenced by religion and past relationships. Her music brings you on a rollercoaster ride in her three albums, from tribal and upbeat to sad and mellow. Her lyrics are quite in depth. When I first listened to some of her songs, I thought that it was meant to be an upbeat and happy song, but after listening to it for a few times, I realised that listeners had to read between the lines and figure out the meaning of the song.

If you like indie music with a little bit of a tribal touch, I highly recommend listening to Florence + The Machine, which is Florence’s band. Below is a link to the tracks in her first album “Lungs”. I do hope you enjoy her music!

“Lungs”: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE67D9D3934269346

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Germaine Ong 2L

Project Greenglow

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Gravity control was a notion beloved of science fiction writers that every respectable theoretical physicist said was impossible. It is amazing how many antigravity projects have been conducted by various companies such as NASA, Airforce, Navy, Army, foreign nations, or privately funded and have all failed. However, no documents have been made available as to the theoretical approaches, proposed and conducted experiments, and outcomes if any, until Project Greenglow.

Project Greenglow and its search for gravity control were recently introduced in The BBC’s Horizon. In 1986, aerospace engineer Dr Ron Evans went to his bosses at BAE Systems and asked if they’d let him attempt some form of gravity control. The BAE Systems specialized in designing, manufacturing, upgrading, and supporting combat and trainer aircrafts. Pushing against gravity with wings and jets was BAE’s multi-billion pound business, so why bother with gravity control? However, they realised that if this project was to be successful, this would provide BAE an unlimited source of propulsion and put them at the very top- there wasn’t much one could do with wings and jets anymore. In order to convince them further, he brought them a drawing of a vertical take-off plane, powered by an as-yet non-existent “gravity engine”.

He worried it didn’t look visionary enough, so he asked the artist to add some green rays emanating from the plane – a green glow. And that was how Project Greenglow came to be.

Project Greenglow was carefully conducted and well documented, but it didn’t make any major breakthroughs, much less built any flying saucers, and Evans retired in 2005 with with no practical form of gravity control on offer. But the story doesn’t end here.

One device survived, almost unnoticed, from the project- a propellant-less electromagnetic or EmDrive, created by British aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer. But what sets this to be different from the rest? Well, the EmDrive is a “reactionless” drive- it’s like you only need to sit on the seat to get the bike to move for an indefinite amount of time.

If the EmDrive worked, it could get us to Pluto in 18 months, compared to the 9 to 12 years it currently takes for our space probes to get to the dwarf planet.

So watch out- flying saucers are yet to come.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35861334

Chen Yu Yang 1T

 

Music Favourites

Sorry by Justin Bieber

This song has made Justin Bieber more popular than he’s ever been. Like, Beatles-level popular.  For some of you who are wondering, here’s why.

This particular pop star is deeply repentant for the grievous offense he has committed. He acknowledges that he has behaved badly. If you were offended, he wants to offer you——a heartfelt apology. Here, in this song,  he’s even captured his plea in melodic form, for posterity, expressing sincere remorse and a pledge to do better next time. Here’s proof for you, his latest hit— “Sorry”.

“Sorry” is now in its second week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and America’s first new chart-topper of 2016. On the surface, “Sorry” is basically an all-purpose entreaty for a wronged lover’s return. In a way, it’s a mirror image of the song it replaced at No. 1, Adele’s similarly apologetic, single-word-titled “Hello.” (Remember, she too was “sorry, for everything that [she’s] done”)

Perhaps it would help if you watched the music video. A big plus, for those of you for whom the sight of Justin’s face provokes a Pavlovian reaction: There’s no Bieber in it! What it features instead is a troupe of energetic, agile, and charismatic female dancers from New Zealand. Their vigorous moves underscore the infectious, kinetic energy at the heart of the song, which is made for dancing. Besides, there are 805,473,516 views! That’s quite a record isn’t it?

Overall, I think that “Sorry” is the number 1 song because it deserves to be.  So, if you ever want an apology song, here’s the perfect song with the apology right in the title!

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Jenevieve Tan

1L

I am unique

Whispers fly around the class,

but there’s not a thing my sharp ears would not pass.

With a jiggle and a wiggle,

 

But I did not heed their hurtful teasing,

for I knew deep in my heart,

that everybody had a special thing.

They just didn’t know mine yet.

 

Not that I knew mine of course.

I’m still biding my time,

and mining my heart.

But I’m sure it will make an appearance,

an opportune one,

when the time is ripe.XD

 

Jenevieve Tan (14) 1 Loyalty

 

Vocaloids

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Music can come in many forms, be it singing, rapping, dubstep, instrumental, beatboxing, and many more. But have you heard of Vocaloid?

Vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer software which enables users to synthesize singing by typing in lyrics and melody. It uses synthesizing technology with specially recorded vocals of voice actors or singers. To create a song, the user must input the melody and lyrics which they usually come up with themselves. One could even say that it is the pinnacle of Japanese pop music. Of course, vocaloid is not only limited to the Japanese Language. With the constant updates of its engines, users can now create songs in other languages such as English, Chinese, Spanish and Korean.

The thing that makes vocaloid so unique is that no matter who you are, you can always create music of your own. In vocaloid, there are a variety of voices to choose from, and each voice is personified to become a one of a kind virtual character. For example, Hatsune Miku, who is currently one of the most well-known vocaloids. Due to the variety and diversity of vocaloids, the songs come in many different styles and have many different themes, turning it into a whole new genre of music. Every song explores a different concept and each song has a unique and different story. Here is a music video of one of the most well-known vocaloid songs of all time, “Senbonzakura” sang by Hatsune Miku.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0gAwCFHdEA

Of course, if you are not a big fan of this type of music, vocaloid songs also come in many different styles, and can be slow or fast, pop or jazz.  Here is a rather fast paced song called “Lost ones weeping” sang by Kagamine Rin. And the song sings about the consequences of being bullied in school.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0TtDeDiHcE

Vocaloid has become so popular in Japan, that there are whole concerts featuring songs sung by 3D life size holograms of vocaloid characters in real life.

Hence if you are a fan of music and would like to explore a whole new style, give vocaloid a try!

-Stephanie Guan (3Unity)

 

References:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocaloid

Opinions on society: Strawberry Generation

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The youths of today. All so intelligent, so capable.

Yes, these statements might be true. But people debate over the real aptitude of youths, otherwise known as Millennials.

Or, the Strawberry Generation.
The term is a Chinese neology used to refer to Generation Y who are often labelled as insubordinate, spoiled, lazy, and having an entitlement complex.

These perceptions stem from the notion that members of the current generation have grown up overprotected by their parents and in an environment of economic prosperity, much like how strawberries are grown in protected greenhouses and fetch a higher price as compared to other fruits.
Strawberries also bruise easily, which references the belief that the young generation are unable to take hits and are not tenacious. The concept of ‘take but never give’ is also heavily, I find, associated with them.

However, I feel that these are untrue, and are an overgeneralization. Not every single Millennial is an ignorant and arrogant brat with an utter lack of respect for their elders. In fact, many young people today are actually able to express their views rationally, in a tactful and respectful manner.

Take for example, Malala Yousfazai, who was shot by the Taliban at the age of 15 in 2012, for her activism for the rights of females. After her recovery, instead of cowering away in fear, she still stood for what she believed in, more firmly than ever.

Therefore, I do not agree with these ideas of the youths of today. These seem to be rather prejudiced and short-sighted opinions of young people. To be fair, our world is so developed that yes, the suffering which those before us went through is minimal. But is that not a good thing? Did they not work hard to develop the world of today so that no one would need to suffer what they did?

April Ang (2H)

Ben Underwood:  the boy who could “see” with his ears

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What would happen if you ever lost your eyesight? Many would despair at the sudden bleak, empty void that has become their life. Many would turn bitter, blaming everyone around them for the sudden sickening lurch in the world as they had known it. Many would- but not Ben.

Ben Underwood was a remarkable teenager who loved to skateboard, ride his bicycle and play football, basketball and video games. For the most part, the Californian 14-year-old was just like other kids his age. What made Underwood remarkable was his ability to master these activities despite the fact that he was blind.

Underwood had both eyes removed after being diagnosed with retinal cancer at age two. To most people’s amazement upon meeting him, he seemed completely unfazed by his lack of sight, defying common stereotypes about blindness as a disability. So how did he do it? The answer is echolocation: the sonar navigation technique used by bats, dolphins, several other mammals and some birds. As Underwood moved about, he habitually made clicking noises with his tongue; these sounds bounced off surfaces and, with each return, added to Underwood’s perception of his surroundings. He was so good at it that he could tell the difference between a fire hydrant and a rubbish bin, distinguish between parked cars and trucks, and — if you took him to a house he had never been to before — he would tell you he could ‘see’ a staircase in that corner and a kitchen in the other. He could even distinguish between different materials.

An unflinching faith in God guided Ben and his mother during his last few months as cancer spread to Ben’s brain and spine. He eventually died on January 2009 at the age of 16.

But Ben had left his mark on the world before he left it. Inspiring the blind to continue living a healthy productive lifestyle despite the loss of their sight,  Ben has been on numerous radio talk shows, spoken to numerous classes and Senior centres, and has even been on The Ellen show and the Oprah. To Ben, one of the most important things in his life is to help someone else. Though he didn’t realise it, Ben not only touched the hearts of the blind; he touched the heart of the world. He forged forward despite his loss in sight, teaching himself how to swim, speak Japanese and write a book of science fiction.

Ben does not see one’s exterior. Instead, he sees within. Upon hearing someone saying anything negative towards another person, he says, “That’s what’s wrong with sighted people, you all look at one another and judge what you look like,” and this statement is immensely true. The most powerful part of it is that he cannot judge from looks, only from spirit. This world would be a much better place if we all couldn’t see. Ben is indeed an inspiration for all.

Chloe Wong (2L)

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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If life were fair, then Jam Gallahue would be living comfortably in her house in New Jersey and spending time with her English boyfriend Reeve Maxfield. But in an unpredictable world where things seem unjust beyond our understanding, Jam’s life became a far cry from what she wished for it to be. The heartbreak of losing her boyfriend caused Jam to be admitted to the Wooden Barn, a therapeutic home in rural Vermont, in hopes of recovering from emotional frailty. On her much-dreaded first day of classes, she finds herself being enrolled in Special Topics in English, a highly coveted class taught by elderly Mrs Quenell.

The one and only book that this class of five had to study for the semester was Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. This story of depression written by an author who committed suicide would have been the last choice for a group of vulnerable teenagers, yet Mrs Quenell had valid reasons for this unorthodox move. In addition, she hands out journals for her students to write in at least once a week. Through these journals, Jam finds herself enveloped in a whole new world where the untainted past is restored and she is reunited with Reeve once again, a world she calls Belzhar.

In her fascination and desperation to be with her first love, she filled the pages of her journal up fast until one day, only one page remained. Her last ticket to Belzhar forces Jam to confront hidden truths and ultimately decide what she was willing to sacrifice in order to reclaim her loss.

Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar is an intelligent read about trauma, trust and the road to finding closure. Wolitzer is not only observant in writing about intense devotion among close-knit groups of kindred souls, but also imagines a world for young readers that celebrates the transcendent power of reading and writing.

Trina Chong (4U)