Sunday 26 January 2014

by Toh Yan Hong and Khandhan Nadarajan, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

“Everyone hustles to survive”. What do you get when you put together the brilliant direction of David O Russell and a 70’s crime romp based on a FBI ABSCAM operation? You get the critically acclaimed American Hustle. This fact-fiction mashup revolving around the late 1970-80 Abscam scandal, in which FBI agents and con artists joined forces to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, turned out to be an unbeatable combo. 

American Hustle is a story about a reckless and psychopathic FBI agent Richie DiMaso(Bradley Cooper), who forces a devious man Irving Rosenfield(Christian Bale) to join him in ensnaring corrupted politicians. Iving Rosenfield is an expert at conning desperate people out of their money with loans, and selling counterfeit paintings with his equally cunning yet alluring partner in crime, Sydney Prosser. DiMaso proceeds to shove the duo into a world of Jersey politicians and the mafia. Carmine Polito, the passionate and loving mayor of New Jersey, gets helplessly caught in between the con-artists. In the end, Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld(Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one left pulling the strings that cause the entire operation to crash and burn.

Upon release, American Hustle received instant critical accolade with $119,194,898 made as of January 24, 2014. The movie also received rather admirable scores from review aggregated websites. The most prominent of those reviews are, a 93% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, 90/100 from Metacritic (indicating universal acclaim) and a score of 7.8/10 from IMDb. Aside from achieving high ratings, American Hustle has received 10 Academy Award nominations, including "Best Picture" and "Best Director", and became only the second film since 1981 to be nominated in all four of the acting categories. Ironically and remarkably enough, the first film was "Silver Linings Playbook", also directed by David O. Russell and also starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. American Hustle was also awarded three Golden Globe Awards and 10 BAFTA Awards. Time magazine's Richard Corliss aptly states that, "American Hustle is an urban eruption of flat-out fun — the sharpest, most exhilarating comedy in years. Anyone who says otherwise must be conning you.’

One of the main reasons that American Hustle is as good as it is, is the jaw dropping performances of the actors in the movie. Amy Adams (Sydney Prosser) plays an incredibly strong character in an almost all male cast, and was mesmerising in her intellectual ability to seduce and con while using her(surprisingly realistic) british accent. Bradley Cooper(Richie DiMaso) with his new killer perm adds another outstanding performance to his resume. The consistency he displays throughout his movie career is definitely one to be admired. Jeremy Renner(Carmine Polito) or as most know him, "Hawk-eye" from The Avengers, gave one of his best performances since the movie, The Hurt Locker. He takes on the role of a loveable New Jersey mayor who's always putting the priority of his people before himself. Last but certainly not least, there’s Jennifer Lawrence(Rosalyn Rosenfeld) who once again proves then you don’t need to be the most experienced actress, to be one of Hollywoods most praised. With high hair, fake tan and an obsession with her nail polish(which she says smells ‘perfume-y and rotten at the same time’), Rosalyn is a deranged and depressed yet vulnerable housewife. Lawrence simply kills the character at every scene she is in. Regardless of genre, it seems that there's nothing this actress cannot do.

In conclusion, David O Russell has yet again knocked it out of the ball park with American Hustle. With one of the best casts I’ve ever seen on the big screen, the actors and actresses work seamlessly together and exuded chemistry from the second they appeared on screen. You can’t see any indications of one trying to outdo the other and they all seem to respect the vision of David O Russell. American Hustle also excels in other areas, such as it's excellent soundtrack which features classic artists such as the Bee Gees and Elton John. The song choices are perfectly placed and make you feel like you are in the 70’s. The plot is highly unpredictable, as expected of a con film. However, just like any other film, American Hustle is by no means perfect. The movie can be somewhat confusing and hard to grasp for some people. If you are not a fan of the genre, you may very well find yourself on the edge of boredom.

Rating: 4.2/5
by Anonymous 19:59 77 comments | in , , , ,
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by Ryan Yoong Ka Jun, Form 5 Science 1, Class of 2014

Like how Superman has kryptonite and Spiderman has Dr. Octopus, how Jerry has Tom - or is it Tom has Jerry? - We have school. Thankfully though, we’re not thrown into the hustle and bustle of school, not right away. Like Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, we have training first, to build up stamina and strength to conquer the baddies. Just that instead of an old and crinkly sifu, we have Launchpad. 

An annual event aimed at "launching" everyone into the new school year, Launchpad was coined to allow students to get into the groove of schooling life (which includes waking up early; something I haven't gotten used to just yet after about 11 years). But nonetheless, Launchpad has allowed students to become more comfortable with the idea of school and also given us the opportunity to learn about the places outside its four walls. 

Traditionally, Launchpad is spread over a span of three days which include, what I like to call, Discussion Day (Day 1), Visiting Day (Day 2) and Presentation Day (Doomsday a.k.a. Day 3). Day 1 had students getting to know one another in school and planning out their activities for the next. Day 2 then had everyone going out to their "Places of Interest" to gather as much information as possible and also have some fun along the way. Between the awkward interviews, excessive lunch breaks and aggressive note-taking, it is safe to say that every group, despite their choice of location, learnt a thing or two from this day.   

Photo Credit:  Syariz B. Amir Sharji 

Then comes the last day of the event; which was to some a huge sigh of relief, while to others, the dreaded sign of the academic year becoming more, well, academic. Students from all years (excluding the Freshman year who were also present to have a glimpse of what to expect in their near future) were to showcase their "Places of Interest" on the big stage to be observed, judged and graded by a panel of judges, teachers as well as the watchful eyes of the Cempakan community. With slightly over 4 hours and over 40 groups to cover, the conclusion of Launchpad 2014 kicked off in full throttle.

First on stage - or the chopping block, depending on how prepared you were, was the combined Sophomore year. With such a major change coming into effect so suddenly, the Launchpad program was a perfect way to allow everyone to mix around in a "fun" environment outside the classroom and as far away from the endless pile of homework as possible. While it was clear that restaurants and work-oriented locations became prime spots, some groups managed to go outside the box and visited places such as an ice-skating rink, a go-kart track and even a library of all places.

Photo Credit: Syariz B. Amir Sharji 

The next two hours or so were filled with informative presentations about many local places which featured insights into their daily routines, specialities and even a little on the business and economic aspect. All this was coupled with a video (often a humorous one) which showcased their location in the best light possible (except for the laser tag group, for obvious reasons). Running very quickly through a mental list in my head, I remember the presentations of a 3D animation studio (Junior 1/Form 4 winners) and a Google Locations company (Junior 2/Form 5 winners) stood out the most due to the fact that their idea strayed very far away from the norm. Also, notable mentions to the groups who visited a library (Form 4/Junior 1) and Delicious (Form 3/Sohpomore) for their humorous take on something not-so-humorous.

 Photo Credit: Syariz B. Amir Sharji 

Four hours in the hall wearing blazers doesn't seem so comfortable. Watching 42 videos is a bit much we must admit and it’s quite annoying to continuously be poked by prefects as soon as you start to doze off. But that's how Launchpad is. At least for now. Perhaps, the coming years will see a change in the Launchpad program, but that's all in the future. Presently, it remains a Cempaka-unique activity which certainly does a great job at making the school year that bit more fun.

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Monday 20 January 2014

by Ruhaani Mahadeva, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

When I first heard that I was traveling to South Africa for my holidays, the first few things that came to my mind was ‘apartheid’ and ‘segregation’ because that was all I used to hear about the country. To be very honest, with those keywords in my mind, I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat. 

However, the minute we touched down in Cape Town, I was proven wrong. Never had I realized how remarkable it was until I actually stepped onto Cape Town soil. When we arrived at the airport, the attendants welcomed us with uttermost respect. One man thought we had come back from a holiday; apparently we looked like one of them! The friendliness and warmth of the first few locals we met already made us feel accepted and comfortable. We stayed right in the heart of the city, so it was quite convenient for us to do lots of sight-seeing. Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad trip after all.

Photo Credit : Ruhaani Mahadeva
On the first day, we decided to ride on a ‘Hop-On-Hop-Off’ bus to get a little tour of the magnificent city. When I saw how stunning the beaches looked, I couldn’t help but run out of the bus and sink my feet in warm sand and clear waters. The soft sand surrounding my feet and the soothing sound of crashing waves created an ethereal scene. The crashing waves were practically calling out to me and reeling me in; I couldn’t wait to go swimming. However, I learnt looks are deceiving because I felt as if I was dipping my feet into a bucket full of ice; it was unbelievably cold!  

Photo Credit : Ruhaani Mahadeva
If you’re really into wildlife, Africa is definitely the place to be. My family and I set off at 5 a.m in the morning and took a three hour drive to a safari. As early as it was, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The tour guide for the day took us out on a jeep to see the animals. I saw so many animals - lions, cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, hyenas, wildebeests, I could go on forever! You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but we took a drive to penguin island where I could be an inch apart with an adorable penguin! Though it was indeed a joyful experience, seeing these animals roaming around freely also made me realise how suffocated animals who are caged up in the zoo must feel.

Photo Credit : Ruhaani Mahadeva
On our way back to the apartment, my father almost crashed the car. I thought I was dreaming when I opened my eyes to a giant hippopotamus right in front of us, casually walking across the road. I saw a documentary about hippos and how they are the second most dangerous animals in the world! You could imagine how terrified I was. Luckily, it didn’t seem to care about us so we were safe. 

We decided to end our holiday in Cape Town by visiting one of the natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain. Its name is given to it because the mountain is flat at the top, just like an ordinary table. It was so high up that we had to take a cable car up, although some adventurous hikers made the brave decision to climb! The top of Table Mountain seemed like a whole different country altogether. The atmosphere was cold and misty; the clouds were passing through us as fast as lightning. I finally got to experience what clouds felt like and don’t worry, the answer is they feels like nothing!

Photo Credit : Ruhaani Mahadeva
On our final day in Cape Town, I was more than upset to leave this aesthetic country. It was funny how I’d started this trip so pessimistically but I had practically gone through a complete 180 degree turn by the end of it. I knew I was leaving with great memories and fun stories to tell, to change the minds of people who thought of South Africa the same as I once did.
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Friday 17 January 2014

by Amanda Lee Yue Ping, Junior 2 Cempaka, Class of 2014

Only recently have I discovered the great joy that is Sherlock, the BBC series. As the third season has just finished airing, you could say I’m a little new on the scene. There have been so many takes on the coat-wearing, pipe-smoking, violin virtuoso cum private detective, one wonders how this one will be any different. But of course, it is.

I think the BBC struck gold when they asked Benedict Cumberbatch to step into the shoes and black coat (with a upturned collar of course) of Sherlock Holmes. No one has played the role better. Since the first episode ‘A Study In Pink’ graced screens, Cumberbatch has then been known to play characters in the quirky but brilliant department.

“Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring." 
- Sherlock Holmes, A Study In Pink

With scathing remarks (Sherlock's forte) combined with his trademark arrogance and superiority complex, the role must be fun to play. The fast dialogue takes a little getting used to, but it keeps you on your toes as he is always a step or two ahead of the audience. He wins the who-plays-Sherlock-Holmes-better battle hands down, beating all the other 70-plus Sherlock actors on the list flat. Except perhaps Robert Downey Jr.

Though Sherlock is indubitably the show’s main character, it would only be half the show it is without his right-hand man, the good Dr. Watson. Over the past few years, we’ve seen almost as many Watsons as we’ve seen Sherlocks. Straying most from the path would be the Watson played by Lucy Liu in the television series Elementary. A girl Dr. Watson, seriously? They get points for trying to be creative, but the friendship and bromance between the two main characters in the BBC's Sherlock is one of the highlights of the series. In fact, in the second episode of the third and latest season, Watson’s wedding scene just tugs at your heartstrings - especially when it’s time for the best man’s speech. 

"Listen, what I said before, John, I meant it. I don't have friends; I've just got one" - Sherlock Holmes, The Hounds of Baskerville

Though Sherlock and Dr. Watson usually steal the show, the appearance of Irene Adler made the ‘Scandal In Belgravia’ episode one of my favourites. Come on, it‘s Irene Adler — the only adversary who Sherlock never completely bested in Doyle's original novels. While they didn’t take it that far in the BBC series, she definitely came close to besting him, and it is evident that Sherlock has some feelings for her — whether of the platonic or the romantic, Moffat and Gatiss make it hard to tell. Plus points to Irene, since she’s the opposite sex. It’s nice to see that Sherlock is also only human at times. 

“Brainy is the new sexy.” - Irene Adler, A Scandal in Belgravia

Besides the femme fatale, there were moments galore for a Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl in this episode. Case in point, the Holmes’ brothers tirade, when Sherlock, draped only in a towel, argued with his brother, Mycroft in Buckingham palace.

"We are in Buckingham Palace, the very heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes, put your trousers on!"
- Mycroft Holmes, A Scandal In Belgravia

Moffat and Gatiss definitely tease the viewers with the sultry Irene Adler, but Sherlock has another potential romantic interest in the series. Enter shy, odd, awkward Molly Hooper, the only prominent character who is not from the original novels. At first, Moffat and Gatiss only wrote her into the first episode, but the few minutes of her screen time were enough to make the fan base fall in love with her. With the hints of Sherlock warming to her in season two, it is no surprise that a ‘Sherlolly’ fan base has grown.

“You look sad. When you think he can’t see you. Are you okay? And don’t just say you are, because I know what that means, looking sad when you think no one can see you."
- Molly Hooper, The Reichenbach Fall

My second favourite episode is without a doubt ‘The Reichenbach Fall’, where the showdown between Sherlock and his his other less sexy but crazier adversary, James Moriarty appears after an entire season of buildup. With numerous nail-biting cases to solve in this episode and one of the most intense endings on the show ever (plus, the Sherlolly moment everyone been waiting for), this episode certainly has it all, minus an Irene Adler reprise. Though you know Sherlock never truly dies, his suicidal jump off the hospital roof will leave you wondering how he could have survived — if you’re not blinded by tears after his suicide ‘note’ and Watson’s brilliant, heart-wrenching acting.

Finally, after a two-year long wait — which I’m assured by my sister is sadly the norm waiting period for a season — Sherlock has returned! There was also a teaser aptly termed Many Happy Returns as shown below. 

So far, I’ve only got time to get through the first two episodes. Episode one will have Sherlolly lovers squealing like mad. Season three definitely amps it up a level. Fans will know the delectable hair-ruffle scene that I am referring to. Episode two will make your heart break a little inside. Besides that, you might be relieved to know that Watson’s pre-Sherlock-is-alive facial hair (more like facial monstrosity) will be gone about halfway through the episode. Watson also meets his match and ties the knot with Mrs. Mary Watson, quite a likable character in the far.

The third and final episode of the season awaits, and my sister says that it’s quite a shocker. So, should I study for tomorrow’s physics quiz or watch Sherlock? It’s elementary, my dear Watson.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

by Tai Kai Xin, Senior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2015 

Photo Credit: En Syariz Amir Sharji

As the new school year commences, we warmly welcome the youngest members of the secondary school, now donning the green striped blazers instead of the yellow pinafores we are accustomed to seeing them in, and begin settling ourselves in for yet another challenging year. But carefully hidden behind those smiles and eager looks, (I believe) are anxiety, fear and doubt. Let’s face it, it’s a whole new year and you’re anticipating a jam-packed one with more assignments when you could barely finish your work last year, more challenging tests when you could never pass an Additional Mathematics test last semester and now you’re a society president? Not only that, but your parents expect 9 A+’s on your report card this semester, a distinction in your next music exam and 2400 for your SATs? 

As a Cempakan, you’re probably among the busiest students in the country, keeping on the forefront of everything that’s going on. In times like these, you just want to escape from reality and wish you didn't have to participate in the entire line of activities your parents have chosen for you. However, is just focusing on your academics only really the way to go? Personally, I had to juggle between IB and SPM last semester, which meant going back and forth for classes, keeping up with everything that was going on in the 20 courses I was in, working to meet each of my teacher’s expectations and on top of that holding multiple leadership roles. Call it stress, call it peer pressure, call it having too many things to juggle, call it anything you want. Well, I say declutter your life. It is crucial to prioritise on the important things, manage your time well, and you’ll soon find that there’s always time for everything. If you find that you’re falling behind in your studies, your teachers are always there to pull you back on track. The best thing about a Cempakan education is the myriad of things open to be explored.

After you’ve figured out your academic plan for the year, find something you’re passionate about by involving yourself in as many activities as you can be it in school, or out of school. You will always be able to find something to do around campus and along the way, meet new friends, not only learning more about them but also more about yourself. If you can’t find anything you’re interested in within school, then start your own club, create a project, or organize a campaign! Don’t just read about inventions, be the inventor. Don’t just know about problems, find solutions to them. My point here is that the voice of the youth has never been more significant. If you’re thinking “Aiyaaa, those people who can do everything are overachievers.”, “I’m only a small fish in a big pond, what change can I even make?” or the common “No time to care…. exam year!”. You’re terribly mistaken. You are never too young to take a stand, propagate change and be involved in society.

Photo credit: En Syariz Amir Sharji

To the new freshman students, welcome to the secondary school. We are all equals no matter what age, and don’t be intimidated in any way by your seniors who you feel are more capable than you. School is a place where we learn from each other, to discover that we have no limits and to build memories we will treasure for a lifetime. If at all you find that you need to seek advice, the prefects are always ready to lend a helping hand as your older brothers and sisters. No house can win the First House Cup without their freshmen and no society is complete without their young talent.

Learning is not confined to the classroom. The only barriers you face are the ones you build for yourself. Challenge yourself to take your skills to a whole new level, explore something out of your comfort zone and look at things from different perspectives. Take a leap of faith and make the impossible, possible.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

by Kai Xin Tai 16:48 107 comments | in , , , , ,
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Sunday 12 January 2014

by Lai Li Chan, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

I thank the heavens that my hunger for travel has been satisfied temporarily this past school holidays. Entering the world of the Flamenco and Paella was always one of my dreams, and visiting the country that invaded my homeland was included with the tour so why not?

My flight was a total of 14 gruelling hours, not including the four hours in Dubai airport waiting for the transit flight - which was spent mostly in the duty free shopping area spraying everything I own with sample perfumes (Marc Jacob’s Daisy, to be exact).

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The long flight hours was worth the beautiful Spanish view. The skies were absolutely clear of clouds and there were always maple trees nearby. The weather was refreshingly cold but not overly so - my idea of perfect weather. My tour group consisted of 15 teenagers who were mostly from Wesley Methodist School, most of them amateur photographers like myself and 25 adults.

Visiting Barcelona, Granada, Valencia, Madrid, and many more places in Spain, two things were quite apparent. The architecture combined with the perfect lighting from the merciful sun and the beautifully bald trees made the best location for a photo shoot. Every morning and evening, I took a picture of the sunrise and sunset colouring the sky (which you would know if you follow my instagram: @chaaanners). It was as though got a new box of paint and decided to try all the colours out. Also, everyone - and I mean everyone there was a football fan.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
There were many contrasting cultural and religious sites. There was one in particular that I found the most interesting; a church, taken over by the Muslims and turned into a Mosque, then taken over by the Catholics and turned back into a Catholic church. Though it is still used as a church to this day, there are dozens of areas left with the designs and religious inscriptions of the previous Mosque. The whole building was filled with priceless artwork and jewels from top to bottom.

During meals, seatings arrangements according to families were made, but in the end, all the teenagers ended up in one table leaving the parents to eat at ease. This is how we got to know each other, finding out about mutual friends, and talking about PMR results, the debate between Nikon and Cannon, and of course the inevitable what-course-are-you-going-to-take-in-college question.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The traditional way of serving the food in Europe was firstly with rock hard bread, followed by vegetable soup and a starter, then the main course before ending with a palette cleansing desert. Though it seems like a lot of food was been consumed over the trip, do not be fooled. Every dish was served in such a small portion that by 11 o’clock, we found ourselves searching for hot water to make our own Maggi Hot Cups for supper. And yes, every single person on this trip brought Maggi along. 

Portugal was not much different from Spain, except for the food which was thankfully served in bigger portions as well as the local language which was less rough.

The place we visited in Portugal that I have the most recollection of was when we went to a local silversmith. We saw how watches, jewellery, armour, weapons, and other things were made. Being a typical girl, I wanted to buy every sword I saw, though ended up getting a pocket watch that I will cherish forever!

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The shopping in Spain and Portugal is very deceiving. Everything looks very affordable to the unfamiliar eye. Thoughts would first be “Only 19 euros!”. After some time, the realisation of currency kicks in. “Oh, That’s near RM100. So expensive!”. Things we bought over the 13 day span included binge food, dozens of postcards, a range of clothing and football jerseys.

Photo Credit : Lai Li Chan
The award for best tour group goes to this one. When it was time to say goodbye, all of us parted ways with sad faces but not without exchanging cellphone numbers and taking a number of selfies. (Technology is a beautiful thing; the saying “I’ll never see you again” is now out of the question.)

Traveler's tourettes never goes away, and I hope to share more adventures with you soon.
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Wednesday 8 January 2014

by Nadia Marissa, Junior 2 Cempaka, Class of 2014

Last year, Beyoncé Knowles (the amazing goddess walking amongst us mortals) decided to play Santa Claus and present us with a fully completed 14 song album accompanied by 17 music videos - with no prior announcement. Touting it as a “visual album”, Beyonce has done something completely unprecedented. She has bypassed all of the mundane marketing and single releases needed to properly advertise an album and instead, choosing to release her music in a way she sees fit. And we thought she couldn’t get any better.

The self-titled album is structured in such a way that it showcases everything Beyoncé wants the world to see her as - a person. She begins with a devastating ballad titled Pretty Hurts about the pressures society puts on girls to be deemed ‘beautiful’. Coming from someone as gorgeous as Beyoncé, it can come off as a little disbelieving. But there is something awe-inspiring about the way Beyoncé takes a trophy and destroys her award collection. In that moment, it seems that Beyoncé is rising above everything the music industry, the media and the critics. This entire album is wrought with the idea of facing one’s fears and insecurities, and winning. Whether these insecurities lies within her relationship with Jay-Z (Jealous, Mine) or herself (Haunted), she sings about them with a refreshing breath of honesty. 

Another track stylized as ***Flawless juxtaposes Pretty Hurts perfectly because it projects the belief that yes, I am perfect the way I am. With an unrelenting beat backed by a techno melody that would make Daft Punk proud, ***Flawless is a feminist anthem that screams its message and refuses to be left unheard. Sampling renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED Talk on feminism, Beyoncé brings feminism to the forefront by straight out defining it. In a society where even the word ‘feminist’ can cause misunderstanding and confusion, Beyoncé does not shrink back from that title. Instead, she embraces it with all of the confidence and grace she is known for. 

In the same vein, there are a number of tracks that celebrate her confidence and sexuality. Scratch that, there are a lot of tracks: Blow, Rocket and Drunk In Love are all examples. But Partition takes the cake. Sexy, sinful, scorching hot, - and anchored with a catchy Timbaland beat - Beyonce delivers her most eye-opening performance yet. Dropping Monica Lewinski and other such references, it reminds us of another facet of Beyoncé - that of the sex symbol. Living in a world where women are condemned for accepting their sexuality (and where sex is still a huge taboo), Beyoncé encourages women to be comfortable with their bodies and desires. 

Contrastingly, the album ends on a poignant note with two songs: one, recounting the death of her first child through a miscarriage; and the second, the birth and life of her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. Once again, Beyoncé is opening herself up to her audience revealing very personal feelings. These two gorgeous ballads, Heaven and Blue respectively mirror each other. Whilst Heaven deals with the trauma and loss of her child, Blue reflects on her happiness as her mother. Yet, they both carry the message of hope and love. It may sound cheesy but she has never shown a side quite as human as this one. After years of viewing and dissecting her confident alter ego SASHA FIERCE, it’s exhilarating to finally get to know Beyoncé. 

Beyoncé (the album) is an expertly crafted, emotionally charged confession from the woman herself. She has taken all of the anger and pain and sadness she may be feeling and turned it into something beautiful. Because above all, this album is about how she has come to terms with being happy with herself. Released at the end of a year of startlingly lacklustre pop performances (Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga), Beyoncé hammers it home with an album that no one is likely to forget in a long, long while. There’s no doubt about it, Beyoncé is quite literally, ***FLAWLESS. 

Album Rating: 9/10 
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Monday 6 January 2014

by Lee Ting An, Junior 1 Higgs, Class of 2015

1950. We are the people of South Africa: Xhosa, Cape Malay, Bantu and various other ethnic groups, whose families are torn apart simply because of the tone of our skin. ‘Divide and conquer’. The Nationalists who govern my country understand that concept well. The Group Areas Act forcefully ends the era in which we lived side by side.

1958. Any call for change is banned by the Suppression of Communism Act. We are torn from our land and transferred to resettlement camps where we are left to rot.

Unceasing propaganda slowly molds the perspective of the white man — the ruling class. We are the lower class — scum who are prevented from doing any form of skilled work.  The lower class who exist to perform menial hard labour, and for which education, the bane of dictatorship, is deemed unnecessary.

1970. We are the blacks, whose roots lie in the native tribes of South Africa. We may not ride the same buses, pray at the same churches, attend the same schools, or eat at the same restaurants as the white man. A state of emergency is declared and we are stripped of the rights that we, the original citizens of South Africa, possess. It is against the law to protest or go on strike. Imprisonment and indefinite detention without a trial is legalized.

Our children are born into a world where you obey every order of the white man. We carry identification wherever we go, facing arrest if we fail to produce these documents if asked; a cold reminder that we exist at the bottom of a tyrannical system built on racism. But we will fight, as long as it takes, for freedom.

Nelson Mandela was the leader of the South African anti-apartheid movement. He devoted his life to achieving democracy in a nation so racially biased that his legacy has lived on for generations.

Rolihlahla Mandela was born to the Thembu people of the indigenous Madiba clan of kings on July 18, 1918. His biological father died when he was nine, but memories of him were recounted in Mandela's autobiography, ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’. In his earliest years, he lived in relative luxury until his father, chief of the tribe, was summoned to appear before the local white magistrate after a complaint had been lodged. He refused, and this act of defiance cost him his land, title, and a large sum of his fortune.

Much of Mandela's childhood was happily spent in the rolling maize fields of the Qunu village where his life wasn’t yet touched by apartheid. Here, his African roots grew deep in a land rich with culture, customs and rituals. He enrolled in a primary school where he was given the name Nelson by his English teacher. He spent his time playing with the other boys, reenacting the great battles of his ancestors in a youthful approximation of war in large, open grasslands.

"I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free. Free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother's hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast corn under the stars… It was only when I learned that my boyhood freedom was an illusion that I began to hunger for it."

Upon his father’s passing, Nelson was adopted by Regent Jongintaba (chief of the Xhosa at that time) to ensure that he was educated enough to counsel the future Xhosa chief. However, Nelson Mandela was temporarily expelled from his university for refusing to withdraw his resignation from the Student Council. He was sent back home, but in a few months and in yet another streak of rebellion he ran away from home with his brother when the regent arranged marriages for the both of them. 

After traveling from acquaintance to acquaintance, staying as long as their hospitality extended, he finally found a job as a clerk at Witkin while he completed his B.A. degree in law to become a clerk or civil servant; there was no higher position for a black man at that time. It was there in the city of Alexandria, that he met the many important people that feature in his life, including his first two loves and fellow anti-apartheid activists. Truth be told, only when he left behind his roots and strayed from his path did his life begin to flourish, and his story begin to unravel.

"There is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."

The apartheid, literally ‘separateness’ in Afrikaans, was the racial-segregation system adopted by the Afrikaner National Party when they won the elections in 1948. 

After becoming increasingly interested in the politics of his rapidly dividing nation, a 20-year-old Mandela joined the Youth League of the African National Congress — the most prominent party at the time that supported black rights — where he quickly rose through the ranks. With a few others, he came to lead the small group of young, spirited activists who agreed that, against an opponent like the Afrikaner National Party, their previous tactics of polite petitioning would no longer garner results. 

Mandela and his colleagues proceeded to orchestrate non-violent protests around the country in a series of events known as the Defiance Campaign. In his book, he says that they used boycotts, work strikes, civil disobedience and ‘general disobedience’. When staying out after curfew, they would inform the policemen in advance that they were going to be out and accepted their arrests without any resistance. When carrying out strikes, the authorities would be told exactly when their workers were going on strike and why they were protesting. Though some insisted that it was time for violence to show that they meant business, Mandela correctly predicted that any violence on their part could not stand up to the immense power of the Afrikaners. More importantly, it would lead to unnecessary harm and loss of life. Anyone and everyone who felt that the time for reform had come joined in on the peaceful protest - the war though in its infancy, had begun.

“The doors of the liberation struggle are open to all who choose to walk through them.”

Though the the government still remained firmly rooted in power after the campaign was over, it was never the intent of the campaign to overthrow the government. What it was meant to achieve was to show the people of South Africa that they had a voice; a chance to speak in their own country, to express their opinion and show their displeasure. Undoubtedly, it was a huge success, and the number of ANC supporters swelled from 20,000 to 100,000 people from all around the nation. But what scared the government the most wasn’t the sheer volume of people - it was the fact that all the races, whether Black, Indian, or Coloured, were working together against a common purpose: them. The apartheid was meant to segregate, to separate. The leaders of the ANC, Mandela included, had to work hard to pull all the races together despite disagreements and arguments. They succeeded, and thus formed the beginning of the end of the apartheid, the first steps of a long journey to liberation.

"No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective."

Eventually, the government struck back. One night in 1956, simultaneous arrests of 156 different ANC leaders and activists were carried out throughout the country. This sudden arrest, unexpected and surprising, was only the first of Mandela’s many stints behind bars. They were charged by the government with high treason, but the main accusation was the use of violence.  Although the ANC had up till then had never participated in violent acts or encouraged violent behaviour, the government was still convinced that they could (despite their rather pathetic evidence) charge them with treason. Mandela who had previously worked as an attorney along with a group of very capable lawyers managed to fight the case. All 156 of them were released.

The government however, was not finished yet. A state of emergency was declared in South Africa. Now even walking around without a pass was deemed an offensive act which could get you arrested and sent to jail. This show of brute strength by the government peaked one day in 1960, during what is still remembered as the Sharpeville massacre. The PAC, a different group of protesters with the same purpose, organised a public burning of passes in several locations around South Africa, and one particular protest in Sharpeville was met with extensive violence by the authorities. It is a tragedy still remembered to this day, where the peaceful protest of thousands of blacks was shattered by the police. Nervous, confused and perturbed by the massive crowd of angry yet, disciplined group of people before them, the police opened fire. 69 people died, almost all with gunshots to the back: they were shot as they fled and ran away. It was the spark that lit the fire of violence in South Africa. Mandela, who’d always petitioned for non-violent methods, realised it was a tactic which usefulness had run dry. Fuelled by the fury and sorrow of the people, he formed the famous militant branch of the ANC: the Umkhonto we Sizwe, literally, ‘Spear of the Nation’. The time to fight for their freedom had come.

“The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power to defend our people, our future, and our freedom.’

Nelson Mandela was often compared to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King - both of whom were freedom fighters who preached non violence. However Mandela himself admitted that he was very different from these men, no matter how much they inspired him. For them, non-violence was a matter of principle. Their firm adherence to peaceful protests to achieve freedom were their defining aspects. In retrospect, Mandela often referred to himself as a strategist. As much as he did not wish to harm, he would willingly do so to achieve his means especially when all other options were exhausted. Violence, as much as peaceful protesting, was a tactic used to reach his goal.   When the Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed, its primary purpose was sabotage; Disarming strategic locations around the country such as power stations with minimal loss of life. However over the years, the number of casualties and deaths inevitably grew. Some people hence regard him as a terrorist - a controversial issue, holding him responsible for the loss of life. Yet Mandela has never said he was not guilty of violence. He never claimed all his actions were peaceful, never claimed he was not accountable for the deaths caused under his leadership. His armed struggle was controlled and calculated. For all people whitewash or besmirch his past, his legacy is testament that for violence, there is no clear answer. No clear line between black and white. Though it should be only the final option and the last resort, it may just have been a necessity.

“I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.”

After forming the Umkhonto we Sizwe also known as MK, Nelson Mandela was outlawed. He traveled from safe house to safe house throughout the country while organising and reading banned manuals on guerrilla warfare and tactics, with principles gleaned from strategists like Mao ZeDong and Che Guevara. Mandela was sent to various places around the world to ask for weapons and funds to support their cause, garnering mixed responses, and finally to Ethiopia, where he underwent a course of strenuous military training that was rudely cut short. He studied the rudiments of combat, military science, and trained as a soldier before he was called back to South Africa after two months - the revolution was beginning to take off, and it wanted it’s commander back at the helm. Traveling back to Africa under a fake identity, he returned to his hideouts where he was arrested by policemen who were suspected to be tipped off. Initially, he was arrested for leading the worker’s strikes and leaving the country illegally without a passport (or at least, a real passport). He was to be imprisoned for five years, and he was in jail for around nine months when policemen raided the hideout of the High Command of the ANC and the MK. There they found documents and paperwork involving their use of sabotage, and more importantly, the documents outlining their contingency plan to use guerrilla warfare or terrorism should the government response to their sabotage evolve to a full-blown war. Several other prominent ANC and MK leaders were arrested and temporarily sent to jail while awaiting judgement. They went to court in what is probably the most famous political case in Africa’s history: the Rivonia trial.

“From that moment on we lived in the shadow of the gallows. The mere possibility of a death sentence changes everything.”

The aptly described ‘trial that changed South Africa’ is named after the suburb where they hid and worked, Rivonia. The accused were not just blacks. Testament to the cooperation and colour-blindness of those who led the ANC, there were blacks, Indians, and even white Jews among the accused. For two years, Mandela and his fellow accused fought the case in court, facing an impending death sentence. Although the state’s case against them was riddled with holes and fake evidence, in his famous speech Mandela did not attempt to plead not guilty, or even deny his actions. Instead, he confessed to founding the resistance, leading the ANC, (which had been banned and deemed an illegal organisation) and organising sabotage around the country which had led to unwilling loss of life. 

Unencumbered by the stern penalty he would most likely receive, he then went on to condemn first the court for the prejudice with which the trial was conducted, the government for its unfairness against the people of South Africa, and then the whole system for its blatant racism and oppression. Finally, after speaking for three hours straight to a riveted courtroom, he delivered his often-quoted closing statement, looking his accusers straight in the eye.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Though death had seemed the undisputed outcome of the trial, the government had faced growing international pressure from countries who supported the anti-apartheid movement. Fearing the combined wrath of the people and the countries who argued against their execution, Mandela and his fellow political prisoners were instead sentenced to life imprisonment. By then, they were no strangers to prisons. The harsh way of life, living with no freedom and under constant scrutiny from guards and wardens was experienced by many freedom fighters of the day. The prisoners were sent to Robben Island, which despite its scenic beauty was heavily guarded by the jailers and waters surrounding the prison. Life at the prison was at first brutal: living conditions were poor and the guards spared no expense in making their lives more miserable. For many years hard labour was part of their daily routine, mining limestone under the hot South African sun. In a cell only five metres square with no proper bed or desk (in the early years), they received their meagre meals which consisted mainly of diluted pap (porridge). Yet over time, conditions began to improve as they fought against the treatment they were receiving and as they gained international attention. Mandela organised strikes and talks with the head of the prison and several outside organisations like the Red Cross, and eventually they received the treatment they deserved.

“No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”

The prisoners were later transferred to two other jails during the course of their imprisonment, which came to an end when Mandela entered negotiations with South Africa’s new president, Frederik Willem de Klerk. Though he was a white, Frederik was a firm anti-apartheid supporter and initially offered many times to free Nelson Mandela in the interests of preserving peace. However, his attempts were met with refusal. He disagreed again and again when the president offered to free him, and instead, he began negotiating with the him on ending the apartheid.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

And truly, the rest of his life is history. After the murky past that Mandela’s earlier years cleared up, the rest of his meaningful life is much more well known. His negotiations with the president succeeded. Through peaceful means, the reign of the apartheid was finally brought to an end as the cruel laws were taken down one by one. Both men won Nobel Peace Prizes on 1993 for their work. Mandela was released from jail on February 1990, where he returned to lead ANC and negotiated the first election in South Africa where every race could participate and cast their vote. He became South Africa’s first democratically elected black president - the first black ever to become president of South Africa with the full support of every person in the country. Not just the blacks, but the Coloured, Indian, and even the White minority - and with good reason. Nelson Mandela was a man who worked tirelessly to free his people and would resort to any means possible to do so. As much a strategist as a compassionate man, one cannot deny he has caused hurt in attempting to liberate his country. However one also cannot deny he himself endured much suffering and faced many trials on his journey, often neglecting his family to serve his country. He was, and even despite his recent passing, still is, a symbol of dedication and freedom to his people, who can now live freely thanks to the efforts of great men like him. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. God bless Africa.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not ended.

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The year 2013 is now a time of the past. In fact, sandy beaches, alarm-clock-free mornings and multi-coloured long, shapely nails are now all things of the past as we get ready for the new academic year to begin. 

2013 hasn’t just been a momentous year for Cempaka, but also one for the Lumen Studet. The previous year saw us undertaking a major change, rerooting from our previous website to a blog version of our online newsletter. With the new dissemination channel for our journalists, designers and photographers came the opportunity for us to be capable of having instant updates and posts. So of course, we had to pull up our socks. With renewed drive again to see the Lumen Studet alive and buzzing once again, we bugged friends, classmates and students more than ever to start writing. We changed our editing process, writing formats and a whole load of other things including making sure that writers stick to the deadline (or at least don’t stray off it too much). Compared to the previous, half-dead Lumen Studet which was updated only once every six months, we for one love the change! 

We’ve also taken a leaf out of this generation’s book - if you want anything to be heard, social media’s the way to go. Our twitter account (@lumenstudet), brainchild of Jamie Kok (Editor-In-Chief 2013), has definitely succeeded in getting the Lumen out there. This was particularly evident when the article ‘To All Cempakans, From Cempakans’ was posted. With that one article, we succeeded in sending the heartfelt message the article projected across as the views went up past 1000, setting a record. Alongside it, our ‘Getting To Know You’ series, in which the schools prefects' deep, dark secrets were revealed, was a great hit generating both laughter and retweets. 

Any time you are feeling a little nostalgic and want to reminisce the year 2013, feel free to peruse the numerous articles we’ve covered here on the Lumen. From school events like expeditions and school visits to the entertainment buzz like top movie reviews, there’s an array of memories to be found in the Lumen archive. We hope that we’ve successfully preserved some, if not most of last year’s memories. Later in the year, we’ll also hopefully be flipping through pages of the 2013 yearbook; a project spearheaded by the IB students in which the YJC has collaborated in. 

But enough with the past, let's talk about 2014. With a new year comes a fresh start and a clean slate; new faces soon to become new friends, a little bit of excitement and perhaps a jolt of uncertainty as we face the slightly scary fact that we’re actually seniors. We foresee headaches, sleepless nights and days of hard work not far off in the future. Yet we also know that there'll be precious memories and moments to cherish in the days to come. So get ready for a whole load of ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-our-last-’ tweets and albums full of ‘Class of 2014’ photos because it’s our last year and you can bet we’re going to savour every moment - the fun ones that is. 

Besides the inevitable norm though, what will the new year bring? What lies ahead? We can plan. Predict. Speculate. But the future's uncertain - and that's okay. Because while we cant exactly say what tomorrow will bring, we can do lots to point our compasses towards the brightest stars. 

With that dear readers, welcome to the Lumen Studet; where the pen is always mightier than the sword. Welcome to 2014. 

We are journalists

We tell a story.

Thank you to all our readers for your support and to our writers for your invaluable contributions. 

Amanda Lee Yue Ping & Chin Wye Mun
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Wednesday 1 January 2014

Submitted by Law Veng Yee, Class of 2014, Junior 1 Cempaka

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