Thursday, June 21, 2007

INTRODUCING THE 'GOOD THINKER'S TOOLKIT'

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce readers to the 'Good Thinker’s Toolkit' originally developed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa as part of its Globalization Research Center curriculum.

For me, it's a quick & handy tool to use in connection with almost any work-related thought exercise.

For quick & easy reference, it uses the mnemonic WRAITEC. I believe it will help readers to apply the following questions to a personal or business challenge you may be considering:

W:

- What is going on here?
- Explain what you are looking at.
- What does it have to do with you?
- What have you forgotten to ask?
- What else do you need to know?

R: Reasons

- Why do you think that?
- What kind of explanation or reasoning supports your response to W?

A: Assumptions

-What cultural, gender, age, educational, or other assumptions affect your point of view or reasoning?
- If you assumed another perspective, how would it look?

I: If/then

- If you agree on your explanation or your assumption, what does that lead you to next?
- Explore implications & inferences.

T: Truth

- Is this an opinion, belief, popular myth, propaganda, data, information, a hypothesis, a repeatedly proven concept or theory, what?
- Are the claims someone makes just a working hypothesis because we have not yet examined all of the information & assumptions?

E: Evidence

- What examples support your line of thinking?

C: Counter examples

- Examine the examples which contradict the claims made under W.
- What evidence opposes examples under E?

INTRODUCING BIENFANG NOTESKETCH

Since the early nineties, I have been using the Bienfang Notesketch pad from the United States. It’s a spiral-bound, note-book combined with a sketchbook. Each pad has 64 A4-sized bright white pages from acid-free, recycled papers. I use only the horizontal version – it has a blank page on the top half & a lined page on the bottom half.

[Alternatively, I also use the A3-sized, spiral-bound, 100 page-per-pad, 100 gm-weight drawing blocks, which most graphic artists use, in conjunction with a multi-colour/multi-utility pen from Rotring.]

For me, the pad makes a great journal & also provides an optimal way to organize my visual interpretations & random thoughts. I have always used it as my ‘daily scratch pad’.

Whenever something fancy strikes me, either from thinking alone or having a phone conversation with someone, I will use it to jot down my thoughts. Also, whenever I read my daily newspapers, or a magazine or a book, I will use it to capture my musings by drawing an idea map on the top half & writing notes on the bottom half.

Over the years, I have gathered & collated more than two hundred copies of this pad. I have found my completed pads as handy references for writing my book reviews as well as my personal blogs, in addition to serving as memory joggers.

In the early years, I bought my supply from the Ben Franklin store at Marina Square. When the store closed down around the late nineties, & I could not find an alternative local source, I imported the pad directly from the United States (www.dickblick.com).

BRAIN TEASER & MIND FLEXOR

Now try this exercise, either alone or with a friend. I can't recall where I got it from.

"This is an easy task to do. If possible, you will do it at home, but you can always go somewhere else if it is necessary. Beware of doing too much at once. This is a major mistake & may cost you quite a bit of money. It is far better to do too little than attempt to do too much. Make sure everything is grouped properly. Put everything into its appropriate place. Now you are ready to proceed. The next step is to put things into another convenient arrangement. Once done, you will probably have to start again really soon. Most likely, you will be doing this for the rest of your life - perhaps not. Who know?"

Can you tell me what this passage describes?

Monday, June 18, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: 'SUMMARISATION IN ANY SUBJECT', by Rick Wormeli

As part of my relentless pursuit of tools & strategies to turbo-charge my own reading performance, & ultimately, to improve my success coaching to kids/teens/adults, I am constantly on the lookout for books & other resources in bookstores as well as on the net.

I came across this amazing book while straying into the website of ASCD (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development), a worldwide, non-profit educational association dedicated to the success of every learner. Not only I bought the book from them, but also became a member of ASCD.

I already know how to summarize, & am proud to say that I am pretty good at it, too, but I didn't know there are 50 ways to do it. They are systematically arranged in an alphabetical order for easy & quick reference. Each & every technique is fully described & with varied forms in the pages that follow. In fact, the author has even provided a reference 'Chart of Summarisation Techniques'.

In a nutshell, summarization is the act of restating essential information from text or an experience in as few words as possible or in a new, yet efficient, manner. I have always thought that summarization must be done in writing. This book tells me: YES! it can be done in writing, but also orally, dramatically, artistically, visually, physically, musically, in groups or individually.
The author, a teacher with twenty-four years of teaching experience, has contributed a masterpiece to the world of reading.

The book, printed in large format, is written primarily as a comprehensive instruction & resource guide for English & reading teachers. For the teacher, this is definitely a great tool for enhancing not only their own lecturing methods, but their students' learning & performance.

For the student, relating what has been observed or experienced in a clear, succinct manner, orally or in written form, is a helpful skill to master. More critically, when they attend lecture or read or writing news articles, identifying the salient information, no matter what subject they pursue & structuring that information for meaning & successful application, are not only part of effective study skills, but will serve as effective life skills in the long term.

In a knowledge-based economy, workers must be able to read or perceive something, then make sense of it by manipulating the information, reorganize it, & applying it to a new situation. They must constantly & freely explore new ideas & analyse them. This process is similar to the one journalists use to relate the daily news.

Summarisation is indeed a real world skill.

Learning the 50 techniques may be daunting at first, but the payoff is great. As a success coach to kids/teens, I can testify to this.

Most of the techniques can be adapted & enhanced, with a little imagination, for use with non-academic materials, so professionals in business & industry can learn & master them, too.

To help the reader in summarization savvy, the author has included special instructional practices for teachers in the beginning chapter. In addition, the author has also presented a special section on paraphrasing. I concur with the author that paraphrasing is fundamental to creating summaries. I must highlight that these additions are truly excellent pieces of work by the author.

At the end of the book, there are sample texts & summarization practice activities. The Resources is also a goldmine of information.

This is not a book that you can just read in one go. You have to work on it as you read. You have to do a lot of thinking & reflecting. The author puts this in perspective at the onset:

"AS YOU READ THIS BOOK, PLEASE STOP AT REGULAR INTERVALS & SUMMARISE WHAT YOU'VE READ."

Many thanks, Rick, for your excellent contribution to the world of reading!

Attention readers, irrespective of whether you are a student or a teacher, or a working professional in business & industry, I strongly urge you to get hold of this book. You will be summarization-savvy in no time, just like what I have achieved.

TICKLE YOUR FUNNY BONE

OVERHEARD AT THE RESTAURANT:

“Waiter!” barked the customer, “There’s a fly in my soup.”
“What do you expect for abuck,” said the waiter, “a silkworm?”

A seafood restaurant was stuck with loads of lobsters from the previous weeks.
“Push lobster,” ordered the manager, “No matter what the customer want, recommend lobster.”
A few minutes later a diner walked in. “What do you suggest?” he asked.
“Well,“ said the waiter, “the spoiled lobster is very good.”

A fellow who had been waiting over half an hour for his lunch called the waitress over & asked, “Must i sit here until I starve?”
“Oh, No,” replied the waitress, “We close at 3 o’clock.”

“Waiter,” said the irate diner, “you have to take this hash back. It tastes funny.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” replied the waiter.
“You should have heard the cook laughing while he was making it.”

Diner: “Do you serve crabs?”
Waiter: “What’ll you have? We serve everybody.”

A farmer went into a city restaurant for the first time. Going through the menu, he ordered a T-bone steak.
The waiter asked, “How do you want it done, Sir?
After pondering for a while, he answered, “I want it fried.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

THE SYMPTOMS OF INNER PEACE

I have torn out a full page, page 11, from the Avatar Journal Vol IX Issue 2, many years ago & got it framed up nicely. It is now displayed in my home office to serve as my constant reminder.

I wish to share with readers the full contents.

1. A tendency to think & act deliberately, rather than from fears based on past experiences.

2. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.

3. A loss of interest in judging others.

4. A loss of interest in judging self.

5. A loss of interest in conflict.

6. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.

7. A loss of ability to worry.

8. Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.

9. Contented feelings of connectedness with others & nature.

10. Frequent attacks of smiling through the heart.

11. Increasing susceptibility to kindness offered, & the uncontrollable urge to reciprocate.

12. An increasing tendency to allow things to unfold, rather than resisting & manipulating.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN
(but still very much appreciated)

[The Avatar Journal is published by Star's Edge International. If you are interested to receive a free journal, please go to their website http://www.avatarepc.com. A word of advice: Please read it - or approach the Avatar technology - with an open mind.]

HOW CAN I BE MORE CREATIVE?

Well, try brainstorming under-water, says Dr Nakamats.


In my earlier blog, I mentioned about a book entitled How to Increase Your Intelligence’ by Dr Win Wenger, which I had read for the first time in the late eighties. In the book, Dr Wenger had touched on the subject of increasing intelligence by held-breath under-water swimming. Despite his impressive credentials, I still thought Win Wenger’s theory was rather odd, to say the least.

Thus, it was with great surprise that I learned that he was not alone in the belief. His fellow under-water swimming enthusiast is none other than Dr Nakamats. [His full name is Dr Yoshiro Nakamatsu]. He is the world’s most prolific inventor, with more than 3,000 inventions to his credit.

Besides being the inventor of the floppy disk, Dr Nakamats is also the inventor of several oddities such as an engine which runs on tap water, a zipper tie, a trap designed to lure fleas off the carpet, & golf clubs & shoes which are guaranteed to improve your score.

Dr Nakamats' latest inventions include the “Pyon pyon” bouncing shoes.

So, what then is the secret that makes Dr Nakamats such a productive inventor? Where does he gets his ideas from?


“I go swimming underwater for as long as I can, usually four or five minutes at a time,” he said, “the water pressure forces more blood & oxygen into my brain, making it work at peak performance.”

“I’ve trained myself to use this method of extraordinary brain activity to create new things.” “In fact, I get so many new ideas using this method that I had to invent water-proof paper & a special pen to write them down.”

Now, almost reaching eighty years of age, Dr Nakamats only sleeps four hours a night, but is none the worse for it. Thanks to Cerebrex, the special chair that he had invented.


Special sound frequencies pulse from the foot-rest to the head-rest. The Cereberex works by heating the feet & cooling the head, which does indeed increase the blood circulation to the brain, thus resulting in increasing synaptic activity in the brain. “I’ve found that an hour in my chair refreshes the brain as much as eight hours of sleep.”

He adds that the Cerebrex chair, in addition to “improving memory, math skills, & creativity”, can also “lower blood pressure, improve eyesight, & cure other ailments”.

As for food, he eats only foods that are good for the brain: fish, bean-curd, vegetables, wheat, barley, seaweed, & of course large quantities of ‘Yummi Nutri Brain Snacks’ – another invention of his. According to him, these are a special mixture of dried shrimp, seaweed, cheese, yogurt, eel, eggs, beef, & chicken livers—all fortified with vitamins.

Dr Nakamats attributes his inventive drive to early childhood experiences. His mother, who attended Tokyo Women’s University, began teaching him physics, mathematics & chemistry when he was only 3 years old. A portrait of his mother sits on his desk, and a metre-high print of her leans against a whiteboard behind him. Dr Nakamatsu says his interest in model aeroplanes was also a factor. He built them & competed with his young cousins on how far they would fly. This competition, along with his mother’s teaching, fuelled his drive.

The key to successful innovation, according to Dr Nakamats, is “freedom of intelligence.” By this he means working with no strings attached. In other words, no encumbrances of any kind.

In fact, Dr. NakaMats simply loves to keep telling anyone & everyone who will listen: “The spirit of invention is LOVE.”

“Genius lies in developing complete & perfect freedom within a human being. Only then can a person come up with the best ideas.”

In reality, Dr Nakamats has systematised his creative process into three principal stages. He has actually created a physical environment in his home to reflect & stimulate these stages:

The first stage takes place in his meditation or "static" room.

He says: "When developing ideas, the first rule is you have to be calm." This room is very Zen with plants, rocks and running water. It's very peaceful but don't think that Dr. NakaMats starts like crazy. He says he does just the opposite, instead of focusing on just one thing, he lets his mind free-associate, churning over ideas at random, just spitting out whatever comes to his mind. He describes this as, "my time to let my mind be free!"

The second stage moves to his "dynamic" room which is, "dark, with black-&-white-striped walls, leather furniture, & special audio & video equipment."

Here he cranks up jazz music, moves to easy listening music, "always end with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. For me, Beethoven's Fifth is good music for conclusions."

The third stage is the swimming pool.

Dr. NakaMats dives in, anchors himself on the bottom of the pool, & using his water-proof paper & a special writing pen, he then brainstorms for ideas while still under-water. When asked whether this is dangerous, he retorts: "It’s very dangerous. I get that creative flash just 0.5 sec before death. I remain under the surface until this trigger comes up & I write it down quickly." This is how he generates so many amazing inventions & new products. Dr Nakamats calls it 'creative swimming.'

Interestingly, & to the delight of all those who have passed their prime, Dr Nakamats has also invented the Love Jet Spray.

According to him, “Love Jet is a health enhancing spray to be spattered directly across the private parts & works to combat male impotency. Viagra is a chemically based pharmaceutical aimed to help people with an illness, but Love Jet was created through my ideas about sex & uses all natural materials with no side-effects. Unlike most other anti-impotency treatments, it’s not a pill, but a spray, allowing it to work immediately. It improves sexual response by three times among men & women.”

Dr Nakamatsu explains that understanding the difference between Love Jet and other treatments isn’t all that hard: “There’s a hormone, often used in the United States, called DHEA, which is frequently prescribed as an impotency treatment alternative to Viagra. DHEA levels markedly drop at around 25 years old, but a spray of Love Jet increases levels by three times. It doesn’t just work on erections, but also slows down the aging process.”

Lastly, for all of you joggers out there, & just to let you know, Dr Nakamats doesn’t think jogging is a good exercise. According to him, "It makes the brain vibrates too much & disturbs thought patterns."


Dr Nakamats’ Message on Living a Life

You must use every minute of your life. If you have been given the mental potential of a six, & only use a three during your life time, you will die unfulfilled. However, if you are given the potential of a six, & have pressed forward all the days, the hours & the minutes of your life until you have reached an eight, a ten or even a twelve, you will die happy. The purpose of life is to fulfil our potential & surpass it.”
[Dr Nakamats was awarded the 2005 Ig Nobel Prize for Nutrition, for photographing & retrospectively analysing every meal he has consumed during a period of thirty four years (& counting). In fact, his food photography has yielded some surprising findings: "One meal per day is preferable to three," Dr Nakamats said. "By taking brown rice with every meal, it is possible to live 144 years & keep the brain in peak condition."

Meanwhile, he is working towards 6,000 inventions before he dies at the age of 140. He has built an elaborate daily ritual which keeps him energised, loving life & creating brilliant ideas.]

[More information about Dr Nakamats & his inventions can be found as his corporate website. Readers can also visit the Pingmag website for more pictorial information about his inventions.]

IS YOUR BREATH THE PACEMAKER OF YOUR MIND?

In his now-classic book, ‘How to Increase Your Intelligence’ written in the early eighties, Dr Win Wenger covered several very interesting & yet provoking topics.

One of them is “increasing your intelligence by held-breath under-water swimming”.

Dr Wenger is eminently qualified: Idea-smith, Renaissance Man, author, educator, classical composer, & inventor. He has been hailed by leading sociologists & historians as an American Toynbee. His works on increasing intelligence & creativity training have gained worldwide recognition.

According to Dr Wenger, “an hour’s time under-water, 2-3 minutes or so at a time, per day, over 2-3 intensive weeks, should add an eventual 5-10 points “IQ” to your intelligence.” Other side benefits include “an inch to your chest circumference, making you physically more attractive.”

Because you can hold your breath longer, “your personal power as an individual should also improve remarkably as you become more able to press your points, & to easily sustain efforts which other people aren’t up to making.”

How does under-water swimming add to your intelligence?

Dr Wenger’s theory goes like this. In reading, your breath paces & punctuates your attention & awareness. If you could hold your breath longer, you can over-ride this interrupter effect for better reading comprehension.

Under-water swimming trains you to hold your breath longer. The best way to demonstrate that breathing affects your attention span would be for you to read this sentence:

“IF YOUR BREATHING BREAKS YOUR ATTENTION SOONER YOU CAN FINISH READING A SENTENCE, IT IS HARD FOR YOU TO EXTRACT SENSE & MEANING FROM THAT SENTENCE, EVEN IF IT IS AS EASY IN CONTENT AS THIS SENTENCE IS, BECAUSE BEFORE THE THOUGHT IT EXPRESSES TO YOU IS COMPLETE, YOUR ATTENTION HAS VEERED AWAY WITH YOUR NEXT BREATH & BROKEN OFF THE COMMUNICATION FROM PAGE TO YOU & IT TAKES YOU CONSIDERABLE EXTRA EFFORT TO VEER BACK & PICK BACK UP THE OLD FOCUS OF ATTENTION & HOLD ATTENTION ON THIS VERY SIMPLE SENTENCE FOR LONG ENOUGH FOR THE ENTIRE THOUGHT EXPRESSED IN THIS SENTENCE TO TAKE FORM IN YOUR MIND!”

See what Dr Wenger meant? If you breath-span is shorter than many of the sentences you read, you can see why your reading is in trouble. So, go back to the swimming pool, stay under-water & develop the ability to hold your breath longer.

According to Dr Wenger, under-water swimming also increases your intelligence. It builds up CO2 in the bloodstream which in turns expands the carotid arteries feeding circulation to your brain. Carotid arteries expand in relation to the amount of CO2 in your bloodstream. If CO2 levels are made quite high, quite often over a period of several weeks, the carotid arteries don’t keep on closing back up. They stretch & accommodate to become permanently broader, supplying forever not only more oxygen to the brain but more nutrition & food energy & most important, more cleansing away of toxins & fatigue poisons. So, your intelligence increases!

Dr Wenger by his own admission was able to hold his breath for 4-1/2 minutes – but now because of his much greater-than-conventional awareness span, “made my peers & teachers uncomfortable by almost always instantly seizing on the point that they were trying to build to win their arguments, long before they got to that point.”

He substantiates his radical theories well & one finishes reading with a warm feeling of sympathy for him. It is not easy getting mainstream educationalists to accept such views & Dr Wenger knows that.

For anyone trying to get schools to do under-water swimming exercises with the view of improving their students’ IQ, he advises this approach:

“What is likelier to get a positive response from school is not to mention the intelligence building, the remediation, the reading improvements, etc., at all. Instead, urge a six-week physical education unit in held-breath under-water swimming as a matter of safety, which it also is. Such a program can ensure that all children can remain safely oriented in water even if they sometime should fall into deep water somewhere by accident. From there, pool bottom retrieval games & the like should be easy to incorporate. This safety focus should help make that a politically feasible & administratively viable program.

Now, a last word of advice from Dr Wenger: “Before trying to stay under-water in the swimming pool, let the lifeguard knows what you are doing so that he doesn’t panic.”

[A very good friend of mine - also a classmate from the sixties & a professional engineer with his own consulting business - swims regularly at the Singapore Recreation Club. He often uses this underwater swimming method to brainstorm his business problems.]

MAKING THE MOST OF FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF THE CLOSE KIND

I have taken the following advisory from a short article, 'Your Place of Mine?' written by a Jack de Ladd many many years ago.

According to him, there are certain critical preparation any budding Valentino or Grace Jones must make before attempting to devastate the opposite sex. He outlined eight golden rules to ensure you come out top:

1. Plan ahead. Treat the whole process as you would a military engagement. In other words, prepare, assess risk, aim - & fire! (Assessing the risk means making sure there is no boyfriend/girlfriend lurking around at the time.)

2. Speak softly. Talking in hushed tones will increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex. Shsh! Honest!

3. Flatter & cajole as if your life depended on it. If you don't know what cajole means, flatter twice as much instead.

4. Smile as if you're a walking ad for Colgate.

5. Use touch. Or rather, the hint of touch. Don't grope. Offer to wash their hair or paint their toenails (especially the men).

6. Clean your finger nails or paint them.

7. Wash your hair.

8. Remember, practice makes permanent. Think of yourself as Laurence Oliver or Ronald Reagan. Rehearse your lines carefully - in front of a mirror if you like. Hum romantic tunes to yourself culled from the hairspray jingles. Don't put on a different voice, a wig or toupee.

TICKLE YOUR FUNNY BONE

OVERHEAD AT THE GOLF COURSE:


"Caddy, why do you keep looking at your watch?"
"It ain't a watch, Sir, it's a compass."


"That can't be my ball, caddie. It looks far too old."
"It's a long time since we started, Sir."


"You have to be the worst caddie in the world!"
"Impossible, Sir. That would be too much of a coincidence."


"I want you to know that this is not the game I usually play," snapped an irate golfer to his caddie.
"I should hope not, Sir. But tell me," enquired the caddie, 'What game do you usually play?"


"I'd move heaven & earth to be able to break 100 on this course," sighed the veteran.
"Try heaven," advised the caddie. "You've already moved most of the earth."


"Well, what do you think of my game?" the enthusiastic golfer asked his friend.
"It's OK, I guess," replied the friend, "but I still prefer golf."

LEARNING FROM THE MOVIES: CODE OF HONOUR

I recently watched a rerun of ‘The Professionals’, an entertaining action-packed western movie on cable TV.

I remember that I had watched it in the theatre during the late 60's, while I was still a young college student. It was my second movie with Lee Marvin in the lead cast. The first was ‘Point Blank’. Since then, I have always been impressed by him & have seen most of his action movies, including ‘Sergeant Ryker’, ‘Prime Cut’, ‘The Dirty Dozen’, ‘Big Red One’, ‘Iceman Cometh’ & ‘The Delta Force’.

‘The Professionals’ is definitely one kind of a movie about which I can truly say: They don't make them like this anymore! Yes, to me, it is a truly great western classic.

It has a relatively simple plot with a terrific story, even though there were some twists & surprises right through the very end: Four soldiers of fortune, each was regarded as a specialist in his own chosen field, were hand-picked by a rich Texan businessman to rescue his wife, who had been captured by Mexican rebels. The ransom was US$100,000. The setting was the aftermath of the Mexican revolution.

The four soldiers of fortune were:

- Rico (Lee Marvin), a cool & principled tactician & gunnery expert (he was really cool with his pump shot-gun);
- Bill (Burt Lancaster), a wise-cracking adventurer & dynamite expert;
- Hans (Robert Ryan), a sensitive & compassionate wrangler;
- Jake (Woody Stroke), a sharp scout/tracker & archery expert.

It was obvious that these were brave men who lived by their tactical expertise & sharp instincts. They were paid handsomely - US$10,000 per head - to carry out the mission.

The vast scenery in the movie was magnificent: colourful rocks, barren desert, rugged terrains, & of course, searing heat. Against this enchanting backdrop, many of the action sequences took place, as the four specialists had to skilfully out-manoeuvre a bunch of Mexican desert marauders &/or rebels.

The dialogue was often crisp & witty. There were some very memorable lines e.g. as Bill was putting a load of dynamite on the rock, he said to the others: "You light this fuse, you got thirty seconds to run like hell, & then dynamite - not faith - will move mountains into this pass. Peace! Brothers."

The most cruel scene was when the four specialists witnessed a gang of Mexican rebels, led by Raza (Jack Palance) massacred a train load of Mexican soldiers. [In the movie, Bill had explained to Hans the rationale of the rebels' merciless attack. The soldiers were sadistic torturers.]

The most exciting part of the movie was probably the surprise attack, planned with military precision, on Raza's fortress & the rescue of Mrs Grant (Claudia Cardinale). It was at this scene that Rico & Bill, seemingly bewildered, began to realise that something was wrong. To their astonishment, Mrs Grant turned out to be Raza's mistress.

They were caught in a moral dilemma: Rico & Bill had apparently fought alongside Raza during the Mexican revolution. Both had respected Raza for his ideals.

On the other hand, they had to honour their contract to the letter from the rich Texan businessman, Mr Grant (Ralph Bellamy). Rico quickly stopped Bill from killing Raza & eventually rescued Mrs Grant, with Raza & his rebels hot on their heels.

The ensuing scenes were beautifully choreographed as Bill set out a diversionary measure to slow down their pursuit, while Rico, Hans & Jake with the rebellious Mrs Grant took off for Texas via a different route.

The most touching & climactic scene in the movie was actually the closing scene, when Rico, Hans, Jake & Mrs Grant eventually crossed the border into Texas for a rendezvous with Mr Grant & his men.

The next scene showed Bill appeared out from a trail of dust at the rendezvous with thewounded Raza. Mrs Grant rushed forward with Raza falling into her embrace. Mr Grant then told Rico, Bill, Hans & Jake that they had fulfilled their contract & asked them to leave.

Instead, amidst a short scuffle with Mr Grant's men, they quickly put the wounded Raza on to a wagon with Mrs Grant, who then took off into Mexico.

They then rode off into the sunset, with their professional code of honour intact.

I have really enjoyed watching this entertaining action-packed movie once again.

The four specialist-characters played very well in the movie, especially Lee Marvin as Rico & Burt Lancaster as Bill who stood out.

Jack Palance, a fine actor (I enjoyed watching him in the ‘Bronk’ TV series), as Raza did his part well too. Claudia Cardinale, a French actress, as Mrs Grant, provided some eye candy to the movie.

LESSONS FROM THE MOVIES: TEAM-BUILDING WORKS UNDER HOSTILE CONDITIONS

Recently, I took the opportunity of a break to watch ‘Flight of the Phoenix’ again on cable television. I understand that this movie is actually a remake of an earlier movie starring James Stewart in the sixties. I did not watch the earlier movie, even though James Stewart was a favourite actor of mine, but I certainly enjoy watching this one.

The storyline is very simple: A ragtag bunch of characters on a cargo plane crash-landed somewhere in the Gobi Desert. When they realized that they would not be rescued, & that the only hope was doing the impossible - they had to build a new plane from the wreckage of the old one.

As the movie taglines said: ‘The only way out is up. If they stand together, they stand a chance’. So, they worked together, led (or misled?) by an eccentric character, Elliot (played menacingly by Giovanni Ribisi), who had only some experience with model air plane design, to rebuild the plane & to fly it back to civilization. Despite flaring tempers & busted egos, they stuck together to get the job done at the end.

In a nut shell, it is essentially a movie about the triumph of the indomitable human spirit.

What I like about this movie is watching the ragtag bunch of diverse but stressed out characters eventually working together & using their sheer ingenuity & creative imagination to rebuild the plane, in spite of extremely hostile conditions - no contact with the outside world, brutal environment (scorching sun & scathing sandstorms), dwindling resources & attack by desert marauders.

The dialog is very witty...sometimes funny...coupled by a spectacular crash sequence (thanks to CGI!), which has been seemingly extended for viewers' enjoyment.

It was quite fun to watch Huge Laurie (of ‘House’ fame) playing a less commanding role.

For me, the only puzzling point in the movie was the unexplained use of a modified shotgun style explosive cartridge to start the plane engine.

Nevertheless, this movie brought back some sweet memories of my trip, together with my late wife, across the southern end of the Gobi Desert about a decade ago. At that time, we were trying to retrace the journey of Marco Polo along the Silk Road. We rode on camels as well as on four-wheels across some short stretches. The view of the sand dunes was magnificent & enchanting, but we could sense the harsh reality of the environment. (I understand that this movie was actually filmed on location in Namibia, Africa.)

There was one sticky point in the movie: As a Chinese, I noted that the desert marauders apparently spoke Cantonese. The crash scene, according to the story, happened in the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert - people there don't speak Cantonese.

Lastly but not the least, I have also enjoyed watching Dennis Quaid, one of my favourite actors, playing the lead role of Frank Towns, as the seemingly stubborn pilot.

Overall, & despite some reality flaws in the movie, I still think that the movie has been great to watch, at least for me. In terms of learning points, I can only say this: If we work together in search of a common objective, & even under the most trying conditions, as depicted in the movie, life will always pull us through eventually.