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The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bulgari: the art of telling time.

Bulgari have run a six page advertising feature in The Peak magazine, in Singapore. It is called: "The art of telling time" and features a number of their watches, photographed in what appears to be a corner of an artist's studio. The artist in question is Hafiz Osman, my brother-in-law.

In the background of the adverts, one of Hafiz Osman's paintings appears, rather prominently. I would like, therefore, to congratulate Hafiz on having his work so featured. Well done Hafiz!

Hafiz Osman's work appears in the August 2009 edition of The Peak Magazine.

I would also like to offer him a belated congratulations on being featured, with his art works, in the Today newspaper concerning his recent art exhibition Traces, in Singapore, at the Earl Lu Gallery.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/ As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/ My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno's challenge.

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is a 32 year old Malaysian Muslim part time model. She is also the first woman to be sentenced to be caned under Malaysia's sharia law - in her case, for drinking alcohol at a hotel nightclub. She is due to receive 6 lashes.



Now, her case is a very interesting one for it seems to me that Malaysia has a lot more to lose from this case, than Kartika does. Kartika would suffer pain, from her caning yes...but Malaysia will lose a lot more: its international standing.



It seems that Kartika is very well aware of this. She has already challenged the authorities to cane her in public. I think this is a strategy to make Malaysians, and people the world over, aware of the realities of what this caning punishment involves. A public caning would really bring home to them just how barbaric this procedure is. The authorities, of course, have refused her request.



The Prime Minister Najib Razak has urged Kartika to appeal her sentence, saying that she should not accept it so willingly. He is seemingly concerned about the overseas effects should this punishment go ahead. Kartika, on the other hand, and very revealingly has said, in response: "I won't file any appeal. Carry on and cane me. Don't waste my time." These words lend themselves to three interpretations. Kartika could be so certain of the rigidity and inflexibility of the religious legal authorities in Malaysia, that she is sure the caning will go ahead, no matter how she appeals. Thus, "Don't waste my time." Alternatively, she could feel that she deserves the punishment, having bought into the sharia position on her drinking. Finally, it could be that she understands, very well indeed, that it is Malaysia that will lose most, in this situation. She could, therefore, be punishing her country, by simply going ahead and being caned. The effect on Kartika will, most probably, be temporary...sharp pain, bruising, but probably not scarring since a lighter rod is used for women, than men and the beating is not meant to break the skin. Kartika will, therefore, recover in a few weeks. However, Malaysia will not recover from this punishment. It will henceforth be seen as a barbaric state not in tune with modern thinking on crime and punishment. It will lose its cherished status as a "moderate" Muslim nation.



These are difficult matters. Whatever one thinks of sharia law, it is Malaysia's right to abide by such law, if it so wishes. All nations should be free to choose their own path. However, and this is a big, "however", the world is now very interrelated. Nothing that is now done, goes without an effect on the wider world. Most of the rest of the world does NOT abide by sharia law. Most of the rest of the world does NOT understand it. Most of the rest of the world considers its punishments frequently too excessive for the "crimes" being punished. I have placed "crimes" in inverted commas because many of sharia's "crimes" are not even considered crimes in most of the rest of the world. They are, in fact, normal behaviours in most of the rest of the world. Thus, following sharia law places a nation in the difficult position of being at odds with the majority thinking in the world, on crime and punishment. Indeed, by comparison, certain sharia punishments are seen as barbaric by the outer world. This does not place a nation in a good international position. If a nation comes to be seen as barbaric, it might lose trading partners. Furthermore, people may be reluctant to do business there, not being comfortable with the legal climate in the nation. Foreigners may choose not to relocate to the nation in question, to live and work there and so on. The repercussions of a barbaric reputation are endless - and all detrimental.



Any Muslim nation has a difficult balancing act to make. They must balance their adherence to Muslim law and thinking, with their need to survive and prosper in the wider world. The leaders of all nations need to understand and pay heed to the fact that other nations will judge them by their own standards - and that those standards will differ. However, there is also the majority opinion to be considered: what would most nations think of a particular law, action or punishment? In the case of the caning of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno for simply drinking in a night club, almost all nations on Earth would consider that punishment excessive and, dare I say it, barbaric. So, Malaysia must consider its actions with regards to Kartika in the light of the majority opinion of the world, with respect to her punishment. There is a lot more at stake here than seeing that a young woman is properly punished for her transgression of a local law. There is the very standing of the nation in question.



In essence, by being part of an international community, all nations have to pay heed to the standards, in all things, deemed acceptable by that community. There is, in some sense, a giving up, to a degree, of the complete freedom of choice to do whatever it pleases, of a nation. Being part of a community means that those choices are moderated, by how the other parties will perceive the nation that so acts.



Malaysia may wish to stick to the letter of sharia law, whatever the price it pays internationally for doing so. That is up to Malaysia. However, its decision should be made in the light of two considerations: applying sharia law in such a way as to cane a young woman, for a "crime" that is not considered a crime at all, almost everywhere on Earth, is going to cause grave damage to Malaysia's international reputation. Yet, moderating her punishment, so that it does not involve physical punishment, would show that Malaysia is willing to integrate itself with the international community and open itself up to the myriad benefits that come with that.



Kartika's challenge to Malaysia is basically a simple and very powerful one: show the world who you are...barbarians or a civilized society.

It is an odd situation. You see if Kartika IS caned, then she will have WON, for Malaysia will be far the greater loser in that situation. Malaysia will suffer far greater, long-term pain, than Kartika. Interestingly, I think both parties know it, now. Kartika's case has been placed under review - even though she did not seek a review. It seems that Malaysia is trying to find a way to save itself from a self-inflicted wound. We will have to wait and see what is decided.

(I would like to make it clear that, in this piece, I am not criticizing sharia law, at all. I am just pointing out that the international standards of punishment for the same "crimes" differ greatly and, in many instances, the international community considers sharia punishments excessive. Thus, what I am discussing is the differing views on the same issues that must be reconciled. I should also point out that I am a non-drinker, myself!)

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/ As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/ My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teaching Daddy how to see.

Tiarnan often sees things I just don't notice. It is quite humbling, in a way, to simply take a walk in the world with my three year old son. Today, I did just that.

First, we stood at the bus stop eyeing a "G.I. Joe" poster together. The strong image of a gun toting soldier, with chaos all around drew Tiarnan's attention.

"There's a tank.", he said, pointing at a dimly drawn object in the background.

"Oh yes." So there was. I hadn't noticed. "It is a tank."

"What's that?", he asked, pointing at the letters G.I, before the Joe.

"Oh that means an American soldier."

"Daddy look!"

I looked but didn't see.

"A spider! A tiny spider!"

I followed the pointing of his finger and there, in its line of fire, was a tiny spider, hiding in one corner of the poster. It was about one third of an inch long, and much the same colour as the background on which it hid. Yet, Tiarnan had spotted it. I, of course, hadn't noticed.

"It is very small.", he observed, peering more closely at it.

"Yes."

Later, as we got off the bus, he suddenly yelped excitedly.

"Look!", he pointed.

There, hidden in the under brush, in the vegetation that grew beside the road, was a lizard. It was really quite a big lizard - but, you know what, had it not been for Tiarnan, I wouldn't have noticed. It was a green lizard, hiding in green grass, under green shrubbery. Almost no-one on this planet would have noticed...but Tiarnan did.

We watched the lizard together for a minute or two, Tiarnan fascinated by its every little action.

"It is a very big lizard, Daddy."

It was, too. Perhaps fifty or sixty centimetres long.

I was rather getting the feeling, by this time, that Tiarnan really saw a lot more in the world, than I did. He noticed things, I just didn't see at all...and he did it all the time.

On the way back from the bank, he did it one more time.

"Look Daddy, a shoe!"

I looked where he pointed and there, hidden in the long grass, beside the path, completely BURIED in the ground, apart from part of the black sole, peeking out, at the level of the ground, was a training shoe.

Again, I hadn't seen it and wouldn't have noticed it, were it not for my son.

Together we examined the strangeness of this shoe and wondered how it ended it up buried in the ground.

By the time I took Tiarnan home, today, I was both humbled and impressed. Humbled, that Tiarnan should see so much more in the world, than I did - and impressed, too, that he did so.

He may be young. He may be small...but he sure is observant.

Thank you, Tiarnan, for trying to teach Daddy how to see, today. It was an unexpected but, dare I say it, eye-opening lesson.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/ As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/ My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen and the lost accent.

Sacha Baron Cohen, as most of you probably know, is an Englishman, who bills himself as a writer, comedian and actor. Now, I have reason to question one of those billings, as anyone with an attentive ear, would have.

Last night, I saw Sacha Baron Cohen on the Conan O'Brien show. Amazingly, we actually get this show in Singapore, on one of the many cable channels available. It is quite fun to watch since Conan O'Brien manages to entice a wide variety of interesting people on to his show. Not all of them are A listers, but many of them are, perhaps, more interesting because they are not. Sometimes, it is good to watch people who are less famous and less familiar, since they may bring something new.

Sacha Baron Cohen appeared, last night, as Bruno. He was introduced as Bruno and interviewed as Bruno. He arrived wearing silver trousers and a dark sleeveless top. He was, as expected, rather camp. Sacha Baron Cohen, as Bruno, proceeded to "act" in character, throughout. He made jokes and observations as Bruno. He interacted as Bruno. He pretended to an attraction to Conan O'Brien, as Bruno. This was all very well, if not very convincing. At no time, for instance, could anyone watching Sacha Baron Cohen, as Bruno, conceive the understanding that this was a "real" person. He didn't come across as a real person, at all. He came across as a rather overdone caricature of a gay man, given to an excess of flamboyance. This, in itself, was rather disappointing, since I had understood that the whole point of Sacha Baron Cohen's work was to fool people into believing that his creations were real, so as to secure, from them, reactions to this supposed reality. That, however, was not what was happening on the Conan O'Brien show. What was happening was that an Englishman of rather limited acting ability was attempting to portray what he thought to be an over the top gay Austrian.

Now, why do I say "rather limited acting ability"...well, quite simply because at no time was he able to create a coherent reality for this character, Bruno. The actions of the character were not done convincingly, in any way. In fact, they came across as a painting of a gay man "by numbers"...meaning he was going through a routine: "now I do this, then I say this, then I do that..."...it just felt lifeless, like a man going through empty motions, that had no meaning for him. The actions did not seem motivated by any genuine inner drive, at all. This was not a gay man expressing himself, rather loudly, on a tv chat show. It was an Englishman giving a very slipshod caricature of his idea of a gay man, in such a way that none of the individual actions were convincing and the whole just did not hold together, in the least.

I was very disappointed, since, after all the hype surrounding this man (Sacha Baron Cohen)...I rather expected a higher degree of acting skill.

Now, I must come to the real failing of Sacha Baron Cohen's portrayal of Bruno: the accent. Bruno is supposed to be a young gay AUSTRIAN man...and so, presumably, he is supposed to speak with an Austrian accent. Yet, that is not what I heard, last night, on the Conan O'Brien show. The accent was only very occasionally remotely akin to an Austrian's. Most of the time, Bruno - an "Austrian" - spoke with an upper crust ENGLISH accent. His accent kept slipping in and out of a well spoken English accent. Presumably, given his Cambridge University background, that well spoken English accent is, in fact, Sacha Baron Cohen's own. When his accent wasn't clearly an English one, it was most often not an Austrian one, either: it was a confused mix of many influences that just didn't convince one that it was from anywhere in particular.

A talent for accents is not universal among actors. However, almost all actors are able to be consistent with the voice that they use, for a role. Sacha Baron Cohen's biggest failing was not that he can't do an Austrian accent (he can't...he really can't), but that he can't keep his accent consistent. Every few words, he would slip into a different accent. His voice was just all over the place.

The fact is, that if Sacha Baron Cohen's performance on Conan O'Brien had been an audition for any acting job, there has ever been, in the history of acting, he would NOT have got the job. His performance was simply too poor, too amateurish, too hammy and just plain unfunny to persuade any casting director, or director, at any level, to give him a job. The funny thing is, of course, that Sacha Baron Cohen has a job...Bruno. He is just not doing it very well. In fact, he is doing it very badly.

The most embarrassing thing about the Conan O'Brien show, for Sacha Baron Cohen, was that he was followed, on the show, by a real actor. By this I mean that the actor could actually act. The difference between them was stark. He was an English actor from True Blood, a show presently popular in the US. He did something that made Bruno look excruciatingly bad: he used accents, perfectly. He slipped from a standard English accent, to a Cockney, to a Somerset accent, to a Deep Southern accent from the US...all in moments. Each accent was absolutely convincing, stable, didn't drift, was perfectly accurate in its rendition and seemed to be accompanied by a character, too. The voices were different, interesting and truthful. There was just one thing he could have done to make Bruno look even worse: an Austrian accent. Thankfully, for Sacha Baron Cohen, he didn't do that...though, if he had been mischievous, he could and should have done.

I think the problem with Sacha Baron Cohen is that he is too successful. No-one is telling him: "Hang on Sacha, but you know that accent you have got, is just not working...in fact, I am not sure what accent it is that you have got. You should get a voice coach or failing that, don't bother with the accent."

No-one, basically, is telling him the truth. The truth is, he is able to think up characters that have some comic potential. However, those characters are sometimes beyond the range of his abilities as an actor to portray effectively. Bruno, for instance, appears, from the evidence of that interview on Conan O'Brien, to be way out of Sacha Baron Cohen's range. From my point of view, he failed in every respect with that character (except possibly the costume design, which was probably someone else's work). Thinking up an interesting character is not enough, if you are going to be the performer of it: it has to be within the range and ability of the performer. An Austrian accent is not within Sacha Baron Cohen's ability range. In fact, the stability and conviction of any accent he gives, is doubtful, given the performance last night. Thus, Sacha Baron Cohen should steer clear of doing accents. He shouldn't even try. Then he should consider the range of actions required of him, by the character: he should ask whether he can actually perform those actions convincingly. Bruno was not a convincing gay man, in many ways. Thus, if he was ever intended to be convincing, he failed to do so.

I note, from articles written about him, that Sacha Baron Cohen is often praised for "keeping in character"...well, maintaining an accent is part of keeping in character, and this Cohen was unable to do for more than two or three seconds, in last night's interview. So, it would seem that there is a difference between the PR surrounding Cohen and the actual abilities of the man.

It will be interesting to see what Sacha Baron Cohen does next. If it involves accents, I hazard to think just how unconvincing it will be. We will see.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to:http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: http://www.genghiscan.com/ Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3438598/ As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of credits...so please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3305973/ My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3463926/

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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