KEEP IT SHARP

Inhale, exhale

Think…

Simplify and breathe…learn something new

Sometimes when the blues hit me it’s partly because of the intellectual isolation that settles on my psyche like dust on the table. The lack of someone to talk to and exchange ideas about issues not related to places to get huge discounts can be mentally crippling. In fact, at times, I feel my mind atrophying. What else can I do aside from reading?

A short article on Yahoo.com entitled 5 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp told me exactly what to do. I’m not a candidate for Alzheimer’s (knock on wood) but the article had its merit for me especially the fifth advice that talked about learning something new like “taking Spanish class online, joining a knitting club or… playing poker.” The article also mentioned the opinion of Elizabeth Edgerly, PhD, spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association, who insisted that it’ll do the brain a whole lot of good if learning was combined with physical activity.

“It should be something like dancing, or coaching a sport. Or go learn golf with your girlfriends. That sort of thing is even better for your brain than, say, a crossword puzzle,” explained Dr. Edgerly.

I’ve taken up Español; I’m not keen on knitting although I learned how to cross-stitch in high school, and I’d rather read than play cards. But I did learn something new that one Friday morning amidst the torrential downpour in Singapore causing another round of flash-floods in a different part of the city. It wasn’t something physical as it was more experiential. I’ve been to a live radio show before having clinched a radio interview for Filipino artist Ronaldo Ruiz when he was in Singapore in connection with his first exhibition in the country in 2009. This time it was a radio show on location and with the same radio station, 93.8LIVE, which featured Ronaldo Ruiz.

93.8LIVE is Singapore’s only news and current affairs radio station. It has a segment called Campus, a show that tours school campuses every few weeks and brings the views of students to the forefront. “The members of parliament are listening so your views might be discussed in parliament,” said producer-presenter Joel Chua during the pre-airing session, “and you might be part of legislation.”

Joel and crew, this time, set up their radio-on-wheels at Shelton College International to tackle the topic The Challenges Faced by Foreign Students. He was helped by a panel of guests viz. Daniel Chu, Founder and President of Association of Consultants for International Students; Ray Shi, Senior analyst of Standard Chartered Bank; Karan Grewel, media lecturer at Shelton; and Vanessa, local student enrolled at Shelton.

It was interesting to go behind the scene of a live radio broadcast. I learnt that it was imperative that everyone – technicians, guests and audience – be at the location at least 30 minutes before the start of the show. This gave the radio crew time to set up their equipment and for the moderator to get to know the audience as well as prep them about talking to the microphone, applause cues and getting them to relax.

The audience were drilled on tech notes particularly in handling the microphone. “Don’t be afraid of the mike,” advised Joel. “You have to hold it close to your mouth. It’ll make the sound much clearer.” Following what he preached, Joel had his mike pressed above his chin.

“Don’t worry, we clean them every week and it doesn’t smell that bad,” Joel teased the crowd.

Second, Joel reminded the audience to breathe even while speaking to the mike, which, apparently, can’t pick up the breathing. Lastly, the microphone also served as a good fescue – Joel used it as a prompt for the audience. He’d point it towards the audience, signalling their cue to clap loudly. “You’re seen on TV, not on radio,” quipped Joel. The clapping occurred at the beginning, in between breaks for commercials, news and traffic updates, and at the end of the show.

In between the breaks, of being off-air, Joel kept discussion of the topic ongoing. This way he elicited more responses from the audience and, at the same, got them used to speaking to the microphone and in front of other people. Also, he was able to orchestrate who’d speak first, second and last on air after the off-air discussion. That way, the speaker would be prepared and not nervous thus lessening the instances of dead air, which Joel, obviously, has to keep from happening.

“Speak from your heart. Share your experiences as foreign students studying in Singapore,” coaxed Joel of the reticent student-audience.

What struck me was how unfazed Joel was when confronted with a taciturn audience and how co-ordinated the whole show was even out of the station. Commercials, news reports and traffic updates were done on clockwork, which struck a slightly peculiar note because there are voices heard but no faces seen.

It was an interesting journey behind the scene of a live radio show. I felt like I was back in primary school and on a field trip to learn about how adults go about their professional occupations. I’ve always liked seeing people in action – it’s a learning experience that remains unparalleled.

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