Sunday, November 30, 2008

Episode 69: Combined Service

Attending Westwood Church is like seeing what COGS could be like in a few years. Today's service was held at Westwood School, with the various congregations coming together for combined worship. It's nice to see how a service can be adapted to engage the entire church, from young to old. (Clips from Evan Almighty were interspersed with the message.) That's something that I feel COGS should look into, appealing to different age groups. Wanted to go to Coventry after the service, but nobody seemed to be free, so I'm going on Wednesday instead, to buy stuff for people back home. Am now trying to finish up some of the junk food I've managed to accumulate in my room, since I really don't think it's wise to leave it lying around for a month while I'm gone. I'm also trying to get started on the weekly Chaucer translation. It's the final one! After this, it'll just be anything I choose to practice on my own, the actual tests in Spring and Summer Terms, and the examination in Summer Term. Can't wait to be rid of Middle English! Have zero motivation to start on the Gawain essay, even though I managed to get enough useful books from the Library. Am going to shop for people's Christmas presents on Amazon UK instead! Haha...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Episode 68: PROJECT: slingSHORT 08/2

Went down to London to catch the second instalment of this year's PROJECT: slingSHORT. These were the Singaporean short films screened:

4 Days 3 Nights by Ming
Zo Hee by Jacen Tan
Wet Season by Michael Tay
Embryo by Loo Zihan
Duck by Rae Lyn Lee
Haze by Anthony Chen
Overhead Clouds by Yeo Lee Nah
Love Through The Ages by Wendy Chee
Unarmed Combat by Han Yew Kwang
Nation Builders by Martyn See

Aside from some technical issues, which were due to the need to switch back and forth between several DVDs, the screening was great. I'd seen Wet Season before, at a screening in Sinema Old School, and it was still as bittersweetly poignant as the last time. Other films I especially enjoyed were Embryo, Overhead Clouds and Nation Builders. Embryo was experimental, but not to the point where it alienated the audience, and you could definitely see a sort of narrative in it, even if it wasn't fleshed out in its entirety. The scene in which the girl was sucking on the plant was undeniably sexual, but the sequence that stood out for me was when she collected the eggs and then dyed them red, a subtle reference to pregnancy. I really enjoyed Overhead Clouds because it was just so whimsical! That animated cloud was too cute for words. As for Nation Builders, it made me uncomfortable, but that was because it made me question the 'official' picture of Singapore that's always painted for us. I found it interesting that the locations filmed seem to be concentrated around the 'older' areas of Singapore, which is perhaps why the full extent of the problem doesn't occur to people like me. The juxtaposition of the final shot was sheer brilliance by the way. The paternal figure on a poster, set beside one of the citizens who've slipped through the cracks that he claims to have kept them from. Not the kind of film you'll be seeing in any genuinely public space in Singapore in the near future.

I actually bumped into a lot of MOE people at Charlotte Street Hotel, which was quite a surprise. The Londoners were so surprised that people like me and Andrea would travel down to London just for the screening. Bella, Michelle and I were in McDonald's after the screening, where I found that McDonald's here sells chicken strips! I was so happy that I ordered a meal. Bella and I ended up missing our coach back to Coventry though, so we had to buy tickets for another one. I spent half of the journey listening to my iPod, but the battery died, so I switched to reading Frederick Crews The Pooh Perplex: A Freshman Casebook. Finished most of it, so I went to the Library to get through the last few pages and pick up some books on Sir Gawain And The Green Knight. Crews's book is a hilarious satirising of literary criticism, and there's a companion volume called Postmodern Pooh, which covers more recent developments in the field. The freaky part is that some of the stuff that's written about A. A. Milne's books sound entirely plausible! In fact, it's the kind of stuff that I might write in an essay, assuming I were doing one on Winnie-the-Pooh, of course. Now I feel like I've been missing out on so much by not having read either of Milne's books. Haha...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Episode 67: A Disgruntled Library User

I'm starting to concur with Adam's opinion of the university's library. I could only find one potentially useful book on Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, which is just appalling. The Library really needs to look into stocking more copies of books that are obviously going to be in high demand! Now I'm starting to worry about how I'm going to research my EN122 assessed essay. As it is, I can't even decide on a question, as I don't particularly care for any of them. I'm currently vacillating between the one on Shklovsky's 'defamiliarisation' and the one on Ginsberg's 'Howl', but examining the social aspect this time. The former is interesting, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to analyse MacInnes's Absolute Beginners sufficiently well, since it's the most obvious choice of text for comparison with 'Howl'. The latter would be a no-brainer, except I'm not sure if I'll be able to do much research in Singapore. Trying to research Ginsberg is hard enough over here! I guess the problem is that I tend shy away from questions that involve what I don't see as particularly literary inquiries, at least not in the conventional sense of critical analysis. After hearing the lecture on Raymond Williams, you would think that I'd have changed my mind and become all fired up about juggling literary, historical and social interpretations at the same time, but no, I think that's just too much work. In a nutshell, I hate reading theoretical texts, which unfortunately, constitute the bulk of the reading list for EN122. Sigh...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Episode 66: Good Results!

Got back several pieces of work today, all with decent results. My French homework came back with good comments again, which doesn't surprise me that much anymore, since my written French, with the aid of a solid dictionary, is leaps and bounds ahead of my spoken French. My accent, however, is still rather good, I must say. The EN123 essay on Eliot was another First, against all my expectations. My EN121 commentary was a Second Upper, which was a little disappointing, but going by Sue Niebrzydowski's comments, it's more an issue of needing to push further than anything wrong with what I'd actually written. Hopefully, I'll be able to repeat the First feat with the essay due on the last day of term! That would certainly be nice, although given that I haven't read any of the texts that I could be writing on, it might prove somewhat tricky. Have more or less decided on doing a question on Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, so I'll be reading that on the coach to London and back. I've even picked out the question and done some preliminary research, but we'll see, I might change my mind about the question. Don't feel particularly stressed about this essay because EN121 is a wholly examined module, and all these assignments are just for practice anyway. Still, I like to do the best that I can!

Our second rehearsal was even more fun than the first! I'm glad that the cast seems quite open to the idea of experimentation and just talking about issues. Well, I was a bit distracted at some points because I was cracking my head over my essay, for which I managed to crank out an interesting bit of close reading while in rehearsal. It's the kind of stuff that makes me go, damn, I'm good, but also makes me wonder, is this really the sort of stuff that I should be writing? I have self-doubt issues sometimes. I'm giving myself till around 2 am with this essay, and after that I'm going to sleep, regardless of whether it's done or not. Will finish it up in the morning, since there's no EN121 seminar tomorrow, which is a blessing in disguise. Had thought I'd have to miss part of rehearsal to attend the replacement seminar in the evening, but it turned out there was one right after our EN123 seminar, for which I obviously hadn't read Henry Green's Living. (I'm such a disgraceful student lately!) So attended that instead, and now I'm doing the usual things, procrastinating and not actually writing much of the essay that's due in about half a day's time. Good job...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Episode 65: First Official Rehearsal

Woke up later than usual, but still got to George's seminar around the same time that I normally do, which seems to suggest that perhaps I actually need less time to get prepared in the morning than I currently allocate for myself. Hadn't managed to print out my written work for today, which is just as well, since after hearing everyone else who read, I'd have been really embarrassed to read mine aloud. I did volunteer to read a piece of writing towards the end, which was a rather interesting piece of scientific writing, if I might say so. Have yet to decide what area of science I'm going to research and write on, since it's difficult to find something that I know nothing about, precisely because it lies outside of my awareness, but also because I happen to know a fair bit about quite a few areas of science that would perplex the average person. Not bragging or anything, it's just the way it is. I mean, there was a point in the past where I seriously considered doing 'A' Level Chemistry, and my first piece of researched work in Primary 4 was on black holes, so you can't blame me for being a bit of a science geek. Shall have to give it some thought once I'm done with my 'Howl' essay.

We also had our first official rehearsal today for The Culture Project, which saw us changing venues several times because we hadn't actually booked a room, through no fault of our own. It was pretty fun, watching the actors interacting. The last thing they did was perform a sketch, portraying a Facebook profile. I thought that was really clever, the way they managed it, especially since towards the end, they were apparently improvising on the fly. I'm glad everyone's getting excited about the play, and I'm starting to have ideas of what the narrative of the play will be, but I probably won't hammer out anything concrete until December. That's because I am now trying to write my essay! Have managed to sort out the introduction, but I don't think I'll get much done by tonight, since my best work seems to be produced only under conditions of great pressure. Then I promise myself not to do it that way the next time, but invariably do. What I need is to fail an assignment and then maybe I'll learn my lesson.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Episode 64: French Society Christmas Dinner

Today was the first time in a long while that I went into a seminar having done the required reading. Or half of it anyway. I thought I'd be bored by the F. R. Leavis reading, but actually it was interesting in its own way once I got started. I do wish though, just sometimes, that I were reading stuff that I actually wanted to read and study. Went back to Le Bistrot Pierre again with the French Society for their soirée gastronomique, which set me back by about £25, including transport and tipping. It was worth it though! I had braised pork belly, which was an interesting experience. I don't think I've ever voluntarily ingested so much fatty meat before. Didn't really talk much to the other people, beyond the usual polite chitchat. The problem's mine, not theirs. Makes me wonder how I actually made any of my friends for the past 21 years! Anyway, we had to wait ages for the bus back to campus though, more than an hour in fact. Standing in the cold wasn't much fun, I can assure you. I had hoped to get started on reworking my introduction for the essay due on Friday, since a good deal of Wednesday and Thursday will be spent in rehearsals for The Culture Project, but between the time of night and feeling nauseous after a swaying bus ride, it seemed much more sensible to just fall asleep, which is exactly what I'm going to do right now...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Episode 63: Merlin

While I was chatting with Alex before the EN123 lecture earlier, he reminded me that we have to finish incorporating our interview into a story for this week's seminar. I haven't written it! So now I'm watching yet another episode of Merlin, while blogging and trying to come up with an idea for the story. I'm thinking of framing the interview as the thoughts of a person suffering from dissociative identity disorder, which definitely gives it that weirdness that George Ttoouli was asking us to find. Now I just need to write two pages before going to bed, as well as rewriting the introduction for my EN122 essay. At least I finished my Chaucer translation this afternoon, or else I'd be really stressed right now. Anyway, I've been watching episodes of Merlin since I woke up. I discovered the series quite by accident, while looking for episodes of other shows that I watch. It's quite interesting because it takes the Arthurian legends and rewrites them afresh, e.g. the primary sexual tension appears to be between Arthur and Morgana, who is not portrayed as antagonistic to the court of Camelot, and incidentally, has Guinevere for a maidservant. Merlin, for that matter, is but a young warlock, just coming into his power. Did I mention he's also Arthur's manservant? It'll be interesting to see how the series plays out, but it has to get renewed first! British television shows always have less episodes than American ones, which is a case of quality over quantity, I guess, but not very satisfying for fans like myself. Oh well. It's back to the writing for me...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Episode 62: Singapore Society Christmas Dinner

Got started on my Chaucer translation, but didn't manage to finish before it was time to go for carolling. I cooked lunch again today, and I was appalled to discover that someone had taken my salt and pepper, right out of the plastic bag in which I keep it in my cupboard. Someone used my large pot too, and didn't even put it back. So I promptly hunted down both salt and pepper, brought everything that didn't have to be in the cupboard back to my room, and made sure there was no way anyone could pretend that they didn't know all my stuff belonged to me by putting my pasta and sauces into the pot. If anyone touches it between now and the next time I cook, I'm going to leave a caustic note on the inside of the cupboard. Carolling went okay, although I suddenly had to sing solo for 'Silent Night' because Rahul was sick. That turned out relatively okay, according to feedback. Caught a bus to Leamington Spa with the other Singaporeans, where we had a Christmas dinner at The Benjamin Satchwell. The food was okay, though it took really long to be served! Less impressive was my vodka lemonade, which didn't really taste much of vodka at all. After much banter and camwhoring, it was finally time to head back out into the frigid night. Thankfully, the bus didn't take too long to arrive. I really, really need to find a pair of gloves soon. I just wish Tesco would stock the black leather ones I want...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Episode 61: Bath, Stonehenge & Lacock

Was in Bath the whole day with Claire Lim, Hui Lin, Shen Ting and Yong Long. Woke up at the most ungodly hour since I've been here because we had to catch an early train to Bath. Must really do something about getting the Railcard when I get back next term, as thinking about it, I spent way too much today, and about half of the money was just on getting to Bath and back. Bath is extremely picturesque! We joined a free walking tour for a while, but soon wandered off by ourselves. We thought of going into the Roman Baths, but entry cost a fair bit. We did go into Bath Abbey though, since that was free. It's not quite as grand as Westminster Abbey, in my opinion, but at least it was free! I like stained glass windows. If I were to become incredibly rich someday, I would fit my house with stained glass windows. Anyway, we had Cornish pasties for lunch, which I liked very much. They were supposed to be quite famous, but I can't remember the name of the place now. I bought some Christmas presents at the abbey's shop, but still have a lot more to go.

Yong Long had booked us on a tour of Stonehenge, so after we took some pictures in the freezing cold, we managed to get ourselves found by the tour guide, who was really friendly. We had about an hour at Stonehenge, where I bought a set of photographic prints, simply because they were the kind of pictures I would never have the opportunity to take, never mind my actual photography skills. I must confess to being somewhat underwhelmed by my first sight of Stonehenge. I'd somehow expected it to be grander in scale. Well, not that it isn't inspiring, but being kept away by ropes, following the prescribed paths while listening to the audio commentary, it detracted a little from the whole experience. I wrote a little poem about it actually, while on the train back to Coventry. I get how if everyone were allowed to go right up to the stones themselves, Stonehenge would probably be gone in a few decades. Still, I wish we were. I admit, I'd probably have chipped a bit of stone for myself, if only I'd been given the chance!

From Stonehenge, we went to Lacock, where scenes from the Harry Potter series, Pride And Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl, and an upcoming film, The Wolfman, were filmed. According to the tour guide, film companies pay handsomely, even just to film the exterior of a house. Apparently, everyone in the village received £200 when they filmed a Harry Potter movie there. Lacock is an interesting village, as it is owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust, which in turn rents out properties to the residents there. A rather unusual arrangement, but it allows the village to escape the sort of tacky transformation that other rustic villages tend to experience as the tourists start flocking to them. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has a house in Lacock, and her daughter was recently married at the church, so there's an album of photographs in there, featuring various royal personages. Not too shabby, for a little village in Wiltshire! Even Singapore probably can't boast of that, surely? (Does Gong Li becoming a Singaporean citizen count?)

It was dark by then, so we headed back to Bath. After a lot of dithering over where to have dinner, we settled on Wagamama. I had a really nice meal, sort of like laksa, but not as rich. It was good, but the real thing back home still tastes better. Am starting to be excited about getting home and having local food again! In any case, Wagamama was nice, and I would like to try more food from that place again someday. (I always say that about places, but it never happens, at least not as often as I would like.) On the way back, I managed to read more of Simon Armitage's poetry, so I've finished three so far: Kid, Book Of Matches, and The Dead Sea Poems. Will return them on Monday and borrow some other stuff, including that book on 'Howl'. That wasn't the end of the night though, as we had Claire's birthday to celebrate. So trudged through the cold with Shen Ting to Arthur Vick 1. Rather apt, I think, to begin and end the day by trudging in the cold. One can only hope the weather becomes a bit milder for the remainder of the term, unlikely as that might be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Episode 60: Haircut

Got my haircut! Haven't tried styling my hair yet, so I can't tell if the way the barber cut it, which was certainly different from how I get it cut back home, has made it easier to style. He said that with this haircut I could style it using gel or wax, so here's hoping he's right. Wound up not eating a proper meal all day, so I'm pigging out on junk food. I had intended to cook pasta after I got back from auditions, but I got lazy, so I ended up watching TV on my laptop again instead and snacking on Doritos. I've decided to go for the French Society's Christmas dinner because I figure it's not something that comes along everyday, and I can afford to scrimp some other time. Am going to Bath tomorrow, so am hoping to get some reading done on the train ride there and back. Can't quite decide what to read though. I might read Sir Gawain And The Green Knight to prepare for my EN121 essay, or I could read Henry Green's Living to prepare for next week's EN123 lecture and seminar. What I really want to read though, is stuff from the past few weeks that I never actually read. Stuff like Colin MacInnes's Absolute Beginners and Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. Especially the latter, as everyone in my seminar group seemed to hate it, but from what I've glimpsed of the novel, I don't quite hate it in the same way. In fact, it occurred to me during the seminar discussion that perhaps writing like Woolf's was an essential step that had to be taken in order for novels like House Of Leaves to be written. So yeah, can't make up my mind...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Episode 59: Pub Crawl!

I got my poetry portfolio back today, and it was a First! David Morley was very generous with his comments too, and he definitely approved of my pantoum, which pleased me immensely. It really is a rather clever piece, and I would consider it, despite the relative simplicity of its language, among one of the best pieces that I've ever written. It's the kind of poem that probably never gets published, then turns up in a New & Collected Poems late in a poet's career as an example of juvenilia that displayed early promise. Haha! Okay, enough bragging. This grade has really encouraged me though, as I always have trouble being certain whether my work is good. I know for sure when it's very good, like the poem that got published in QLRS and the one that won a prize in the NUS competition. I guess deep down, I'm just that little bit insecure about how good I really am, and I feel the pressure to keep repeating the performance. I think that kind of feeling is counterproductive though, so I need to learn to get out of that mentality.

Anyway, tonight was the Warwick TV and STARs social, which was great fun! We started the evening at Mor Bar, where I had a Cosmopolitan and a Bacardi Breezer. I think the only way I can drink vodka comfortably is in a sweet cocktail like the Cosmopolitan. Mor Bar's a really nice place, and I'm looking forward to going back for their fondue sometime soon. Then we headed over to Mumbai Bluu, where we played some drinking games. I can't remember what I had there, but it was sweet too. My newfound friends wanted another drink because they still felt sober, so we stopped by briefly at Tavistock Bar to get just one more drink before heading to Smack. The girls got absinthe, and I had a sip, and it tastes absolutely vile, despite being a rather fetching shade of green. It didn't seem to do them any harm though, as we were all rather sober the whole night. So we ended up getting another drink at Smack, Sambuca with lemonade. I just did a check online, and apparently absinthe and Sambuca are both anise-flavoured, but their derivation differs, which is why when I was sipping my drink in Smack, I thought that it tasted like absinthe, but less overpowering. We stayed at Smack for a couple of hours. The music wasn't really my kind of thing though, but it was still fun to hang out with fellow STARs! I also think it was totally cool how we just got added to the guestlist and walked in, even though most of us weren't originally on it. Having connections is just awesome.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Episode 58: Circus

Attended the reading at the Arts Centre by George Szirtes. I like the man's poetry, even though I've never heard of him before David Morley told us about him. That's the problem with literature today, the proliferation of writers. It's not a bad thing per se, since there are plenty of good writers coming out all the time, and that's the way it should be. It's just that you only get to hear about certain writers because they're heavily promoted, and in Singapore, only the big names tend to get that kind of publicity, and then usually only after they've won some big prize. So as much as I claim to prefer contemporary literature, I know only a fraction of what's out there. I really, really want to make time to read while I'm in university, which doesn't seem possible, given my complete inability to even keep up with my modules' reading lists. Yet I am all too aware that this is possibly the only time in my life when I'll have the leisure to be able to spend time just reading for its own sake! It's a shame, but as long as I have my books, I'll try my darnedest to always keep reading, both classic and contemporary stuff.

For the past few days, the only thing that I've been playing on my iPod is Britney Spears's new album, Circus. Specifically, the tracks 'Womanizer', 'Circus', 'Kill The Lights', 'If U Seek Amy', and 'Phonography'. Having listened to 'Circus' and 'If U Seek Amy', I now think 'Womanizer' is rather overrated in comparison. I suppose it was good enough for a first single, and releasing 'Circus' as the second single can only fuel the success of this second comeback album. In short, Circusis a self-consciously dirty and sexy album, the one that Blackout should have been, but somehow wasn't because it was too robotic. Not that this pop princess has abandoned digital manipulation on her latest album, but there's more humanity behind the vocal delivery this time around. It's rare for me to obsess about an album like this, but Britney's just one of those people whose music I grew up with, and in fact, I liked her music better after she became all skanky (because the virginal act on ...Baby One More Time was just ridiculous anyway). So yeah, welcome back, Britney, glad you could join the party.

It's getting colder here, and I might have to bring out the Ted Baker jacket before long, even though the French Connection one still takes the edge off the cold. I'm also getting annoyed with my hair, so I've made an appointment for Friday at Chaplins in Cannon Park Shopping Centre. It's going to cost me £12.50, but I really can't care less, and I told myself anyway, before I got here, that I would cut my hair in the UK regardless of the cost. It's just one of those things that I won't mind spending on. I am rather conscious of having spent more than I should have this term though, so I'm really looking to cut back in Spring Term. I think I would totally spend less if I started cooking regularly, so I'm definitely going to do that as soon as possible. Am wondering if I should splurge on the French Society's Christmas dinner at Le Bistrot Pierre next week. I know the food's going to be good, and I should get to know more people from the society since I'll be spending a weekend in Paris with them next term, but it's really quite pricey, even going by my liberal spending habits. Sigh...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Episode 57: Spyski!

I'm so behind on my reading, it's not even funny anymore. At least Adam Putz says I'm on the right track for expanding my 'Howl' essay. Auditions today went so much better! More people showed up, including Maria, which was great. Anyway, I'm so out of practice when it comes to drinking alcohol! I had slightly more than two glasses of white wine after Spyski!, and I was totally focusing on walking straight on my way back from the Arts Centre. Am going for a pub crawl on Thursday with the other STARs, so hopefully I don't wind up too wasted. Spyski! was awesome by the way! Everyone should totally go and see it. It helps if you've at least read The Importance Of Being Earnest, since that way you'll see some of the connections, but really, Spyski! is just plain good fun. It's hard to summarise what went on, but really, go catch it. I promise you won't regret it! As my Facebook status says, if you don't laugh, your funny bone's missing! It was great fun chatting with the other STARs after the play too, so I'm really glad I decided to go for the social on Thursday because I think it's going to be great fun. Not that I don't have fun hanging out with Singaporeans, but I think I really need to make a conscious effort to get to know more people outside of my usual comfort zone, and this seems to be one of the best places for it, simply because we all share a common interest in arts stuff. So yeah, I guess I'm just really glad that I'm a STAR because of that, quite aside from the free tickets and drinks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Episode 56: Layout Day

Today was the layout day for The Warwick Review, which was a really good opportunity to clock up hours for my module. They started at 10 am, but I completely blanked about it until about 12.30 pm, and by the time I got there, it was about 1.30 pm. Managed to read just about everything that was being passed around though, which was good fun. I read some stuff that I really liked, which I would have been glad to have written myself, and there was also stuff that I cringed at because it was the kind of writing that I know is bad because I've written (and still write) stuff like that. There was a piece that had sections that reminded me of House Of Leaves, which was pretty awesome, but overall it didn't quite work, which was a shame. Had auditions for The Culture Project in the evening. Only one girl showed up, which was a bit sad, I guess. Hopefully, more people will turn up tomorrow. I'm thinking of asking Maria if she wants to come, since she did say she might turn up on the Facebook event. Then Bella and I went off to the Arts Centre for Sarah's birthday surprise. It was quite funny because we were just sitting there and collecting more and more people around our table as they showed up. In the end, we managed to find an empty music room, so we all squeezed inside and waited. It all turned out well in the end though, which was pretty cool.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Episode 55: Cooking My First Meal

Am translating Chaucer while watching Les Poupées Russes. The narrative feels more disjointed than L'auberge Espagnole, in fact, I've managed to get through nearly half the movie without actually figuring out what the heck is going on really. In a way, I suppose it's a metanarrative of sorts. I'm watching it because I loved L'auberge Espagnole, which totally made me want to move to Europe and rent an apartment with a bunch of ERASMUS students. The crazy things you do because you've seen it in a movie! Anyway, the extract from 'The Reeve's Tale' is proving a little more resistant to my efforts at translation than the previous extract from 'The Knight's Tale', and generally speaking, I'm starting to be a little worried about my translation tests. Anyway, I cooked my first real meal today, with Shen Ting's help. Like practically everyone I know, I like cooking, but I hate washing up. That about sums up my experience in the kitchen. Pasta isn't that hard to cook really, and I don't bother with making sauces from scratch, and I'd much rather just have olive oil anyway. I do believe I need meat to go with the pasta though, so that's something I'll have to get the next time I'm at Costcutter or Tesco. I'm still trying to decide if I want to go to Bath next Saturday, but I have decided to go to New Word Alive in Wales next April. The only attraction for next Saturday is Stonehenge really, but it's not like Stonehenge is going anywhere, so I'm wondering if I should stay in Warwick and read instead, seeing as I haven't actually read anything this weekend, contrary to my hopes. So now it's back to the second half of the movie and the second half of the translation...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Episode 54: I've Spent Less Than An Hour Outside My Room Today

While pretty much all the other Singaporean freshers were off at the Nottingham Games, at which they did really, really well, I've been phenomenally unproductive, despite my declaration yesterday that it would be otherwise. Managed to get some new music for my iPod, Metro Station and Nemesis Rising to be exact. I did do some of my French homework, as well as take in another lesson of Spanish, so I did work, just not the sort of work that would help me in any of my English seminars next week. I also put away some of my Ikea stuff in the kitchen where it belonged, and I felt like such a criminal doing it, like I was an interloper in my own kitchen. Incidentally, my cupboard space has been colonised by one of my neighbours, but I can hardly blame him because the amount of time I've spent in the kitchen in the last two months is probably about 15 minutes in total. So I stuck a polite note on the inside of the cupboard, subtly hinting that it was sort of time he started moving his stuff back to his side. Will discreetly check tomorrow, since I'm hoping to cook either lunch or dinner. Nothing fancy, just pasta, olive oil, and whatever meat I can find at Tesco that's easy to fry. Hope it works out...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Episode 53: Gomorra

Just got back from Gomorra at the Arts Centre. Now that was heavy viewing. As a depiction of the Camorra and its workings, it was interesting, but I can't honestly say that the film made for very compelling viewing overall. Some of the individual story arcs were interesting, but the intercutting between them meant that the impact was somewhat diluted. At the end, I didn't really get a sense of resolution, except perhaps for the tailor's story. Ah well. It was something different from what I'd normally watch. Did see a couple of trailers at the start for some upcoming stuff that looked promising, especially Blindness, which is adapted from a José Saramago novel. Looked him up in Wikipedia, and I must say, he seems like the kind of author that I would read, even if I seem to be doing extremely little reading here. That will all change tomorrow, when I will be one of the few Singaporeans spending my Saturday studying instead of being at the Nottingham Games. All the best to those who're playing though! I also started on my Rosetta Stone Spanish course. Spent half an hour to learn how to say really basic stuff. Am ambivalent so far, but I guess it'll get better as it goes along, and knowing another Romance language already is bound to be useful. Decided to try the Spanish course first instead of the Italian one because a couple of the other freshers are learning Spanish at the Language Centre, so I can test out my Spanish on them. Haha...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Episode 52: A Brief Respite

That's all I'll get before it's time to throw myself back into catching up on reading and writing. I am totally reading Absolute Beginners and To The Lighthouse before next week's seminars. Haha! For now though, I'm watching TV on my laptop again. I've been trying to get some TV episodes myself without using torrents, in order to ease the downloading burden back home. Am limited by the limit on free users at these sites though, so it's been slow, slow work. I also need to get a haircut, I think. I briefly entertained thoughts of doing my laundry for the week, but I'm betting someone else has had the same idea and the machine's in use, so I guess I'll wait until early tomorrow afternoon. What I would really like to do though, is fall asleep for about 10 hours. Alex is quite right. People like me who sacrifice sleep to do work are crazy. I did manage to catch three hours of sleep this time though, which allowed me to survive until around 2 pm before beginning to feel tired. French today was quite fun because we got to mess around with the recording software. I have such an annoying speaking voice...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Episode 51: No Rest For The Lazy

I've had a listen to Enya's Christmas album, And Winter Came..., and it's actually pretty good. Enya albums tend to sound more or less the same, and I didn't really like Amarantine that much compared to A Day Without Rain, but this latest studio album is definitely worth getting. Particularly interesting is the track 'White Is In The Winter Night', which is written in trochaic heptameter. It's pretty obvious, especially since the percussion is there to accent the lines. Oh yeah, Eliot essay is not going well. Introduction is out of the way, but I sense that progress is going to stall soon. I always try to be cleverly ambitious, and it backfires when you don't have the time to do it properly. Like I have all these ideas that I want to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, but the pieces just won't click. It's going to be a typical case of starting strongly and finishing weakly. Need to have a better work ethic when I'm back in Singapore in December. One week of pure slacking, at the very most, and slacking meaning no writing, the reading must go on all the time. Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to get some sleep, which would be infinitely better than the last essay, when I got no sleep at all. To end off this entry, I leave you with an excerpt of the description of me that Alex wrote for today's exercise during the seminar:

Ian's glasses, jeans and shoes all have a style and a brand to them, but in a reserved subtle way that doesn't cloud your judgement of him, just hints at a fun and fashionable side. His appearance, combined with his clothes, suggest intelligence and a bit of class but in a way that you don't hold it against him, there's obviously more than meets the eye.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Episode 50: First Essay Returned

I got my 'Howl' essay back, for which I scored a low First grade range. Am very pleased about that, but now feel pressured to repeat it with my Eliot essay. I'm hoping that my portfolio will get a First too, especially since it's actually assessed, unlike the 'Howl' and Eliot essays. For the next piece of unassessed EN122 work, Adam Putz said we could, on a case by case basis, double the length of our first unassessed essay. I'm seriously considering that, since I quite like what I've written so far and think that there is potential to elaborate further on it, especially in terms of picking out further bits of the poem for close reading. I do need to read some of the other poems that I mention in passing in the introduction though, since it may help to strengthen the case for 'Howl' as a vision of hell. I'm thinking of Rimbaud particularly, since the Blake, Dante and Milton poems are much too long for my purposes, although perhaps dipping into them to pick out stylistic features might help too. Will think about it once I'm done with the Eliot essay, for which I have a vague idea of the thesis statement, but no concrete path from introduction to conclusion as yet. In other news, the Sennheiser earphones are good, and my Amazon UK situation has sorted itself out.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Episode 49: Je L'ai Fini!

I finished my portfolio sometime after midday. I think the poems got sloppy towards the end, but what the heck, I wasn't in any state of mind to care too much. Now it's on to the Eliot essay, about which I have absolutely no idea. I have a stack of books on Eliot and modernism, and somehow, miraculously, a thesis statement is going to implant itself in my mind if I stare at the books for long enough. In other news, I've concluded that it is generally not a good idea to have my Amazon UK purchases delivered in several batches. I should just have everything I buy on a particular day delivered together, even if it means waiting longer. None of my orders are missing, and now I even have a duplicate order that I'm going to have to send back at some point before the end of January, so I'm just a bit annoyed over the whole mess, even if it has somewhat sorted itself out. Sigh. I'm a bit annoyed that the Italo Calvino books aren't the editions that I wanted though. They're Vintage Classics editions, but from a different, and in my opinion, uglier printing. So I'm giving one to Eugene for Christmas because he doesn't mind getting a Calvino book. Anyone else want a present from me?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Episode 48: The Start Of A Very Bad Week

This morning, by Philips earphones died on me. Or to be precise, the left side died. I ended up ordering Sennheiser earphones off Amazon UK, which should arrive together with my books on Tuesday. I won't be able to collect them, unless I walk all the way back after the EN121 lecture and collect them before heading to the EN122 seminar. Either that, or I could wake up extra early on Tuesday. At least service was okay. Tom sang two of my favourite songs, Forever and Blessed Be Your Name! Headed back to my room after service to order the earphones, and then I went to Tesco to grab food. Being the lazy person that I am, I have not bought groceries and thus have absolutely no motivation to cook, despite having all the necessary kitchen implements. Since I got back, I've been stuck here trying to churn out poems for my portfolio, with little success. I did manage a series of haiku, which I think are quite decent, and I (pretentiously) reformatted one of the pieces that I originally didn't want to include because I was getting desperate. (That and I can now claim that reading E. E. Cummings inspired me!) I'm now writing a villanelle, which I'm going to claim is influenced by Philip Larkin. I'm terrible, just throwing out random poets whom I've read before as influences and inspiration. Have not done any reading for Week 7, although there is still time to get through Kafka's stories, assuming I finish the essay. I think I will resort to reading the opening and closing chapters of Absolute Beginners, so that I have something to say during Adam's seminar on Tuesday. As for my French homework, I think I'm just going to say I couldn't print it out and that I'll e-mail it, and then go back and write it out, since by then the EN123 essay will be a thing of the past. Sneaky, but it really can't be helped at this point. Sigh. I need a better work ethic next term...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Episode 47: A Trip To Ikea

This morning, just as I was about to leave my room to meet Chernise at Ikea, I received a call informing me that a postman was at the Arts Centre, trying to deliver a package to me. Puzzled, I replied that I hadn't asked for anything to be delivered. I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to be one of my Amazon UK packages, but I hadn't expected the delivery service to screw up now, not after having smoothly delivered four separate packages previously. Apparently, my faith was quite, quite misplaced, and my package has now been sent back to Amazon UK. I can only keep my fingers crossed that the refund for this order will go smoothly because I simply will not order those Italo Calvino books again until I've got my refund for a screwup that wasn't even my fault. Someone from the customer service side has replied to my e-mail though, offering to have a replacement order sent as soon as possible, so perhaps things will work out after all. There's still two more packages that should have arrived by now, yet I haven't received any little blue card telling me to pick them up, so am a bit jittery about those too! Oh well, here's hoping for the best...

Managed to get everything I needed from Ikea, so now the next step towards culinary greatness is buying groceries. Won't be doing that until I get at least the EN124 portfolio done though, which I'm hoping to get at least half-finished by tonight. Was initially flirting with the idea of writing a villanelle and something in terza rima, but I've decided to combine the two as a terzanelle instead. I will write the one in terza rima at some point, since I've never done it before, but I might give the villanelle a miss. All this, of course, is only going to happen after the EN123 essay is done, which I've more or less decided will be on T. S. Eliot, since I hear rumours that everyone else is writing about Yeats, whom I don't really like. I also have to produce a pantoum, since I want to include one in my portfolio for David Morley. Not quite sure what the pantoum's going to be about, but yeah, I'm off to hammer out that portfolio. No idea how I'm going to do the commentary though, since I haven't exactly been reading enough stuff to be influenced by it in my writing. Sigh...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Episode 46: Prioritise? What's That?

Wasted the entire day (and night) trying to figure out how to convert my Christian George and Dangerous Muse downloads from Napster into something that can be played on my iPod. Finally managed this with Tunebite, but really, this has been an utterly stupid use of my time. It's a good thing that my EN123 essay isn't due on Monday together with the EN124 portfolio, or I might as well declare myself royally screwed right now. Recently, I bought a couple of tracks off iTunes that didn't have DRM, all by KJ, who's one of those singers who seem to be perpetually on the verge of releasing a debut album, but really seem to be selling their pretty-boy faces more than the music. I listen to KJ's music, however, because it's pretty dancefloor-friendly, even before being remixed, which is the way I like my pop music these days. Think Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad album. Anyway, it's been almost an entire day of labour, and very little to show for it. Certainly nothing that's going to help me ace EN124! Guess I'll just go to sleep and worry about it all another day...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Episode 45: Liberty

Was originally going to the Learning Grid to study past midnight with Chloe and Michelle, but I ended up dragging Michelle to Liberty at the Arts Centre because I didn't realise until mid-afternoon that the free tickets for the STARs were for tonight's performance. When we got there, I decided on impulse to buy both the programme booklet and an autographed copy of the script. Glyn Maxwell's Liberty is an adaptation of Anatole France's Les Dieux Ont Soif, and it's set during the French Revolution, specifically during the time of the Terror and ending with the Thermidorean Reaction. As I was sitting there, it suddenly dawned on me that the French Revolution was possibly the only part of my 'A' Level History syllabus that I can say I actually enjoyed. Okay, I guess the Italian Revolution was interesting too, but hardly as poetic as the French one in its course. I mean, a revolution against tyranny that itself descended into tyranny? I thought the play was good, especially the choice to end the action just when the Thermidorean Reaction descended on the Jacobins. For what is left unsaid then becomes the rise of the revolution's next powerful figure, Napoleon Bonaparte. Like I said, you just have to love the French Revolution for its cyclical drama. The theatre was really empty though, which was quite saddening. Ah well, at least I didn't miss out on a good play...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Episode 44: Guy Fawkes Night

Just finished bingeing on food from Tesco, including some really bad sushi. Bad in the sense that the rice was hard and clumped together. Before that, I was at a couple's place along Kirby Corner Road, having Bible study. This is the one I was supposed to join Chernise for last week, but couldn't because I had to stay in my room and write the commentary on the Fitt 2 passage. We went over from The Sovereign, which is a pub owned by a couple that also attends Westwood Church. Just checked it out online, and it seems like a really family-friendly place. According to Chernise, it used to be called The Half-Sovereign, and was a really shady place. Andrea was saying how cabs used to refuse to stop at that place, sounded pretty hardcore. I like the double meaning of its new name though! I took videos of most of the fireworks, as photography just didn't cut it. Nothing as slick as the fireworks you get at National Day Parades back home, but it was quite intense, being so near to the fireworks as they went off. I'm glad I went down tonight! Remember, remember the fifth of November...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Episode 43: The Haunting

I think I've overspent! Sigh. Yet I still spent about £12 on snacks while in Coventry with Chermaine and Sarah. Just as well that I couldn't find nice rings in my size at Topman, otherwise I'd have spent even more. We had lunch at Noodle Bar, which was delicious. More authentic Chinese cuisine! Totally going back there again soon. In other news, my Internet connection has been restored, and appears to be stable. So far. Hopefully it stays that way, as I need to get caught up on getting TV episodes from Natalie. I just got back from The Haunting at Tempo. I was a bit boring, to quote Hui Lin, while walking through the haunted house, but it was pretty funny, seeing people that I recognised. It was a pretty cool way to usher people into the club though, that I must say. Didn't actually drink anything (unlike Shen Ting, who dropped by my room just now in a fairly drunken state), but I quite liked most of the music that was played by the DJ, although it seems like the same few songs are the genuine clubbing anthems. I must confess that some of the stuff that I normally wouldn't listen to, I quite like hearing and dancing to in a club. Like 50 Cent's 'Ayo Technology'. Would be cool to dance to one of Gareth Emery's podcast episodes though. Should play one of those if I ever throw a house party. A bunch of us thought of heading upstairs to The Graduate@Cholo to catch the US election results, and against the odds, someone actually opened the fire escape and let us in! We didn't stick around long though, simply too crowded. For what it's worth, I hope Obama wins. Walked back to Westwood with Whitney, and now I'm watching TV on my laptop again...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Episode 42: No Internet!

It's starting to dawn on me just how much reading I've got to get done this week. I'm not even bothering to get caught up on the readings that I've missed over the past weeks, just reading for Week 7. So you'd think that without the Internet, I'd actually get more reading done, but no, that's not happening at all. My Internet access has been cut off since Sunday! There was a half-hour this afternoon when it was back up, but just as suddenly, it was down once again. Quite annoying for a Facebook addict like me. So since I couldn't surf, I ended up catching up on Ghost Whisperer. I've realised that I haven't seen quite a lot of Season 3 actually, as for some reason or other, we stopped recording it. Audrey ended up watching it all online, but the videos she was streaming were really tiny, so I didn't bother watching them together with her. Am hoping that the Internet issue will be resolved by tomorrow morning. You know, sort of an overnight miracle. I even went so far as to buy a new Ethernet cable this afternoon, just to eliminate it as the source of the problem, but it seems that it's really Warwick's campus network that's gone crazy. Since 27 October, to be exact. Sigh. At least I had a nice dinner at Stephanie's surprise birthday party, so the day wasn't entirely crummy. Lots of local food, including Wayne's attempt at making laksa, which was pretty decent, if a little dry. When I get back to Singapore, I'm going to binge on local food for a week!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Episode 41: Brideshead Revisited

I just got back from a screening of Brideshead Revisited. Yeah, I know, I'm probably one of the last people to see the show. In fact, tonight was the final screening at the Arts Centre, so I went down with Chloe and Claire Lim. Not having read the book, I must pay the film the compliment of saying that it made me want to read Evelyn Waugh's novel. Part of the plot is set in Venice, and what glimpses of it were shown have only confirmed my resolve to visit that city at some point during my three years here. At the same time, I must also confess that the character of Charles Ryder reminded me of myself, perhaps more than I would have liked. That hunger to belong in the society of the moneyed and privileged can be very powerful, and undoubtedly, some of the decisions that I've made in my life have been deliberately calculated to bring me closer to that circle. By no means am I ungrateful for the upbringing that I've had, even if I don't display that gratitude as often as would be gratifying to my parents. It is simply that I have seen what there is to be had in this world, and I take it for granted that I deserve a share of it. At what price would I wrest this for myself, you might very well ask, and I would find it difficult to determine my answer. For I don't doubt that I have limits that I would not deign to cross; I have simply not had occasion to clearly define them yet.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Episode 40: Halloween Ball

Just got back from the Halloween Ball, which really wasn't that fun. I hated most of the music, to be frank. I still think the TES is just not really conducive for parties. We grabbed our coats and left half an hour before it ended, so as to avoid the crowd. Anyway, I went online and raided Amazon UK this afternoon! Almost everything I bought was course-related though, so I guess it doesn't really count. I wanted to buy loads of stuff by John Irving and Armistead Maupin, especially because they were Black Swan editions that looked really good. I cancelled my orders on those books at the last minute though. Figured I should probably read some of the stuff that's already on my shelves before doubling the size of my library here. I'm quite upset that I won't be able to buy Vintage International editions off Amazon UK. I suppose that's made up for by the fact that Faber poetry collections will be more readily available than they are back in Singapore. I'm starting to sound like I love owning books more than reading them, but I really do read. Really! Just not as much as I should be, that much I'll concede. I did treat myself to two DVD box sets, The Lord Of The Rings (Extended Edition) and The Ultimate Matrix Collection, both of which I've been wanting to buy. They should arrive by Tuesday, just in time to distract me from actually doing any work during Reading Week. Haha...