Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Episode 100: Wing Wah Redux

Just came back from a New Year Eve's dinner with some of the other Singaporean (and one Bruneian) freshers in Warwick. I love the buffet! Was feeling sleepy though, so didn't really stuff myself. Now we're about to start watching The Matrix on my laptop, while we wait for 2009 to arrive. The flight was okay, I guess. Between Singapore and Colombo, I managed to watch The Oxford Murders (now I know what John Hurt who voices the Dragon in Merlin looks like) and The Happening. I quite enjoyed the former, although the final twist was a bit too much to take. The latter is rubbish. Not total rubbish, but still bad enough to make you wonder what the heck is wrong with M. Night Shyamalan these days. Unless it was all intentionally bad, as the Wikipedia article on the film suggests. Still, that's a bit rich, isn't it? From Colombo to Dubai, I spent a good deal of time reading Faith Hunter's Bloodring. On the final Dubai-Birmingham leg, I started by catching four episodes of Doctor Who. I find it somewhat amusing that I really like watching Doctor Who, but I only ever seem to watch it while I'm in an aeroplane! Then I caught Wild Child, and can I say that Emma Roberts is hot? So's the song that plays while she and her friends are getting ready to party. Replayed that scene several times just to get the lyrics so that I can search for the song. Rounded off the flight by catching The Duchess, which was a little boring. Much preferred The Other Boleyn Girl for historical intrigue. It's bloody colder than when I left, which is just awful. Now I really do need gloves...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Episode 99: Going Home...

Am about to board the flight home. Yeah, I do think of Warwick as "home", in the sort of way that you think of school as a second home. I'm actually looking forward to heading back! It means I can finally get some work done, instead of constantly being tempted to just stone in front of the TV. Am going to miss the final week of Little Nonya, but I'm probably going to get a MobTV subscription. The plot summary Shirley provided via SMS would normally have been good enough to satisfy my curiosity, but I'd really like to see for myself how the plot plays out in detail. Spent my last couple of hours in Singapore cramming things into my luggage, which is now overweight by about 7 kg. Thankfully, the staff at Changi aren't as strict as their Birmingham counterparts, and let us check in our baggage that turned out to be 10 kg over our combined allowance. I had thought about what I'd take out if they kicked up a fuss, but I'm glad things worked out! Was at Swissôtel The Stamford for lunch because my dad wanted to go out, it being my last day in Singapore and all. We ate at Kopi Tiam, but I wasn't very impressed. My laksa wasn't spicy enough, even after I added belacan, and that was supposed to be one of their signature dishes. Basically, it was overpriced food that tastes better in a hawker centre anyway. Haha...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Episode 98: Just Over 24 Hours...

Till I'm back on an aeroplane to the UK. I'm going to say something that will make me sound like a totally horrible person, but I don't care and I'm going to put it down here anyway: I'm actually very glad to be going back. Whining about packing aside, I do miss the quietness of my Westwood room, where I can hide from the whole world if I feel like it, with just me and the latest episode of Fringe, Gossip Girl, House or Privileged for company. Even eating rubbish most days of the week feels good in a way, and doesn't seem to have done much harm, since I didn't gain any weight over Autumn Term. I can't explain it properly, but I think it boils down to the whole hassle of having to pack, unpack, repack my life every time I move between Singapore and the UK. I've only done it twice so far, but I really, really hate having to do it. This is the part of me that enjoys the routine of waking up in the morning, already knowing exactly how the rest of the day is going to turn out, the part that needs to be in control and self-consciously map each moment out in advance, so that it happens exactly the way I want it to. I seldom get it perfectly right, but that doesn't keep me from trying. I suppose what I'm really trying to say, in my messy, disorganised way, is that being alone in the UK isn't difficult, not for me at least. Even leaving isn't difficult, that brief instant when you perhaps turn and wave to the people who've come to send you off. It's the period leading up to the goodbye that is trying. Not because it reminds you of what you're leaving behind, but because it reminds you of what you have to lose again and again, before you can finally regain it, and even then it won't be the same anymore because you won't be the same anymore. If you've read this far, I applaud you, I guess, for enduring my ramblings. I played mahjong today with Ben Woon, Ka Tsai and Ming Yong. For a brief couple of hours, it felt like contentment.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Episode 97: Packing...

Led worship for the last time in the coming six months and I thought it went okay. Am presently beginning to rip my DVDs to my external hard drive. I wanted to find a way that lets me preserve the menus in the original DVD, so I'm using DVD Decrypter to copy the entire contents of each DVD, then DVD Shrink to create an ISO file that I can then mount in a virtual drive with DAEMON Tools Lite. Yeah, it's a lot of trouble just to be able to watch a DVD, but I can't waste space in my luggage carrying the DVDs back to Warwick! Am still agonising over which books I'm going to bring back. I'm quite set on bringing at least some of my Italo Calvino and Russell Hoban books back, so whatever I don't bring this time, I'll most likely just get my parents to send it to me as a package. Am trying to be sensible about how much I can conceivably store in the UK, so have decided not to bring any author who can be found in the library in reasonable quantities. Hence no Bret Easton Ellis, I guess. Orhan Pamuk, whose books I originally wanted to bring, is also out, for the simple reason that reading his books requires too much thinking to appreciate their beauty, and I doubt I'd be able to get through all his books within six months anyway. I am bringing a lot of local poetry over though, simply because I want to re-read all of it again and reconsider my prejudices towards it. (I tend to be quite dismissive of local poetry, although there are of course notable exceptions.) Ah well. I guess I just have to make up my mind once and for all by tomorrow...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Episode 96: Jaunting Down To VivoCity

While heading to VivoCity on 855, I finished reading Jeff Noon's Automated Alice, a quirky hypothetical sequel to Lewis Carroll's own two books about Alice. The language of the novel reads like a modern update of Carroll, although the ideas it presents feel a little dated, to me anyway. I did enjoy the read though, although I'm trying to decide if the ending constitutes an instance of deus ex machina, as it wraps everything up implausibly tidily and conveniently, at the last possible moment. The very last few paragraphs do feel like they're trying a little too hard to inject ambiguity into the matter as to whether it was the real Alice, or her automated 'twin twister', Celia, who made it back to the past. Ah well, it was a small quibble. I had lunch with Shaun and Yi Hua, both of whom I haven't seen since the latter's birthday barbecue. (I just realised that while typing this post.) It was nice, just being able to see old friends again. Not that there's anything wrong with the new ones, but the old ones anchor me to the past, and then only as much as I want to be. I sometimes wonder how all my friendships will be like, when everyone's started working, and I wonder which ones will survive and which ones will fade into the pleasant rosiness of the past. Then I met Ben Chan for a drink and some browsing through the shops. Ended up not buying anything today other than some books from PageOne that I haven't been able to find at Borders or Kinokuniya and another 1 TB hard drive. No more worries about not being able to store all my TV shows! Was supposed to meet my cell for dinner, but we ended up cancelling. Ah well...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Episode 95: Double Disappointment

Went to Sinema Old School with Ben Woon to watch The Art Of Flirting, which I'm so glad we didn't have to pay for. I guess I'm just a bit disappointed because I'd expected the film to be sexier and wittier, and while it was pretty much a dialogue-driven vehicle, the dialogue was more intimate than witty. The jerky filming was also really irritating after a while. Then again, this film has been critically acclaimed, so what the heck do I know about what makes a good film? Went to Borders after the screening, as there's a 40% discount if you buy four or more books, until January 8. Managed to find some stuff, although as a general rule, Borders is frankly not the place to head to if you're looking for variety. I took it as a chance to just buy stuff at a really steep discount that I wouldn't otherwise pay for. Anyway, like I told my mum, it beats spending a few hundred dollars at the Comme des Garçons Guerilla store, which I visited for the first (and only) time on its opening day. Have to save money anyway, in case there's stuff at VivoCity tomorrow that I want to get. Am going to be there for the entire day! Should probably bring some of the materials for my essay, just to read and get some fresh ideas of what the essay's going to be about. As for why the title of this entry is 'Double Disappointment', it's because Greg Egan's latest novel, Incandescence, promised so much but didn't deliver in the end. I put down the book feeling cheated, like there was an entire second half to the novel that somehow didn't make it into my copy of the book. I didn't really like how the double-stranded plot couldn't make up its mind whether to merge into one storyline, or continue spinning two separate webs. That was the worst bit of the ending for me, as both halves of the plot worked brilliantly standing alone, and could have come together quite spectacularly, but somehow that doesn't happen. Or it does, but in a fashion so oblique as to be unsatisfying as a denouement. Ah well. No author's perfect, and I recall being bored by one of his earlier novels, so disappointed is still better than bored!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Episode 94: Joyeux Noël!

Just finished doing my dad's PowerPoint slides for him. Again. Didn't have much of a choice, since after his eye operation, he's in no condition to do them himself, even if I wanted to show him how. Sigh. I wish he were a little more IT-savvy. Oh well, finished it and he's grateful. Now I can go finish reading Incandescence, which is another interesting novel from Greg Egan, in which one of the strands of the plot involves a group of DNA-based lifeforms arriving at an understanding of relativity from what are tantamount to first principles. I've given up trying to follow the scientific reasoning going on, but I recognise it as involving relativity, so not all my science-related general knowledge has forsaken me anyway. Once I've finished reading that, I can take a peek at my last library book, which is a book masquerading as the third volume of Alice's adventures. Yes, Alice of Wonderland fame. It sounds interesting in a really bizarre way, but if I don't get into it after a few pages, I'm chucking it. Have other (more important) things to read! Have decided to try out a song from Chris Tomlin's most recent album when I lead worship next Sunday, 'Jesus Messiah'. Think it should be fine because the chorus is dead easy to catch! I leave you with the chorus and bridge of Brian Bates's meaningful Christmas song, 'Mary Christmas', available for download here:

I wish you more than happiness
More than greetings of good cheer
But a true joy to last the years
I wish your spirit to be filled
With Heaven's perfect gift
I wish you a Mary Christmas
May Christ be born in you this Christmas
May His life grow in you this Christmas
May it change you
Come forth from you
And light the world around you

(c) 2008 Brian Bates/Staci Frenes

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Episode 93: Christmas Eve

In the end, I bought only nine Threadless tees. Am proud of myself for cutting it down from 30+! Met Shirley in town so that I could exchange Natsuo Kirino novel that I told Audrey to buy by mistake, and then help her with her Christmas shopping. That turned out to be a rather protracted process. I'm glad I'm such an efficient Christmas shopper! Then again, I would be, since I follow the principle of asking people what they want and then just getting it for them. I managed to finish reading Neil LaBute's Fat Pig while coming back on the MRT, and I already returned all but two of the other library books when I left for town. Haven't got time to finish reading them, so not much point starting! Shall study instead, which I haven't done at all during this break, and hopefully start writing my essay. At the very least, hammer out the introduction. Then everything else will magically take care of itself, like it always does. Except this time it actually counts for something, so don't start screwing up now. There's still so many things I want to buy, but there's not enough money. I think I should try to find a vacation job during my next break...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Episode 92: Threadless Spree!

I'm going to go mad and buy a huge bunch of Threadless tees! The discounts are just fantastic, and I've got a bit of spare cash, so I can afford the shipping fee to the UK. Was going to ask Dan if I could send the tees over to him and have him bring them over when he comes over the Atlantic, but he hasn't replied, the promotion's ending in less than a day, and I'm certainly ordering far more tees than it'd be fair to ask him to carry over. So I'll just pay for the extra cost then. Now I'm getting Shirley to help me vet my selection of tees, and hopefully, cut down on the number that I'm buying. It's so tempting to just get everything though! I'm becoming quite a fan of Threadless, so if anyone wants to check it out, click here to help me earn some points! I've been reading more of Neil LaBute's plays today. Finished The Shape Of Things, and then went to look for the movie. Now I'm reading The Mercy Seat. I think I've found a new playwright whom I love! Am going to check out David Mamet's work too, once I get back to Warwick, as going just by the Wikipedia article on him and an excerpt from one of his plays, I think I'd like his work very much too. Must resist temptation to start buying scripts too, in addition to poetry. Sigh...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Episode 91: The Mystery Of The Missing Book

Have started reading Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, but have also realised that I've somehow managed to lose the Tolkien translation. I'm pretty certain I brought it back to Singapore because I can't imagine why I'd have attempted to read without the aid of a translation into modern English, but that's going quite decently actually and I really can't be that bothered for a test that doesn't even count for a module I don't even like. Still. Where is the freaking book? If this was a matter of walking 15 minutes back to my room to set my mind at ease, it wouldn't be a big deal. As it is, it's more than a week before I'll be able to check. So all I've got is the vague belief that I brought the book back, and I'm left wondering if I haven't absent-mindedly left it somewhere or returned it to the library by mistake. Sigh. Ah well. I'll just buy a new copy if it's really missing. Have been wanting to replace my entire Tolkien collection with the black cover editions anyway, another of those frivolous notions that explain why money never seems to hang around long in my bank account, although I've resisted admirably last term in terms of buying books online, but obviously not admirably enough! Hopefully, the new term'll find me too busy to even entertain the idea of buying anything! Policy of prudence, here I come. Might have to indulge one last time in a new external hard drive though...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Episode 90: Reading...

Finally finished reading Spin Control a couple of days ago, which I would regard as an improvement over its predecessor. The whole web of deception only begins to unravel close toward the end, and although it is somewhat dissatisfying as a narrative revelation, the ultimate denouement is an excellent way of leaving room open for exploring an intriguing sequel, not to mention bringing in new players into the conflict between humanity and its posthuman descendants. Also managed to finish reading Theatre Of Blood by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott, in between the two halves of yesterday's double doublebills. It was a good read, reworking excerpts from a range of Shakespearean plays within the larger framing plot of a theatre actor out for revenge on his critics. Managed to borrow a few of Neil LaBute's plays, whom I originally encountered through his collection of short stories, Seconds Of Pleasure. His acerbic wit certainly comes through in his plays too, so they're making for very satisfying reads. Have finished reading Bash: Latter-Day Plays, which got him disfellowshipped from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's a trio of one-act plays, in which Mormons commit murders that seem to lack sufficient motivation behind them, and the revelation of these murders just drops on the audience without any warning. Should be quite chilling to watch in performance, I should think. Am probably staying at home tomorrow to get some work done, at least before I have to go to rehearsal for the Christmas service at 7 pm.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Episode 89: Do Not Disturb - Late Checkout, Please

I'm afraid Do Not Disturb - Late Checkout, Please turned out to be somewhat disappointing. I'm going to review the four short plays that made up the double doublebills in the order that I saw them, Duet and Real Actors in the afternoon, Brunch and Teacher's Day in the evening:

Duet employed the technique of simultaneous dialogue, which was interesting, but I felt it was carried too far here, to the point where the audience was practically being forced to ignore one character's version of the story, in order not to lose track of the other character's speech. As words on a page, all the sequences of simultaneous dialogue would have worked wonderfully as a literary device. In performance, it felt messy, especially since Serene Chen and Karen Lim had too many moments when their delivery, if not exactly out-of-sync, was mismatched by just half a second, which given that this was the opening scene when they were loudly singing a duet, sounded a note that was a tad too sour. I understand that within half an hour, there isn't as much room to give conflict a neat and tidy resolution, but honestly, the way they reconciled at the end was too pat. It completely failed to address the underlying conflicts in their relationship, although since the final song they sang was 'Tale As Old As Time' from Walt Disney's Beauty And The Beast, perhaps the too-convenient nature of the ending was only to be expected and completely in keeping with the spirit of their relationship, i.e. schmaltzy.

Real Actors was by far the best of the four short plays. For starters, Joanna Dong and Timothy Nga were the only pair who actually had anything worth showing off when they stripped. Lest you think I'm just a skin-deep reviewer though, allow me to note that the acting in this play felt the most natural. Joanna had great comedic timing, and although the relationship being played out here was just as typical as in the previous play, it was handled with a more light-hearted touch and the actors had better chemistry. The fourth wall was subtly nodded at when Joanna made a joke about hoping there were no cameras in the room, which naturally calls to mind the usual reminders about no recording or taking pictures of performances. The only issue I have was with the ending, which had Timothy's wife calling, him not picking up, and Joanna asking why he didn't. You cannot possibly get more clichéd than that, even if you hunt through a Mediacorp Channel 8 drama!

The plot of Brunch is linked with one of the episodes of the original Do Not Disturb TV series, telling the story of what goes on between the other halves of an adulterous pair. Conceptually, interesting. I even liked how the plot unfolded in reverse chronology, which called to mind Pinter's Betrayal. The problem I had with this piece was the lack of chemistry between Dan Jenkins and Janice Koh. Janice's anguish in the final scene, had it not been preceded by a rather stilted argument with Dan, would have been very powerful. As it was, it seemed too calculated and mechanically predictable. This play was okay, but given its premise, it could have been much better. More a case of there being insufficient time to develop its full potential rather than anything fundamentally wrong with it.

Unsurprisingly, Kaylene Tan's Teacher's Day was the most experimental of the four short plays, playing with coloured lights to convey the passage of time as well as interior monologues. K. Rajagopal and Hadri also lack chemistry as a couple, but at least the former's breakdown at the end was more convincing than Janice's. The latter's vindictive condemnation of his teacher, however, was not. It was nice to see Hadri not in drag, for once, and his acting was solid, but I just couldn't buy the character's motivation. Again, possibly an issue of brevity than anything wrong with the actors themselves. Overall though, I felt this piece didn't have anything new to say about the issues it was purporting to confront, i.e. repressed homosexual tendencies and sexual exploitation. Even moments like when Hadri gets dressed in what is obviously a Raffles uniform, complete with the distinctive tie, come to seem somewhat gratuitous, placed there solely for their shock factor.

The greatest highlight of the entire performance, both times, was Victor Tang's music. Accompanying himself on the guitar, his songs were listenable without becoming tiresome. As a whole though, I think Do Not Disturb - Late Checkout, Please was a decidedly uneven directorial debut. The problem, in my humble opinion, lies with the fact that Do Not Disturb began as a TV series first. It's as if the scriptwriters were writing for television rather than the stage, which the spare setting of a single bed didn't help. The three plays that I didn't like could have been turned into perfectly serviceable episodes of the TV series, with the magical tools of TV production. You know, creative camera angles, zoomed shots, that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, the scripts couldn't really stand up to the unblinkered glare of the stage.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Episode 88: Lazing About Again

Depressingly, I've been clicking around the Warwick Accommodation website, and the seven-people off-campus properties sound better than the six-people ones. Ah well. Don't think there'd be anyone left to be the seventh person in our group anyway. Am going to watch both halves of Do Not Disturb - Late Checkout, Please by myself tomorrow, after choir practice. So I'll probably be shuttling between the Esplanade Theatre Studio, library@esplanade, and somewhere where I can get a drink. If anyone is bored and would like to keep me company, I'll be at the Esplanade from around 2 pm onwards. Am currently trying to decide whether I should apply to be part of the student 'shadow panel' for the Warwick Writing Prize. It sounds like it'd be fun, reading and discussing the shortlist, but I don't know if I want to commit to doing it, seeing as how January will already be packed by rehearsals. Sigh. Perhaps I should just stop thinking so much, and just go ahead and do it? It would be so cool if I actually made it. Shall give myself one more day to think about it...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Episode 87: An Amusing Shopping Experience

Bella's sent the script back with some comments, a good deal of which make sense, by which I mean they can feasibly be incorporated into a revised script. Some of them make a little less sense, so tomorrow I will have to ask Bella to explain what she wants. Went shopping in Orchard by myself today. First stop was at Borders, where I managed to find another book in The History Of Middle-earth series, which pleased me greatly. One of my fears is that I won't be able to collect the whole series in the current edition, as it'll be out of print and all the copies will have been sold. Slightly silly, but there you go. My mum gave me a couple of G2000 vouchers when I got back to Singapore, and they expire today, so obviously, I went off to the G2 Black Label store in Ngee Ann City, where I bought a belt and used the $20 voucher. The discounts were really good, and I ended up paying about $30 for something that cost more than twice that. Had to get it altered so that it would actually hold my jeans up because as sexy as the hipster look potentially is on me, it's rather annoying after a while to be constantly tugging your jeans up to avoid a wardrobe malfunction.

Okay, so here's where the shopping trip turns into yet another example that I can trot out when I next assert in front of Eugene that I have youthful good looks. To summarise, a salesman indirectly told me today I look too young to be in university and too good not to be attached. The guy who was snipping the belt started making small talk with me. It began with a simple question about the rings that I was wearing, like why was one silver and one black. To which my rather daft reply was that there was no reason. (Although in hindsight, I think why I wear two rings of different colours, one on each index finger, is just another instance of my fixation on symmetry and patterns.) Anyway, when he found out that I was a university student, he exclaimed that I couldn't be that young then, to which my reply was that I'm 21. (Most people will generally agree that I don't look definitely 21. The precise age they would peg me with differs, with the lowest being around 18. 16, if you're my barber.) We chatted a bit more about studying and what I'm going to do for my job in future, and then as he's packing the belt for me and I'm about to head off, he suddenly asks whether I have a girlfriend and if I've thought about when I'm going to get married. (The answer to the former is no, although I have given some thought to the latter and think that 27 would be a good age.) So it's such a completely random question, so I just say no, it's still too early. To which his rejoinder is something to the effect that a handsome fellow like me is bluffing if he says he doesn't have a girlfriend. (So girls, clearly you should all be fighting to get a piece of me. Haha!) Ben Woon, being the wonderful friend that he is, helpfully suggested that he was trying to hit on me. Right.

This isn't the end of the story though! So I went upstairs to Kinokuniya and picked up a few collections of local poetry, including Alfian Sa'at's A History Of Amnesia. (On a side note, I'm thinking of bringing all the local poetry collections I have over with me, which means I've got even more books that I want to bring back to Warwick now. I should probably weigh all of them before making up my mind, since my baggage allowance is severely limited. At one point, I considered bringing all my Murakami books over, but I'm afraid I might have to change my mind about that now.) After that, I figured that I'd go downstairs again to buy a few shirts, hit $120 or more for the bill, and then I'd be able to use the other voucher. Well, it turns out the voucher is only valid for full-priced items, and practically everything in the store was on sale. I did get an additional 10% discount for paying with a DBS credit card, and my parents decided to foot the bill for everything I bought at the store, as a Christmas present, so money isn't the point of this story.

The point of the story is to highlight what a smooth operator that guy was. No, he didn't try to pick me up, but he did manage to double my bill by selling me a pair of trousers that I wouldn't have picked out on my own. What happened was this: I was trying on a shirt, and then he asked if I'd tried a pair of trousers yet. I hadn't, so I told him I'm a size 32, go pick a pair out for me and I'll just try it. At this point, I hadn't seriously considered buying the trousers yet. So after trying everything on, I'm about to change back into my own clothes and head out to pay, when he knocks, asks me how everything looks and tells me not to be shy and come out. So since he's been completely affable all this while, I comply. Like any good salesman, he naturally flatters me and tells me that I look good in the shirt and trousers, and that they suit me much better than whatever I was originally wearing. In case you think I didn't believe him just because it's his job to tell me I look good in whatever he's selling, I actually didn't need him to tell me that. I already know that I look pretty damn fine in formal wear (for someone who doesn't work out at all), ever since I shed a few pounds during BMT. My point here is simply that I'm a bit of a sucker when it comes to sales tactics. I find it incredibly hard to turn people down when they're being unfailingly nice and polite. So I walked out of that store, having spent more than $200, and made up my mind that when I start teaching and actually need to wear a shirt everyday, I know where those shirts are coming from.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Episode 86: Act 3

Finally finished with the script. I predict that I'll have to cut down on the dialogue in Act 2, as well as rewrite Act 3. All that is for another week though! Now I'm going to start reading for my third 'Howl' essay of the year, starting with Jonah Raskin's biography of Ginsberg. After that, I've got to read that other collection of essays I photocopied. At some point, I'll also have to read one or two books for EN123, if only to help me decide what I'm going to write about for my assessed essay. Then there's Sir Gawain And The Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales to contend with before the end of the year. Fun times ahead really. Am thinking of going shopping tomorrow, before choir practice. I've got a couple of G2000 vouchers, and I figure I might as well put them to good use, since I like G2 Black Label shirts so much. Might even pop down to PageOne at VivoCity to check if they have some books that I can't find at Borders or Kinokuniya. I really ought to spend less money while I'm in Singapore, but what the heck, it's the holiday season and I should spoil myself a little.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Episode 85: Act 2

Have started on Act 2, which should go much more quickly, since as I mentioned before, I'll be cribbing a good deal of the dialogue from the videos we took during rehearsal. I'll probably stay up to finish all of Act 2, since it's just a matter of watching the video, making rough notes of the dialogue, and then rewriting and embellishing it. Have already managed to get through the conversation between Jared's parents, so now I've started on the dialogue for Priya's parents. After this, it'll be two scenes of meet-the-parents and this act is finished. I've already outlined the action of Act 3 for Bella, and she's given her approval, so if I can churn out the lines more quickly, I should be able to meet Tiffanie's deadline tomorrow. Haha! I don't think I'm being nearly as funny and witty as I originally intended to be, but I'm trying my best. My greatest fear in coming up with this script is that the cast will find it boring and/or stilted. I'm already trying to guard against the latter by basing my dialogue on what they themselves came up with, but the former is somewhat harder. I'm good at one-liners, a sequence of ripostes at best. Not a whole bloody one-hour script. Oh well. Guess I shouldn't have procrastinated?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Episode 84: Act 1

The rest of the family's away in KL for the week, so I'm fending for myself. It's more convenient than when I'm at Westwood, of course, but it's quite boring. I want to play mahjong, but Ka Tsai doesn't get back until Thursday, so Ben Woon and I can't go find a fourth person anyway. I want to watch Do Not Disturb - Late Checkout, Please on Saturday, but I think I'll be going alone again, unless I miraculously find someone to go with me. Have made progress on Act 1 of the play, although not as much as I would have liked. Have yet to reach a sequence that calls for snappy dialogue, although I'm actually hoping to pull a good deal of the dialogue off what Keegan filmed during the last rehearsal, when we asked them to dramatise conflicts, as some of the lines they came up with were really good and I'd really like to incorporate them into the script. I'm just going to finish off the script until the end of the Facebook news feed scene, then I'm going to sleep! I think this scene could be really funny, but the acting for it would have to be exaggerated, even if it's just one person reading out news feed items, with the rest of the cast dramatising those items. Okay, back to the script!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Episode 83: Spinning Webs

Have finished reading Spin State and started on Spin Control. I've also started on the script for The Culture Project! Not the dialogue per se, but I wrote out some basic descriptions of the characters, enough to provide background for the cast as they explore their characters' motivations. I'm going to work on Act 1 tomorrow, which will cover Jared and Priya's relationship from its Facebook origins to their decision to get married despite parental objections. If I get into the groove of things, I'll probably just move on to write Act 2, which will see the two sets of parents meeting and clashing, at least initially. Act 3 will be a reversal of the cast dynamics, as Jared and Priya's relationship begins to fray, even as their parents begin to get along. I have a slight predilection for patterning, be it in my reading or writing. In typical fashion, I already know what the ending is going to be, and I think it could work very well, but a lot depends on how convincing the dialogue I give the characters is. Note to self: Keep it short, simple, snappy and sweet.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Episode 82: I Confess, I'm A Science Fiction Geek

Seeing as I'm still procrastinating, I spent the past few hours watching the first disc of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever watched the trilogy in its entirety, except maybe for the first film. Shall have to rectify that in the coming week! Bella has approved my idea to set The Culture Project a few decades in the future, which certainly simplifies the initial opening scenes of the play greatly. My idea to set it in the future was definitely influenced by the SF novels I've been somewhat fixated on since I got back to Singapore. Earlier in the week, I browsed through Tony Ballantyne's Watcher trilogy again, and then I went out to the library and borrowed Chris Moriarty's Spin State and Spin Control. Then just yesterday, I was at the National Library, grabbing more SF books. I'm particularly keen on SF that involves advanced bioengineering or artificial intelligence, which I see as more feasible than things like FTL travel, and besides, the idea of posthumanism fascinates me. For what those terms are worth, I'm more into hard SF than its soft counterpart, which explains why Greg Egan is one of my favourite SF authors because his technological innovations are couched in the gritty details of science as we know it (or soon might anyway). Well, I guess I'm probably going to end up not reading many of the books that I brought back to study, yeah? All that weight carried back for nothing...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Episode 81: 18 Grams Of Love

I caught a local film today at Sinema Old School, 18 Grams Of Love. It was actually rather good, sort of like Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors refracted through the lens of Mediacorp Channel 8 when local television was still of a decent standard. I enjoyed the symmetry of the film's scene structure, as well as the subtle ways in which the parallel scenes differed, if only because patterning intrigues me deeply. (By right, Sir Gawain And The Green Knight should rank among my favourite literary texts of all time then, since patterning is practically an obsession for the Gawain-poet. Stay tuned for the post in which I declare my undying love for the intricacies of this long poem. Haha!) A pity that I couldn't redeem my free tickets at Sinema though, as 18 Grams Of Love is being screened for the first time, and as such, isn't eligible for the free tickets offer that my membership comes with. Have about a month to use them up because I've been putting it off ever since I got the membership, so if anyone wants to watch anything at Sinema Old School with me this December, let me know! Went to Trumpet Praise to browse around, where we bumped into Shaunald and his mum, and I heard a couple of songs that I'd like to find when I've got nothing better to do. I know one's by David Crowder Band and another's by Switchfoot, neither of whom are exactly on my must-listen list. Well, one can always be pleasantly surprised, I suppose, but I have enough Christian music that I don't have to expressly make the effort to track down those songs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Episode 80: Food Trail!

Should be able to finish transferring all my TV shows to the external hard drive, although I think I'll have to fork out a couple of hundred dollars for a new one soon, as I'm almost out of space, or I will be by the end of the current television season. Am a little annoyed because some of the discs that supposedly were burned properly have turned out to be corrupted, which has resulted in my having to hunt down the appropriate torrent and grab just one or two episodes. So far, it's worked out, but I'm hoping it won't happen with any of the remaining shows! Will start doing serious work (like reading Sir Gawain And The Green Knight) once I'm done with the TV shows. Then I can feel all accomplished and fired up to start doing proper work! Like writing the script. Have thought of an interesting idea, in which the opening and closing scenes of the play will be one and the same, meaning that the entire play is essentially the equivalent of an extended flashback sequence, in which all the events of said flashback culminate in that single moment that the curtains open on, which is also the one that they close on. Now to write it out. Food trail today was quite short really, since we didn't even make it to dinner. We did hang out at Peng Kun and Wayne's huge homes, so that was fun! We should do all this again before we head back to Warwick. Haha...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Episode 79: The Office Party

Just got back from The Office Party, which I saw with Ben Woon. Like most SRT shows that I've been to, this one was great! While the dialogue occasionally fell flat, most of the time, it sparkled with precisely the kind of comic timing that I hope The Culture Project will have. There was a really funny moment when someone's handphone went off. Twice. So the actors spoke ad lib, making a tiny crack in the fourth wall. I love it when stuff like that happens. I didn't quite like the ending though, as I felt it didn't provide enough in the way of resolution, but I nonetheless had many a good laugh throughout the two or so hours. Office shenanigans make for really compelling viewing, especially since I'll almost certainly never see anything as entertaining in my office in future. Before the play, I also descended on Kinokuniya and bought, among many other things, the complete Dune series. Yeah, all of Frank Herbert's original six novels, plus the various prequels and sequels his son, Brian Herbert, wrote in collaboration with Kevin J. Anderson. I spent more than $250, but it was well worth it, since I bought a lot of stuff that I've always wanted to buy, but never had enough spare cash to get. Am now immensely satisfied!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Episode 78: Waiting To Come Alive

No progress on the script as yet, although I'm wondering if my idea for an opening scene in which the account of how the principal couple met via Facebook should be given to Adriana as an opening monologue instead. Will try writing it out soon and see if there's enough comic potential in that to match what Bella wants. I don't know if anyone else feels the way I do, but being back in Singapore between terms is kind of like being in limbo. I suppose it feels different for the summer break, but this period of less than a month, it really doesn't feel like a proper homecoming at all. It's more like a very, very long Reading Week. Couple that with my perpetual feeling that I'm not making full use of my time, and you can see why in some ways, I'd rather the term hadn't ended. At least then, the timetable, sparsely populated by classes at it is, helps to regulate the days (and the nights). Here, I am free to order my time pretty much as I wish, which generally ends in my not doing things like reading all the texts that I brought back with me for the sole purpose of reading them. Maybe I'm just too laidback for my own good...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Episode 77: As Usual, Doing Stuff Other Than Work

Have begun the time-consuming process of transferring all my TV shows onto my 1 TB external hard drive. Have also found a new show to watch, Sanctuary. I'm hoping to get this done by the end of tomorrow, and then spend the rest of the week focusing on writing the dialogue for The Culture Project, now that Bella has sent me the notes for the discussion we had before the last rehearsal. I think the ideas we have so far are fantastic, but a lot depends on how snappy I can make the dialogue, without sacrificing depth and substance. A task that will tax my wit indeed! Hey, if Oscar Wilde could do it, I don't see why I can't have a go. Have found new Christian music that I enjoy, by Brian Bates. It's something about his voice, I think. His vocal register is just very soothing to listen to, and it kind of reminds me of what I sound like when I record myself singing, on a good day. I've managed to find his second album, Worlds Collide, so I might end up buying his debut, Outside The Limits, off iTunes. It all depends on how rich I'm feeling after I've seen a few plays and bought some shirts and books!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Episode 76: Back!

I'm finally back in Singapore. The books that are not to be brought back have been inserted into their places on my bookshelves. The clothes that have been brought back have been unpacked. The life that was interrupted by 11 weeks in a foreign country has been resumed. It's a little unreal, how it's entirely possible to pretend that I've never left at all, and somehow I feel like I should be feeling more disoriented, more lost in my own skin. Yet I don't. Perhaps I haven't been away long enough? Or am I less given to sentimentality than I thought? I can't say that the thought of being home makes me ecstatic, the way it might for some of my friends. Not that I'm not grateful for the familiarity of home, but sometimes I think part of growing up is learning to be able to let go, to go on functioning despite losing something. I don't think I'm any closer to entertaining the thought of migration than when I first left, but I do know that I handled being away from everyone much better than even I expected. You could of course read that as a statement of how relatively unimportant I am to most of the people I know, but then that would be rather cynical, wouldn't it? After watching Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging, which was an entertaining, albeit formulaic, coming-of-age flick, I decided to start reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I think this is perhaps his best work since The Remains Of The Day. An Ishiguro novel always unsettles me as I'm reading it, but this one is particularly chilling because of its subject matter. Think of the movie The Island as a novel, without the fast-paced action sequences and the happy ending. The Guardian has a hilarious take on the book though, right here. Got to love John Crace's digested reads...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Episode 75: Transiting In Dubai...

Am surfing in the airport at Dubai while waiting for my connecting flight to Singapore. I think the whole connecting flight thing with Emirates is just really tedious, even if what I'm paying for the flight is significantly cheaper than the SIA direct flight from London. It was so disorganised when we got to the terminal, with contradictory instructions being issued. The good thing about Emirates though, is that you can fly from Birmingham, where the airport is less of a nightmare than Heathrow. The inflight entertainment for Emirates is okay, but not as fantastic as SIA. I watched Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Babylon A.D. The former is quite decent entertainment, although its central plot element isn't really developed all that much. The latter, however, is quite brainless. It's an example of a movie that has a cool idea at its heart, but the execution completely lets it down. The ending is especially bad, as it leaves you wondering what the heck actually happened! I mean, you get that the events portrayed have taken place, but you simultaneously wonder if there isn't a lot more that somehow got excised from the movie by mistake! That and it's really boring watching Vin Diesel, who is completely incapable of emoting.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Episode 74: Last Day Of Term

I finished the essay around 6.30 am, which left me with just over two hours of sleep. If I didn't have to go to the EN121 seminar to hand it in, I'd have slept in and skipped my second seminar this term. The essay is slightly better than I expected, so perhaps a Second Upper is within reach? We shall see. My tutor isn't teaching us next term, which is a pity really, since she's nice and quite funny. Have just about finished packing my stuff. I'm hideously over the weight limit, but if I do end up having to pay overweight charges, I'll just swipe my Visa and bill my dad, since a significant proportion of the stuff is gifts for people back home. I've brought back a number of books that I bought this term, including all of the Milan Kundera books. Will have to seriously reconsider my decision to cart more books over when I come back for Spring Term. With this experience of packing, I'm more acutely aware of the sheer difficulty of compressing your life into a couple of suitcases. Am quite psyched about going home actually, although I'd have been okay staying here too. It's mainly the thought of Singaporean food that appeals. I feel like telling my parents to buy cereal prawns from the coffee shop opposite our house. That would shock them. Haha...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Episode 73: Writing At The Eleventh Hour, Literally

Finally got around to photocopying the bits that I needed of the book on 'Howl'. It took me around half an hour, and I ended up photocopying nearly the entire book. Keegan was telling me I should try to crack the administrative password for the machine, then I can get my copying done for free. I think that's just really retarded, even as a way of saving money. Of course, for people like Keegan, the response to that would be, 'No wonder you're doing English,' which is the kind of statement that always seems fairly ridiculous to me. Why do people assume that my mind is only given to certain things just because I read English? It's a reductive line of reasoning that I find somewhat offensive, to be frank. Anyway, tonight's rehearsals were pretty cool, and things are really beginning to fall into place script-wise. Will have to force myself to bang out the script once I'm back in Singapore, as I promised Bella I'd only need just over a week. For now though, I should concentrate on finishing this bloody Gawain essay. I think I'm just going to end up rambling and not making a lot of sense, so will forgive myself if I get like Second Lower for this one. Not that it counts anyway, so there isn't much incentive to get it right!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Episode 72: Shopping

I just got back from Mimi Khalvati's reading at the Arts Centre. This is the first time that I've bought the books of the person who was reading, which proves just how much I like her poetry. I even got her to sign one of the books! I've just gone on Amazon UK and ordered the two collections that weren't on sale during the event, which were, oddly enough, her earliest and latest. The latter might arrive in time for me to pick it up, provided it gets delivered early enough on Friday. The former, I'll definitely have to wait until I get back to collect it. Now I'm on Facebook, joining fan pages in a very successful attempt to avoid working on my EN121 essay. The trouble is that I don't know where to begin with this essay, which is a really bad state to be in, with less than two days till it's due and not a lot of time actually available to do it in! Shall settle for a Second Upper for this essay. I managed to pop down to Coventry after all, with Michelle in the afternoon. I got all the stuff I'd intended to, and then ended up buying about £40 worth of Topman accessories. I know, such wanton spending! I think the rings I bought were nice, although I might end up returning two of them eventually, if I get tired of them. Those are the ones with some sort of design on them; the brushed metal ones are wonderful no matter what. I bought four bunches of those wristbands too, just for fun. Consider it a reward for myself, for writing another good essay. Haha...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Episode 71: The Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction

Okay, so I cheated and wrote about something that I actually know a fair bit about, in a sort of general, very vague way at least. I first encountered the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction in Russell Hoban's novel, Fremder, and since then, it's become one of the scientific concepts that have stuck particularly well in my brain, along with things like black holes, particle physics, string theory, and that's just the physics stuff. My brain is a veritable muddle of bits and pieces of knowledge, some more complete and intact than others, regarding very disparate subjects. I suppose you could think of me as a sort of half-baked Renaissance man? Anyway, the point is that I managed to find something on the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction in the Library, for which I intrepidly ventured into parts of the Library hitherto unknown to myself. So now I'm working at a terminal in the Library, for the first time in 10 weeks. This last week is really turning into a week of firsts. Was at Top Banana last night after all, for the first time ever, even if Samantha was sick and didn't attend it with me and Jerrick as we'd originally planned at The Benjamin Satchwell. I had fun, and there was Whitney to accompany back to Westwood, so I didn't have to walk through the freezing cold alone. Now I just need to finish this blasted piece of creative non-fiction, which doesn't feel all that creative actually, and I can finally get some sleep. Oh yeah, I got a First for the 'Howl' essay redux, so am definitely going with the 'Howl' question for the assessed essay too. I discovered a really funny thing when I got it back. I'd printed out the creative non-fiction piece from last week's seminar, and then handed it in too by mistake, stuck behind the bibliography. Adam read it anyway, and he commented that it wasn't so bad, so perhaps my creative non-fiction is not completely hopeless. Getting the essay back was the highlight of my day, I think, sad as it may sound. Acting as a cheating husband during rehearsal came a close second.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Episode 70: Travesties

We had a rehearsed reading of Tom Stoppard's Travesties instead of a regular lecture, which was freaking awesome! Although I haven't read it yet, the verbal pyrotechnics on display in the excerpt that was dramatised were enough to convince me to do so, very soon. It was definitely worth walking through what was an unusually cold evening (even for this time of year). Popped into the Library after the lecture, where I picked up a few more books, for both the EN121 and EN122 essays. Have more or less decided on the 'Howl' question because I've already researched the poem before, so it's just a matter of photocopying the relevant chapters out of the library books, which I will do as soon as I've figured out which are the useful chapters. Made up my mind about the 'Howl' question in the afternoon, just before I took a shower. The alternative questions were mostly pretty dry and not really my kind of stuff, although I probably could do enough research to answer some of them. My only concern is the lack of available material in Singaporean libraries, so I've really got to do all the research by the end of this week! As for the Gawain essay, it'll just have to wait until tomorrow night. I'm thinking if I should go to the last Top Banana of Autumn Term, but Jerrick hasn't replied to me yet if he'll be going, and I don't want to go alone with Samantha and the rest of the girls. So maybe I'll just sit in my room and read. After I finish watching Ghost Whisperer, of course. I nearly teared when Jim died, and unlike most of the fans who seem pissed off at the writers for this latest plot development, but I'm waiting to see how it turns out before passing judgement. I will say though, this is one screen couple who is so perfect that they could only exist in the world of television, which is partly why all the fans are so upset about Jim's death. We'll just have to see how this one pans out...