Monday, August 31, 2009

Episode 343: Writing, But Just Baby Steps

I wrote a haiku tonight and titled it 'After The Bomb Went Off'. Haiku because I'm feeling lazy, the second stanza I wrote lacked impact, and I already wrote Scene 6 of the musical so my brain is on the fritz till tomorrow. Managed to sneak in two snatches of dialogue from the Wilde original, which was pretty good, so if I can keep it up for the next five scenes, more or less, my half of the script is done! Am probably going to try to re-read The Importance Of Being Earnest yet again before writing any more scenes. I went down to make my exchanges at Kinokuniya today instead of tomorrow, since I suspect that if I go down tomorrow, I won't be able to get 20% off on the exchanged books because the promotion will be over. Picked up two Nabokov novels, The Gift and Glory. They're very far down on my reading list though, since I've got stacks of stuff to get through already. The only good thing about e-books is portability, but that benefit only has relevance for me as long as my personal library is forced to straddle two continents and time zones.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Episode 342: Blitzing Through Kinokuniya

Just got back from Yong Long's birthday surprise at Suntec. Tropical humidity at night very unpleasant, as usual. Anyway, today's must have been the quickest trip to Kinokuniya I've ever made. Skipped the last 15 minutes or so of service and went down to Orchard, making it there in under half an hour. I picked up eight books, mostly books I've been looking to buy for more than a couple of months now, so no guilt there about spending. These included the Miramax Books editions of Sergei Lukyanenko's Watch quartet. I've been waiting for ages for Last Watch to be translated into English, and I was going to wait till I got back to the UK to order the Arrow Books editions off Amazon UK, but since the Miramax ones just happened to be on the shelves, and I kind of prefer their grittier cover art anyway, I decided against waiting any longer. Also made the mistake of buying some Jeff Lindsay books that I already have, so I'll have to go back on Tuesday to exchange them for something else. Probably some Nabokov, I reckon. Need to start picking which books to bring back with me to the UK. Really want to bring all my Thomas Hardy novels over and read them in chronological order like Mr Purvis sometimes mentioned. Haha...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Episode 341: High Tea

This afternoon, my dad took me to high tea at the Equinox Restaurant in Swissôtel The Stamford. Great views of the city skyline, except I think it all looks rather drab in the day, sort of like how the pastel shades of Clarke Quay look great at night but just plain ridiculous in the clear light of day. As for the food, it was decent, but not anything to shout about, if you ask me. I did like the sorbets for dessert, but everything else was fairly average fare. Even in a classy establishment like this, Singaporeans do not fail to disappoint with their ugly behaviour, e.g. rushing for the lift when seating is already pre-allocated at the point of reservation, and waiting a while before attacking the food never hurt anybody. Went to my cousin's place in the evening for her baby daughter's first birthday, where various relatives expressed surprise that I was back. Well, you know, it's only been two whole months! On the way back in the car, I discovered that I really, really like the Private Lounge Remix edition of Enigma's A Posteriori. Also listened to Frankmusik's album in the afternoon, and I guess I was a bit too harsh and hasty in judging it. It is reasonably listenable, although the mixing makes all the songs sound like one long sequence of variations on the same electronic theme. Anyway, if it's possible to have a new favourite song after just one listen, I think mine's 'Vacant Heart' at the moment.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Episode 340: Enfin, J'ai Plein Du Fric!

No progress on the script front at my end. Will have to do it over the weekend, I guess, although seeing as how Saturday is already packed and Sunday's always spent in church, I'm guessing I'll procrastinate, get started on Sunday night, and finish on Monday afternoon. Maybe I should right the synopsis for the sponsorship team first, and that'll help me get into the groove of writing. I want to head down to Kinokuniya on Sunday after service! Mustn't let this month of 20% discount go to waste by not getting a single book. Still have to be prudent though. Allowance has just come in, so I need to draw out money to pay my mum back everything that she's lent me since I got back. So I will carry on not buying stuff while I'm in Singapore. Must. Hold. Out. Till. Boxing Day sales! It's the single biggest reason for not coming home for Christmas this year. I might fly back for a couple of weeks, just not the whole month. Still harbour ideas about taking a sprawling, random journey by train across continental Europe. Dad thinks it's too dangerous to do it alone, so any takers?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Episode 339: L'attente, C'est Ennuyeuse Et Fatigante

The script was fleshed out last night, but I haven't got around to writing it because Bella dropped us an e-mail to say that Jerrick was going to give her some 'suggestions for what we could include in the script while writing, to make it more marketable'. So I'm going to wait for those. Not to be snarky, but with the amount of writing and rewriting we've done so far, I figure I'm better off just waiting for everyone to voice their opinion before actually putting fingers to keyboard. There is the slight matter of how to sneak in bits of dialogue from Wilde's play, which should still be possible, but will require some creative thinking on my part. So instead of writing, I've spent the time reading Belle de Jour's latest offering, Playing The Game, a work of fiction every bit as deliciously forthright as her two earlier non-fiction offerings. Also purchased a one-month premium subscription to Megaupload, for the simple reason that it's worth paying a little to avoid having to be glued to your laptop 24/7 just to get some TV shows. Things are also looking up on the part-time work front, as I might be getting some administrative stuff from High Achievers instead of facilitation slots during this lull period. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Episode 338: District 9

Went to Causeway Point to catch District 9 with Eugene Chan and Jared, since I was meeting Sarah and Yee Hung there at 7 pm anyway to discuss the script. I absolutely loved the film, even if Sharlto Copley's character's swearing seemed a shade excessive at times. (Apparently, he improvised all of his dialogue.) It's pretty obvious that the first half of the film, shot in the style of a mockumentary, is inspired by apartheid. As it moves along though, the story narrows down to one man's struggle to preserve his identity, even as he is doomed to lose it with each hour that passes. Possibly more blood and gore than is strictly necessary, but at least the M18 rating will keep out the kids who just want to be entertained by mindless violence. Here's a random factoid for you: the aliens are known as 'prawns' in the film, not because they resemble crunchy seafood, but because they resemble a species of king cricket known in South Africa as the Parktown prawn. Overall, I would say that Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut is a cut above the fare that Hollywood dishes out every summer, and with an ending that leaves open the tantalising possibility of a sequel, this is one film worth paying to see.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Episode 337: Sequel Slump

The ending of Kockroach was good, although the third section of the book felt too hasty in comparison to its predecessors. The message that rang throughout the novel was clear enough though: cockroaches are wired to survive. As much as reading the book filled me with admiration for the tenacity of this insect, I'm still going to spray it to death in future. After all, there's plenty more where that came from! Have gone back to reading G. W. Dahlquist's The Dark Volume, which I've neglected since coming back from the UK. Sadly, I'm finding it difficult to get through the novel, compared with the first novel, The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters. Now that was a deliciously moreish book. The sequel, after 100 pages, is still plodding along. That and I grow tired of the main female protagonist's insufferable, often self-centred behaviour. An interesting premise alone cannot save a novel from tanking, so I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with all those Amazon reviews that said the sequel disappointed them. Am alternating between this book and a collection of Clive James's poetry, The Book Of My Enemy. That is proving to be an easier read by far, at least for now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Episode 336: Don't Squash That Cockroach!

Had a quick listen to Cobra Starship's Hot Mess and Frankmusik's Complete Me, and came away not particularly impressed so far. I guess I'm a bit over the hype behind the latter, while the only track I really like from the former is 'Good Girls Go Bad', featuring Leighton Meester, so I figure I'm better off waiting for her debut album to drop. Started the day by firing off some e-mails, including one to book my ticket back to the UK. Have spent most of the day since reading Tyler Knox's Kockroach, which takes the premise of Kafka's The Metamorphosis, turns it on its head, and relocates the action to Times Square in the 1950s. The novel shifts between three characters' perspectives, recounting the rise of the cockroach-turned-man to the heights of the mob scene. The result has been incredibly readable so far and I would recommend it to anyone who's read the Kafka original, especially my coursemates who've done EN123. I freely admit that I've never read The Metamorphosis, but I have every intention of doing so once I get back to the UK, which is where I've left the Kafka anthology I bought before flying off last year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Episode 335: New Spectacles!

Dad had a pair of free lenses thanks to some promotion, so I've gone and made myself a new pair of Ted Baker glasses. Am quite pleased with my choice, and it's quite different from the pair I'm currently sporting anyway, so it's just one more thing I can play around with when putting together an outfit. (Yes, I've always wanted to be able to match my glasses to what I'm wearing. Vanity strikes!) Finished reading A*hole, but it still didn't make sense even when I'd got to the end, by which I mean that the whole thing didn't quite add up to something coherent for me. Perhaps it doesn't have to, but it still bothers me that it doesn't. Lunch today was a very drawn-out affair, and we had a bilingual service in a restaurant as part of COGS's 50th anniversary celebration. In my dad's car on the way there, it struck me again that Singapore really does present very different faces, depending on where you are in this city-state. This area of the east that we were in, around Paya Lebar and Geylang, really looks like it was caught in a time warp. Imagine how different ION Orchard looked in comparison! That place is architecturally interesting, but since I can't afford almost everything inside, I'm not too bothered about seeing the rest of it. Was only there so Natalie could buy her iTouch anyway.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Episode 334: Library Books Sale

Went to the library books sale at Expo. Only Mel was with me in the end, since Thong was there really early for some reason and had decided to go home, while Eugene was too tired to bother showing up. When I got there, the queue spilt over into the adjoining hall, which was a bit of a shock. I would say that this reflects a healthy love of reading in Singapore, but I suspect it's more a case of loving the bargain bin prices. $2 for books written in English or Chinese, $1 for those in Malay or Tamil. Really quite a steal! I only got five books though, and they weren't things I was desperately looking for, just the sort of thing I wouldn't mind picking up on the cheap. Traveling The Eurail Express might come in handy though, should I do some sort of tour of continental Europe. Was hoping to find some poetry, but collections were far and few between, and nothing particularly striking, to me anyway. Guess I'm going to have to do some hunting in charity shops when I get back to the UK. Have begun reading Hilton Obenzinger's A*hole, which is the sort of manic experimental fiction that I really like, but find impossible to interpret coherently as I'm reading it, let alone write in that style. I'm beginning to see how the different narrative threads are intersecting/interweaving, but I'm not sure what exactly is the big picture.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Episode 333: I Want To Befriend Edward Hirsch!

Made a detour to the library before Alpha, so that I could return some books. Said returning consisted of dropping off books and picking up the exact same ones again at the Queenstown branch. Just a little trick to avoid having to renew books that I can't finish in time. I did finish reading Edward Hirsch's Poet's Choice though, which explains the title of this post. If anyone needs to be convinced that poetry matters, please read this book. It's a particularly nifty introduction to wonderful poets who have been translated into English, whom I would in all likelihood never know of but for reading this book. Too many examples to list here, so if you're interested in finding out more, find a way to grab a copy of it! Anyway, I've decided once I clear the current pile of library books on my table, it's time to stop borrowing stuff and start reading the books that I actually own. Like all those Joanne Harris novels I meant to finish over summer. Not to mention The New Poetry from Bloodaxe, which I meant to finish reading during this vacation as well, in preparation for next year's work. So no more libraries for me!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Episode 332: Oh Dear, I Actually Kind Of Like Britannia High...

I know this means that my taste in TV has probably sunk to a new low, at least by the standard of the average person, but I've just finished the one and only series of Britannia High, and, believe it or not, kind of enjoyed it. The plot is nothing to shout about, although I like the twist that neither girl gets the guy, or even wants him by the end. It's really the songs that I like. Shamelessly commercial pop that pushes every conceivable button in the radio-friendly lexicon. Well, the dance moves were good as well. I always envy people who can dance; I lack the necessary coordination and absence of self-consciousness. Anyway, my point is that with the right music, the plot, however banal or bland, becomes less important. (Come on, Britannia High was essentially a whitewashed version of Skins set in a performing arts school!) I'm thinking in terms of musicals, naturally. In an ordinary film or play, the lack of a decent plot would be fatal. I'm actually kind of curious as to what sort of songs we're eventually going to have in our musical. All this talk about music is making me miss singing again...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Episode 331: The Perils Of Business

Finished reading a corporate satire gamebook today, Owen Burke and Duff McDonald's The CEO. It was actually pretty funny, once you got over the unevenness of some of the stories. I made a little bit of effort and charted out each of the 29 possible stories contained in the book:

1) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 186, 54, 146, 151-2, 58, 69
2) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 186, 54, 146, 151-2, 162-4, 224-5
3) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 186, 54, 96, 104
4) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 232-3, 5, 243, 109, 158-9, 217, 188-9, 193-4, 221-2, 227, 128, 45, 240, 52-3, 34-5, 226, 40, 89-90, 242
5) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 232-3, 5, 243, 109, 158-9, 217, 188-9, 193-4, 221-2, 227, 128, 147-8
6) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 232-3, 5, 243, 109, 158-9, 217, 214, 18
7) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 199-200, 145, 78, 192, 198, 68, 232-3, 5, 243, 109, 161, 47, 166
8) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 219-20, 39, 42, 129, 230, 134-5
9) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 205, 234-5, 208-9, 223, 241, 247
10) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 4, 79, 88, 127, 190, 21-2, 100-1
11) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 4, 79, 88, 127, 190, 236-7, 187, 195, 102
12) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 201-2, 143-4, 4, 79, 88, 127, 190, 236-7, 187, 195, 102
13) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 139-40, 197, 171, 203, 165, 228-9, 153-5, 210-2, 91
14) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 139-40, 197, 171, 203, 165, 228-9, 122-3, 133, 65, 77
15) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 87
16) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 118-9, 244
17) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 44, 24, 46, 196, 124
18) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 64, 177, 218, 14, 19-20, 27-9, 120-1
19) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 64, 177, 218, 14, 19-20, 183, 41, 191
20) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 64, 177, 218, 207, 215-6
21) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 130-1, 142, 206, 103, 113
22) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 130-1, 142, 206, 66-7, 76, 116, 125-6, 176, 181, 167, 170, 204
23) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 130-1, 142, 206, 66-7, 76, 116, 125-6, 15-7
24) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 61-3, 105-6, 117, 182, 56-7, 59, 13, 74-5, 82, 213, 130-1, 142, 25-6, 32-3
25) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 43, 48-9, 97, 107-8, 168-9, 172-3, 231, 160, 238-9
26) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 85-6, 10-2, 94-5, 132, 55, 70-1, 92-3, 98-9, 114-5, 83-4, 43, 48-9, 97, 107-8, 110-2, 31
27) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 72-3, 141, 80-1, 23, 60, 8
28) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 36-8, 50-1, 30, 184-5, 72-3, 141, 80-1, 23, 60, 138
29) 1-3, 6-7, 136-7, 9, 149-50, 156-7, 179-180, 174-5, 178, 245-6

Wasn't that difficult, just had to be systematic about it. Haha! Now it's back to Poet's Choice. Actually need to try finishing that book by tomorrow so that I can return it, otherwise I'll have to get another copy from some other library branch. It shouldn't be too difficult, if I can set aside a couple of hours in the early afternoon tomorrow, since the book, as I mentioned yesterday, is eminently readable. I'm actually giving serious thought to ordering a copy of Hirsch's book once I get back to the UK, that's how much I'm liking this book. Anyway, I was just about to vote for one of the suggested titles for the musical, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a way to give the title a sufficient twist to make it clear that our musical is not merely The Importance Of Being Earnest with songs. We should totally call it The Importance Of Being Honest. It sort of preserves the irony of the original, but giving it a slant more relevant to the actual plot of our musical. Bella's forwarded the e-mail with my suggestion to the rest of the team, so hopefully everyone else considers it as clever as I do!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Episode 330: Mixed Feelings

Script synopsis has been approved, so at least that's something to feel good about today. Did some Spanish as well. Discovered that Valentine is also actually a pretty nice show. Clichéd as hell, but hey, I don't always need my TV shows to be groundbreaking. Anyway, tonight I just wanted to say that friendship can be so tiring sometimes. Odds are if you're someone I know and reading this, I'm not actually talking about ours, so set your mind at ease. I think I'm about ready for summer to be over, never mind that it means heading back to abysmal English weather. Anyway, have started reading Edward Hirsch's Poet's Choice. After all, there's (almost) nothing quite so reliable as a book. A book asks little more than to be read, and even that request is easily denied. This book is good stuff though, simply because Hirsch's enthusiasm and passion for his chosen subject shines through, and it is hard not to be moved by some of the poems he has chosen to look at in his book, however briefly. So I think I'm just going to end off with one of the most beautiful poems I've read in a long while. Here's Blaga Dimitrova's 'Ars Poetica', translated by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman:

Write each of your poems
as if it were your last.
In this century, saturated with strontium,
charged with terrorism,
flying with supersonic speed,
death comes with terrifying suddenness.
Send each of your words
like a last letter before execution,
a call carved on a prison wall.
You have no right to lie,
no right to play pretty little games.
You simply won't have time
to correct your mistakes.
Write each of your poems,
tersely, mercilessly,
with blood - as if it were your last.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Episode 329: The Importance Of Being ???

Tentatively, that's the title of the new script that Bella, Yee Hung and I came up with during our lengthy MSN conversation. Was supposed to be a face-to-face one at Northpoint, but Bella had a fever, so we did everything online instead at my suggestion. Nearly got on the bus before I received her SMS about being sick! Anyway, I'm to produce a synopsis by Wednesday for dissemination to the rest of the team, after which the script will actually be written. This time, we're going to work smart and specifically state where songs are needed and what content they should cover, so that we don't have to deal with complaints that there isn't enough characterisation and depth. Plus it's a musical anyway, surely the songs are meant to be as important as (if not more so than) the spoken dialogue! That's something we kind of seemed to have forgotten in the process of hammering out the previous script. Hopefully, things'll go more smoothly this time. In other news, I've also finally finished the fourth unit of my Spanish course! Now to get on with the remaining eight before the end of the month, which I still think is entirely possible, even if the course as a whole hasn't been as useful as I thought it would be.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Episode 328: Mel's Historical Tea Party

Went for Mel's tea party today! Had initially planned on attending service after that, but since my family wasn't going to (presumably out of social responsibility), I elected to do likewise. Ended up staying really late anyway. I did make my cardboard cutouts for the rebus, the product being greeted with mixed reactions. I think the rebus was impressive, but the overall visual impact was decidedly underwhelming. Haha! The tea party itself was great fun though, so kudos to Mel for organising it. Sophie, if you're reading this, there was Pimm's! I was just snacking intermittently on the food throughout, which has now made me feel slightly guilty because I've probably busted my junk food quota for a few weeks. I did love Mel's lemon cake though. Will have to ask her for the recipe. It had just the right level of sourness to seduce the tastebuds. Ended up playing a few listless rounds of mahjong after almost everyone had gone, winding up with Thong and his tea ceremony. I maintain that he's really too young to already be interested in stuff like that, but it's Thong after all. We adjourned to Harry's@Orchard for a final drink, where there were loads of hookers and/or SPGs hanging around the (mostly white) men. Talk about tropical clichés!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Episode 327: Cousin's Wedding Dinner

Most of the day revolved around my cousin's wedding, with the unfortunate added inconvenience of my dad being out of action due to a case of influenza. So it was public transport the whole day! Went down to my aunt's place in the morning for the tea ceremony. I think it's a bit silly that to get to a place further down on a ring road, I've got to take a bus all the way to the interchange and switch to another one. God forbid that there actually be a bus that goes around the whole loop! Got back a bit too late to make it down to the musical meeting, but the word from Yee Hung is that rewriting is still demanded. Oh well. Like I didn't see that one coming. Spent the time before the wedding dinner catching up with my online Spanish lessons. Am slightly behind, but I should be able to meet my target of completing Spanish, then Italian, before heading back to the UK. Dinner was at Hotel Miramar, and it was a pretty standard affair, except for once, I got to sit at one of the head tables. Cheap thrill, but hey, the next time that's going to happen is probably at my own wedding, barring either of my sisters getting hitched before me. The table was bigger, the tablecloth was pink, and we were served using fancier bowls and dishes. That was about it, as far as I could tell.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Episode 326: The Great Enigma

So I've finally finished reading Tomas Tranströmer's The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. I'm not going to pretend that I understood most of it, although the imagery of the poetry was certainly evocative. I have a thing for haikus, so I particularly liked those. I am beginning to understand what Dan tweeted a while ago, about reading poetry rapidly and feeling like one hadn't fully absorbed it. Bear in mind that this is a book that I've been trying to read since about a year ago, so to have finished at all is, I feel, no small feat in itself. I can't help but wonder though, how much more I would understand if I had the leisure of time to analyse and ponder each poem. I will say that I found the short prose memoir appended at the end to be a much easier read than the rest of the collection put together. I suppose I'm a bit odd in the sense that I find it easier to read prose, but write poetry. I wouldn't necessarily say that in terms of reading either brings me more pleasure; there is a difference in the quality of the pleasure. That itself is an enigma worthy of some thought.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Episode 325: What Was Lost Will Now Be Found

Started off the day by spraying a cockroach to death because Audrey came into my room looking positively terrified. I'd apparently walked past it when I went to the toilet actually, but as I wasn't wearing my glasses, I had no idea what it was and just dismissed it as a piece of dirt. One of those occasions when ignorance truly is bliss, I guess. Have yet to finish the Tranströmer collection, but I'm getting there, steadily, and will say a little more about it when I'm done. I have managed to finish watching The Lost Room though, which has turned out to contain the perfect balance between answered and unanswered questions. Oddly enough, I could see someone taking the miniseries and creating a series of novels from it. Since that's not about to happen in the near future, the TV miniseries will have to do. Randomly, on my way home last night, I spotted Rachael Gan, that girl who insisted she was not an ah lian. Seems like she lives just down the road from me. Natalie says she didn't make it very far in the competition though. Too bad for her, if that's the case.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Episode 324: The Crucible

Paid a visit to the National Library again. Returned some stuff that I hadn't read (but which I will get out again the next time I get a chance) and got some new books out. A couple of experimental fiction novels, partly because I'm about to start reading Steve Tomasula's VAS: An Opera In Flatland and I'm interested in this category, whatever it actually means. Headed over to Central to meet Claudia and Eugene for tea, before going to see The Crucible. As it was the graduation production of SRT's The Young Co., one would expect a certain standard, if not outright perfection. Claudia and I both thought that the production was decent. Somewhat lacklustre initially, but improving steadily as time wore on. Eugene, as I expected, was snootier about the whole thing, claiming that he could have done better himself. Personally, I thought some of the accents could have been more consistent, and once that was sorted, a lot of the acting would have come across as more natural. I did love the set though, especially the dangling lanterns and how one of them just dropped down in the final scene to represent John Proctor's hanging. We ended off the night at IndoChine's The Forbidden City because we have such active social lives that we just had to get a nightcap. Really. Haha! I had an appalling cocktail though. The Spanish Fly. Tasted like cough syrup! I'm not sure which ingredient made it taste so weird, but I suspect it was the melon liqueur. What a waste of $16...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Episode 323: Yo Hablo Español

Like, seriously. I went through an entire unit of my online Spanish course. It is terribly repetitive after a while, but it does drum the simplest of grammatical structures and vocabulary into my head. I'm getting a bit tired of the software not recognising my pronunciation though, so I've started turning off the speech recognition component, which basically lets me skip through all the speaking bits of the course. See, I'm a little obsessed with getting 100% on each exercise, so this saves me the trouble of having to redo an exercise just because the software judged some mysterious quality to be absent from my voice! I'm planning to keep up this pace, one unit per day. At this rate, I'll definitely be able to finish both the Spanish and Italian courses before they expire. I also found time today to finish reading that book of anecdotes. I must say that I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of contemporary writers. What about Julian Barnes? A. S. Byatt? Kazuo Ishiguro? Edmund White? I'm a bit of a snob, so I really don't consider the inclusion of J. K. Rowling to constitute much in the way of contemporary literature, and find it a particularly stinging slap in the face of anyone who reads books that aren't meant to be turned into movies that the editor chose to end his collection of anecdotes with one concerning Rowling. I write this as someone who has never read any of her books, and is actually proud to say so. I will watch the films, but I refuse to read the books. Not out of what I personally consider would be a misguided sense of rectitude, but simply because I don't think they're worth reading. There, I've said it. I dare anyone to contradict me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Episode 322: Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Went out for lunch at Bussorah Street with Diego and the Humanities people. I ordered ayam penyet without knowing exactly what it was, apart from that it had chicken in some form. Turned out to be a good choice in the end! The others headed off to Geylang for durians, while I doubled back to try and find the bus stop along Victoria Street that 980 stops at. After several failed attempts, I gave up and walked slightly further down to the bus stop outside Fu Lu Shou Complex at Rochor Road, since I knew for certain that 980 passes by that stop. So I finally managed to make it to Uncle Pak Chee's house for Ethan's birthday party. Got there before Hui Juan and Sarah, and ironically, I passed by the area where Hui Juan was supposed to pick Sarah up, but the latter was tardy, as usual. Ended up spending the rest of the day there because we were invited to stay for dinner, so I've actually only just got home. Estoy cansado! Still need to see about getting tickets to the Wednesday performance of The Crucible, since Claudia and Eugene have both reconfirmed their interest. Think I'll get around to doing that tomorrow. Hopefully, the tickets won't have sold out by then!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Episode 321: I Didn't. Did You?

This year was one of the few when I didn't watch the parade, except for the closing bits. Couldn't be helped because my parents stayed back after service to practise for an item, but if I'd been at home, I wouldn't have watched the parade on TV anyway. I guess now I'm just a bit too detached in the way that I look at NDP, so I don't feel like I'm missing out terribly if I don't see the parade. Then there was the whole business about getting everyone to recite the pledge at 8.22 pm. My dad actually did, even though we were already at home by then. I spent most of the car ride home idly speculating on whether Singaporeans in various situations would drop everything just for 30 seconds to do that. I'm not sure whether or not this exercise is actually meaningful. Intuitively, it sounds wonderful. Singaporeans all across the island (and the world) coming together for a brief moment, united by our affirmation of the words of the pledge. Yet if you start thinking about it, why is it that we only make a big deal about the pledge on National Day? How about the other 364/365 days of the year? Are we living out the meaning of the pledge? As for all those people happily taking the pledge overseas, I'm not denying that it demonstrates a connection to our country. I would like to know though, just how many of these people could have flown back for National Day, but didn't. I guess you could say that I'm a quiet patriot. I'm proud of my country; I just don't see how encouraging me to say the pledge at 8.22 pm is supposed to make me feel prouder.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Episode 320: Roaring Twenties Dinner Party

The theme for Mel's dinner party was the Roaring Twenties, but since men's fashion hasn't drastically changed since that era, I just wore a long-sleeved shirt and my Ted Baker waistcoat. My only concession to contemporary fashion? That skinny tie from Topman. The final look is devastatingly sharp, at least for me. Makes me look like the frontman of some up-and-coming 'it' band. Haha! It's completely horrid to be out and about wearing this outfit in Singapore though, due to the humidity. I was roasting on the way to Mel's house and back. Dinner was a strictly vegetarian affair, but it was delicious all the same, so kudos to Eugene, Mel and Vaish for putting everything together for all of us! As for how my reading's going, I'm still making my way through that book of anecdotes. Am close to being done, after which I'll get back to Tomas Tranströmer's poetry. Have an intriguing book waiting for me after that, but I'll blog about it when I've started reading it. It's one of those works where content and design attain a synergistic state, so I'm quite excited to read the thing, having had my eye on it in the National Library for a long time now.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Episode 319: Class Gathering

About a third of the class came to the gathering at Rui Min's place, which I guess is pretty good, considering it's been four years since graduation and some absences couldn't be helped in the first place. Surprisingly, I was the first to arrive, despite thinking that I was going to be fashionably late and taking a wrong turn after getting off the bus and crossing the overhead bridge. A couple of people were going off to party, so it was pretty much just dinner and chitchat before they had to be off. I meant to bring that book of anecdotes out, but changed my mind in the end. I'm finding it just a bit tedious to get through it at present, but that's partly my fault for coming to it with too high expectations. I was looking to be entertained by wit bursting from every page, but what I'm getting instead is more of an assortment of random bits of trivia. To be fair, there are occasional moments of amusement, but not of the laugh-out-loud variety. I actually thought of giving up on the book and moving on to something else (there're plenty of choices piled on my table, not counting what I'm planning to read for next year's modules), but have elected to soldier on manfully and finish what I've started. Haha! Just hope there aren't any other duds in my pile from the library, especially that book about food and drink that sounded literarily (and literally) scrumptious.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Episode 318: Mahjong!

Went over to Eugene's place for a mahjong session with Ben Woon and Patrick. I got off lightly as the smallest loser, since Eugene won a good deal of everyone's money. We had to play three-player mahjong before Ben arrived, and I'd forgotten how easy it was to make combinations when only three people are playing. I also didn't know that McDonald's has a lunchtime promotion with prices that have never been seen since I was in my early teens. Have just found out that The Crucible is being staged at the SRT next week, but there's almost no chance that I'll be able to see it. Warwick party on Wednesday, Alpha on Friday, cousin's wedding on Saturday. My only free evening'll be Thursday! Does anyone want to catch The Crucible with me? I don't desperately have to see it, but it would be nice to pay a visit to the theatre again before leaving Singapore. Maybe Shirley's right. I should just plan to catch something in September instead. There's a couple of really cool exhibitions that I want to go to as well, but I doubt I will end up doing so, since I don't feel like going down alone and my dad's not free to drive me down. Sigh...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Episode 317: Ennui Assails

Went to get a haircut today, and then had sinfully oily KFC for lunch. It was fried, and it was good. Okay, not really, but every so often, I feel the need to clog up my arteries. (Why is it just arteries? Do the veins have some special biological self-cleaning mechanism? Or is this purely a figure of speech?) I spent the entire afternoon playing meaningless games of Civilization IV. I say meaningless because I've never bothered to become any good at the game, so I just set it on the easiest difficulty setting and use it to while away the hours. It sounds a bit pathetic, I know, but I needed a change from staring at poems on a page. Am finding it really hard to read Tranströmer, in case you're wondering. Watched The Hand That Rocks The Cradle on mio TV after dinner, but on fast-forward because it was really predictable, and my mum and I basically figured out what the plot was going to be after 15 minutes. Started on a new book as well, The New Oxford Book Of Literary Anecdotes, edited by John Gross. It's quite entertaining, so I think I'll take that for the bus ride to Eugene's house tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Episode 316: Rewriting's Done!

Today has been filled with various minor accomplishments. To begin with, I finished reading The Devil's Blind Spot: Tales From The New Century. The short stories in this book draw on historical characters and events, and they make for pretty compelling reading. All this gives me hope that someday I will actually develop a love for the discipline of history. (No offence to all the historians who might be reading this blog.) So from that, I've moved on to reading Tomas Tranströmer's The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems. Then I went back to RJC to give a quick talk to the current batch of Humanities students. It just blows my mind that the campus is still undergoing renovation! Now there's even a covered walkway from the main building to a side gate that opens on an entrance to the Marymount MRT station. Kids these days have it so good! I'm still terrible at spontaneous public speaking. Dyed my hair when I got home, so now it's dark brown, which you can sort of see when the angle of the light is right. Most significant thing accomplished though, was finishing my edits and additions, and sending everything off to Yee Hung for him to add his stuff. Took me way less time than I thought it would, and left me wondering why in the world I was procrastinating to begin with! I've also demonstrated to my satisfaction that I have a better memory than my mum when it comes to remembering where my stuff is. First the receipt for my MOE claim, now my KrisFlyer membership card. Both claimed to be in my room, both discovered in hers. Haha...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Episode 315: Procrastination Is An Art Form

Made use of mio TV today to watch Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Dialogue was a bit clunky, but plot was a standard affair, even the part where the male lead dies in an act of noble self-sacrifice. So yeah, I kind of wasted nearly two hours of my life on that. I have a soft spot for the Final Fantasy franchise though, simply because Final Fantasy VIII was the first RPG that I played. That and my parents disapproving of its imagery. Anyway, I woke up today, sat down in front of my laptop, and within five minutes, I figured out the gist of what I'll be talking about tomorrow. It's all laid out in point form in a PowerPoint presentation, which I will hopefully not actually need, just because I kind of hate Powerpoint. Now that that's sorted out in my head, I can spend Tuesday evening and beyond on the script. I'm procrastinating not because the rewriting I'll need to do to accommodate the recommended changes is substantial, but it's scattered throughout all the scenes I had a hand in scripting, so the task feels somehow bigger than it actually is. So instead of getting on with it, I've been reading. Ostensibly, my excuse for that is that all this reading is going to spontaneously erupt as pages and pages of writing next term, but hey, who am I kidding? In slightly less important news, Threadless is having a sale again, but I refuse to be tempted! Do you hear me? I will not allow myself to spend more money that I don't have! I am turning over a new leaf. It's temporarily imposed by necessity, but with time, it may transform into something self-perpetuating. I hope.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Episode 314: Need Motivation...

So I'm going back to RJC on Tuesday to talk about university and stuff. Have no idea what I'm going to say. Uh, Varsity Warwick has cheap drinks on Thursday nights? Costcutter does not actually cut your costs? Will have to give this some thought tomorrow because I don't think I'm that good at improvisation. I'll even be slightly paranoid and whip up a quick PowerPoint presentation, just in case. Once that's done, I'll start work on the script. I tried to start on that poem I had an idea for yesterday, but the first couple of lines started to sound like a prose piece, so now I'm kind of torn between making it a prose piece with an observer judging from the sidelines, or leaving it as a poem. On a side note, I'm almost done ripping Eugene Chan's DVDs! Had to give up on one because there were just too many errors, and my laptop would just overheat and shut down anyway. Everything else has gone fine though. I have yet to start running regularly, or at all for that matter. Some nights I wish I had something more insightful to say here, but it's so much easier to hide behind a book instead. Besides, if you're reading this, you'd better have spoken to me in real life at least once.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Episode 313: The Library Is My New Best Friend!

Today, while I was on my way to church for singing practice, I suddenly had an idea for my next poem. The central image is going to feature one of my worst habits: taking my handphone out and pretending to check a non-existent SMS. I promise that the poem's going to be better than it sounds right now. Was at the library again, this time in Queenstown. Come to think of it, I've been going to the library so often that I haven't actually read anything for next year's modules. I've finished reading Iambus, The Enclosure Of Love and Means To An End, all by Toh Hsien Min. You can definitely see a stylistic evolution, moving away from strict rhymes in his first collection, to looser, more relaxed forms in the subsequent collections. My next comment is going to sound completely facetious, but I'm being quite serious when I say that I like how many of his poems are fairly lengthy. You just don't get that very often in contemporary Singaporean poetry. Not that length necessarily correlated with quality, but after reading some Singaporean poetry, I'm left wondering if all the poet meant to give me was a couple of images that don't seem to add up to something more. I suppose the word I'm looking for shouldn't be 'length', but rather 'density'. I'm suddenly very tempted to buy his three collections, should I see them in a bookstore.

As for the rest of the books I've been discovering at various libraries in Singapore, I will blog about them as and when I get around to actually reading them. I have this terrible habit of borrowing books and then finding myself incapable of sitting down to concentrate on them. Am getting slightly better at it now though, so that's a good sign. I've just finished Look At My Striped Shirt! This is a somewhat amusing read from the people at I had to say 'somewhat' because it starts out a real hoot, but given the brand of humour being employed, there's only so much you can take before it all becomes somewhat repetitive. The tagline, 'Target. Observe. Ridicule.' is pretty much a summation of the book's purpose, in which it succeeds, for better or worse. By the way, my dad is slightly concerned that I bought The 48 Laws Of Power. It's not like I'm suddenly out to take over the world or anything! I just thought it would be, you know, useful. That and the historical anecdotes make for rather interesting reading. Next book I'm cracking open is that book of Alexander Kluge short stories I was blogging about yesterday. After that, time for some more poetry, I think. At some point in the coming week, I'm going to edit my bits of the musical script.