Thursday, December 31, 2009

Episode 465: Payback's A Bitch

If you believe in karma, today's events illustrate it perfectly. After an excellent (and somewhat productive) yesterday, today has been one disaster after another. It started with me waking up to discover that some episodes of Smallville hadn't downloaded properly. As a result, many duplicate files had been created on my external hard drive. I deleted them, thinking all would be fine, and for a while, it was. Until I realised that the thumbnail previews on all the videos were going wonky, which I've found is always a bad sign. Lo and behold, the hard drive went into meltdown. Since this was a logical rather than physical failure, I had some hope that I could resurrect the drive. Thus ensued an afternoon spent in unfruitful attempts to do just that. I managed to find free software that could retrieve the files. I even found something that claimed to be able to repair the partitions on the drive. Lies, all lies. The retrieved files were unplayable, and the partitions refused to be repaired. So just before I left for Jemma's party, in a desperate last attempt, I turned off my laptop and rebooted the hard drive. Hey presto, it's working again! While I'm glad for that, I'm also kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner. Apparently, unplugging wasn't enough because that's the very first thing that I tried. Sigh...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Episode 464: A Good Day To Be Alive

What a day! First up, my iPod Classic has arrived, and it turns out that it's thinner than my U2 iPod, which really surprised me. I'm just waiting for the Ted Baker leather case I ordered off Amazon UK to arrive before I start using this new iPod. Can't wait! Then my Christopher Priest books and Logitech speakers arrived, delivered by someone who had driven all the way from Leamington and was thus somewhat annoyed that I'd taken a few seconds too long to answer the door. You're getting cross with me because you drove all the way from Leamington when it's your job to deliver the parcel to me? Are you serious? Whatever. I've realised that I'm missing the adapter tray that's meant to be used with iPods, as whoever packed this set of speakers decided to put in two iPod nano trays instead. I could send it all back to Amazon for an exchange, but part of me honestly doesn't think it's worth the trouble. Not when I'm hardly going to use that function. I mean, I bought the speakers to plug them into my laptop, from which I can play music just fine as well. Am going to return one of the Priest books though, as it's too badly creased for something that's meant to be brand new. I blame whoever packaged this parcel, since there was practically no sort of padding in the box apart from a few crumpled pieces of paper. Normally, you'd expect the whole thing to be filled with bubble wrap. Has the recession hit Amazon that badly? The last parcel to arrive was filled with my stuff from Diesel. The jeans did not disappoint, and the two pairs of trainers are definitely a steal at the price that I paid, which was about a third of their original retail price. I foresee a lot of heartache when I wear the white pair, as they'll surely get dirty the moment I step out of the house. Finally, to top off an epic day, I did a little bit of work and wrote another poem. This time, less of a straightforward imitation and more of an artistic homage, I like to think.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Episode 463: Travel Plans (Temporarily) Shelved

Have finally started on my work by doing an imitation of Sharon Olds's 'The Unborn'. Was going to carry on with something in the vein of either Thom Gunn or Philip Larkin, but as I can't make up my mind, I'm putting it off till tomorrow. Will probably end up going with Larkin, even though I like Gunn's poetry better. Went onto campus this afternoon to help Mel return books to the Library, and then I hit Iceland and Tesco to stock up on food. I believe that I've bought enough to feed myself until the end of the holidays, and possibly beyond. Bought some creamy coleslaw from Tesco to try it out, which was an ill-advised decision, as the whole thing tastes too sour for my liking. Forced myself to eat half of it at dinner. Will do so again at lunch tomorrow, but it'll have to be accompanied by more palatable fare. As for Easter travel plans, I'm beginning to reconsider if the USA is really such a good choice, in light of the new security measures that have recently been put in place after the latest failed attempt to blow up an aeroplane. Although word is that these measures are now being relaxed, I'm not going to firm up any plans until I know for sure what the situation is like. No way am I paying that kind of money to fly across the Atlantic just to be treated like a potential terrorist while in the air. It already ticks me off that the immigration people at Heathrow always talk to me like I'm some suspicious character, even when all I'm doing is telling them that I'm a university student. Some people really need to lose the attitude.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Episode 462: Am I Developing Healthy Sleeping Patterns At Last?

Woke up really early today, before it was even 8 am. Have been online practically the entire time since, except for a brief span when I was making lunch. Did have more food in the house than I'd remembered, but will still be heading to Cannon Park tomorrow to stock up, after I return Mel's books. Had meant to do work today, which is still a possibility at this point, although I think I'm just going to spend the time reading, once I finish watching Stardust. Claire Dane's lines in it are actually pretty funny. Have already decided that my first poem of 21 is going to be a straightforward imitation, probably of something by Sharon Olds. Have done the substitution thing once before, on Carol Ann Duffy's 'Valentine', which was a class exercise Mr Purvis set. I re-read my effort today, and while I can see some interesting images, some parts don't quite gel together once I think of the poem as a logical whole. Will have to do better this time. By which I mean tomorrow evening, of course. Discovered a new boyband today. They're called Vice, and their first single, 'Bounce', is just unconventional enough for a boyband debut to interest me. Less formulaic than V Factory's 'Love Struck', that's for sure.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Episode 461: Banished To Coventry Once More

Train back to Heathrow took way longer than it should have, but the coach ended up being slightly delayed anyway. Had to make do with sandwiches for lunch instead of the fast food that I always seem to crave when I'm in London. Should've detoured to that McDonald's outside Shepherd's Bush before boarding the Tube yesterday! So here I am, back in Coventry, where the weather feels abysmal even though I've missed the snow (for now). The only thing that keeps me cheerful is the thought of all the books and electronic goodness coming my way over the next week or so. I really hope the speakers are good this time. I have high hopes as they are from Logitech, and are proper full-sized speakers. Have begun work, sort of. Re-read most of the handouts for EN232 on the ride back from London. Am resisting temptation to turn out a portfolio that essentially reproduces endless imitations of that Daniil Kharms story I liked so much. Not saying that I won't include it, or something similar, but it would be very boring if that was all the portfolio consisted of. Am also considering reusing the character of Henrietta. I've already written two stories featuring her, and I think I've got a pretty good grasp of what's going on in her head, so that could go to interesting places. Then there's part of me that just wants to be boldly experimental and do a House Of Leaves, except in 4000 words. It would have to be very, very brilliantly executed though...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Episode 460: Boxing Day Sales

Went to Oxford Circus with Derrick to have a look at the Boxing Day sales. Surprisingly, I didn't buy much. Just two more Topman t-shirts (because they were green) and a new wallet (because my old one has a split seam I never bothered to sew). Need to be more prudent with my expenditure if I'm going to make that trip to the USA. Travel agent has replied to my e-mail inquiry, so I'm literally an e-mail away from being headed across the Atlantic come Easter vacation. Have until the end of January to book if I want a 5% discount, which I obviously do! Shall ask my parents what they think before committing. Attraction of the tour is that everything's taken care of, and STA Travel is reputable enough that I trust them to handle things, even in the UK. I mean, even the tickets to fly there and back can be booked through them at the same time, and all I have to do is cough up the money. (£100 deposit for the tour, remainder payable by February.) Tempting, isn't it? Especially since I'm not operating on the tightest of budgets at the moment, and the itinerary of the tour pretty much fulfils my objective of seeing as much of the USA in as little time as possible. There are very few places in the world that I actually want to visit, let alone within the USA in particular. Said tour has a minimum of one full day in most of them, and terminates in New York, where I may linger on a few more days, depending on whether anyone offers to let me crash at their place.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Episode 459: Merry Christmas!

Since it's Christmas, I decided to do something really useful and catch up Piled Higher & Deeper, a webcomic that's been helping me survive academic life by procrastinating, although I'm not even a graduate student yet. So that's one more webcomic that I'm completely up-to-date on! Reading it kind of makes you despair of ever making progress in the world of academia though. Just a little. Especially since I'm a Humanities major. Nearly stayed up till midnight to read 'The Tain', but I gave up with about 20 pages to go and have yet to get back to it today, due to aforementioned browsing of webcomics. Will do it after I finish watching the new Doctor Who special, which I'm really excited about. The Ood still creep me out horribly though. Also, I'm not sure what Series 5 is going to be like, given that this final pair of specials seems to be tying all the threads of the past four together into one big emotional climax. I suppose fans of Doctor Who are just going to have to keep an open mind, even if David Tennant was an awesome Doctor with a wardrobe I would kill for. Speaking of which, I'm hoping to pick up some stuff tomorrow, if I can survive squeezing through the Boxing Day crowds. Will have to restrain myself, as I've just bought another load of books and am also planning for a tour of the USA during Easter vacation. Now that is exciting.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Episode 458: Empty Plane...

Flight was really empty today, had the entire row of four seats to myself. Should have seized the opportunity to actually get proper sleep while lying down, but ended up watching five movies instead: The Ugly Truth, Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, The Host, Four Christmases, and About A Boy. Think I actually only slept for 30 minutes throughout the entire flight. Rest of the time, I was reading China Miéville's Looking For Jake. Managed to get through all of the stories in there except for the novella at the end, 'The Tain', so I'll probably finish that tomorrow. I really, really liked a couple of the stories in the book, and even those that didn't endear themselves to me as much had sufficiently offbeat premises to make them interesting anyway. Anyway, I found The Ugly Truth slightly odd because its a typical romantic comedy plot, but I just can't imagine Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl as a screen couple. Having seen Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, I don't get why Megan Fox gets so much flak. In a show that required minimal acting, she didn't seem any worse than the rest of the cast. In fact, I found Shia LaBeouf more insufferable. Overall though, too much metal crashing around, and it wasn't even that visually appealing. The Host was good until it reached the ending, which was very unsatisfactory because it didn't directly address the implications of its opening scene! Four Christmases began promisingly, but descended into a formulaic, rushed ending, albeit with a slightly more believable screen pairing of Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon. So I guess you could say that I found About A Boy the most satisfying film of the lot. It's quite funny to see how Nicholas Hoult's facial expressions haven't changed between playing 12-year-old Marcus in the film and playing Tony on Skins, five years later. I also now have a renewed appreciation for Hugh Grant's abilities as a comic actor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Episode 457: Thwarted

Since it's my last full day in Singapore, I decided to give G. W. Dahlquist's The Dark Volume another go, and once I got past the first 150 pages or so, it actually kind of started to pick up! Although I've heard that by the end, nevertheless, nothing much has been accomplished by either the good or bad guys, which seems like a blatant attempt by Dahlquist to spin a two-book deal with his publisher into a trilogy, something that I doubt is going to happen, given the comparatively dismal sales of the two books. A shame, since the first one was pretty interesting. Anyway, disaster struck when I dropped the book into a pail of water. Looks like I won't be finishing it tonight. Was halfway into the novel, and could probably have finished it, but I guess there's no point now. So there goes my goal of reading one book for every day that I've been back in Singapore, foiled on the last day. I guess I'll just make do with having read this short story by Steve Rasnic Tem that I found online, 'The Bereavement Photographer'. The premise is interesting, but I think he hasn't taken it as far as it can go, even for a short story. Maybe I could write a story based on the same premise, but twist it in a way I think works better, and then stick it in my as-yet non-existent portfolio?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Episode 456: Books Packed!

I know I'm a bit late on this, but I've just finished reading Patrick Süskind's Perfume. It strikes me as a very sensual book, in the vein of books like Joanne Harris's Chocolat or Andrew Lindsay's The Breadmaker's Carnival, except it chooses to concentrate exclusively on the sense of smell and what it evokes. John E. Woods's translation is a breezy read, and towards the end, the unravelling of the plot is chillingly inexorable. Now I feel like seeing the film. Incidentally, the video for Mylène Farmer's 'Dégénération' appears to be conceptually inspired by the climactic orgy that Grenouille inspires in the novel. The song itself is the sort of techno-inflected pop that I really like, but I don't think I'm about to rush out and get the album it's on, even if YouTube has proved that the other songs are pretty much in the same vein. Have also packed the books I'm bringing back, and of the ones I was deliberating over, I'm only bringing Only Revolutions, as I managed to find a pdf version of House Of Leaves, which was terribly exciting. It's a proper, scanned version of the book, painstaking work. I am, however, now bringing Elliot Perlman's Three Dollars and The Reasons I Won't Be Coming.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Episode 455: Avatar

Even though I had to wake up really early today to be on time for Avatar with Ben Woon, I stayed up till a ridiculous hour reading Turn Coat, the latest novel of The Dresden Files. In my opinion, this is a series that was practically written for TV, and the cancellation of the TV adaptation is a mistake that rivals the cancellation of Dollhouse. I mean, come on, Jim Butcher has three different types of vampires, wizards and werewolves in the books. That and Paul Blackthorne was the perfect Harry Dresden. If I ever write a book, I want to write a book that people will enjoy the way that I enjoy The Dresden Files. I don't care that it's basically one urban fantasy among many, I like the books very, very much. (I actually think one of the reasons I have a slight knack for writing in an engaging first-person voice is that that's what The Dresden Files is written in, and I've (sub)consciously incorporated it into my own work.) Also finished reading Baricco's City, which I can't make up my mind about. Its technique is interesting, although at certain points, the lack of linearity in the narration is very jarring, but in a way that is consistent with the content at those points, so it's less a flaw than a personal preference at work here. I don't know. Gould's boxing story just didn't work for me, although Shatzy's Western was brilliant at the very end in a Borgesian manner. Anyone else read Baricco and care to discuss this further?

So anyway, Avatar wasn't a disappointment. I will admit to not being bowled over by the 3D aspect, which I kind of stopped noticing after a quarter of an hour (or was that the point?), so I'm still not convinced it's the future of the film industry. (It's not like 3D hasn't been around for decades in one form or another anyway!) I will say though that Avatar is so transparently anti-war and pro-environment, it would actually be quite painful to sit through if the story in which James Cameron had seeded these ideas weren't so appealing on a fundamental level. The thing is, you clearly can tell he's relying on very basic cultural tropes to manipulate your feelings, but you still can't help being drawn into the film, insanely lush rainforest-like environment notwithstanding. The visual effects are gorgeous, although Pandora must have a significantly lower gravity, as everything looks kind of stretched out on that moon. I can totally see this becoming a film franchise, which as I understand, is Cameron's intention, should the first film be successful. To end on a somewhat irrelevant note, am I the only one who thinks that Sam Worthington looks a little like Christian Bale? (Uncanny, considering how they appeared together in Terminator Salvation.) A more regular, less intense version of Bale, if you know what I mean. Doesn't he?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Episode 454: Too Fragmented For Its Own Good

Re-reading Lucy Tan's collection, 108 Fragments..., has given me another idea for the form my poetry portfolio this year or my personal writing project next year could take. Notwithstanding this fact, it is still an appalling piece of work. Granted, the first poem already makes no excuses for itself:

These are lines
to bait your attention,
Perhaps even affection.
No lyrical poetry,
no grandoise prose,
pedestrian verse
or even plain doggerel.
Just a kaleidescope
of words
to freeze
one moment,
one emotion
in one life,
not always
on a page.

To me, this first poem sums up everything that's right and wrong about the collection. Let's start with the lazy, or shall we say, non-existent editing. In poetry, where every word should count, she manages to misspell two, and to no apparent artistic effect. Lady, get a dictionary already. This happens elsewhere in the collection. She forgets the acute accent in Estée Lauder, but remembers the diaeresis in Häagen-Dazs (although she forgets the hypen). It's not that I want to be picky, but greater consistency would have been nice. It's almost as if the collection had been written by one of the nouveaux riches, pretentious, but with traces of value in it nevertheless. For there are moments of cleverness in 108 Fragments..., like the internal rhyme that crops up so frequently, or some of the images that are haiku-like in their compactness. Trouble is, many of these free verse poems (for they are implicitly marked as such by two of the poems within the collection) would have worked far better as terse aphorisms, rather than being broken up pointlessly across several lines. The final thing that irked me about the collection was the insistence in this opening poem, 'one moment, / one emotion / in one life, / not always / mine, / on a page.' Yes, I get it. You're writing poems about lovers and missed connections and middle-aged women and younger men and you're terrified that your readers are going to read each poem autobiographically. So you deny it in the opening, you deny it on the first printed page [.....(figments?) / of lives / lived / (mostly) / vicariously], but honestly, do you think your readers are that dumb as to automatically assume every poem is coming from a fragment of your own life? I think I'm getting a bit too snarky here, but it just irritates me, this insecurity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Episode 453: Can I Still Write A Vampire TV Series?

Have decided to finish off the last Baricco novel I've got, City. I'm fairly confident it's about as anti-narrative as you can get without actually being anti-narrative. Won't be able to finish it today because it's a bit lengthier than his other works that I've been reading lately. Anyway, if it wasn't official before, the vampire pop culture craze is officially too self-referential for its own good. After having The Vampire Diaries slag off Twilight and its glittering pretty boys, which earned its major points from me, now science fiction series Sanctuary, whose vampirism has always been a sort of understated but central piece of its plot, has premiered an episode in which True Blood and, get this, Obama are explicitly referenced. Where will it all end? Crossover arcs between all shows with vampires in them? Let's just throw in Anne Rice's novels, the Blade and Underworld trilogies while we're at it. You're right, Laura, I can't write a TV series about vampires. I'm too late. Utterly devastated now. Although, what about a Gossip Girl-style show? Snarky vampires living it up in a glamorous city? Twilight hasn't got enough snark; The Vampire Diaries and True Blood aren't set in the most exciting of cities. Looks like there's hope for me after all...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Episode 452: The Necessity Of Beauty

I frittered away the day playing Granado Espada. I did, however, manage to finish reading Baricco's An Iliad, which I read because I'm a wimp and dare not read the original, even in translation. So yeah, I read an English translation of Baricco's reworking of an Italian translation of the Greek verse original. Come to think of it, that's actually along the lines of what we're studying in EN273. Baricco freely admits that he has had to condense the original, since his text was originally created to be read aloud. This is where it gets even more interesting. He's also added material, which is italicised to differentiate it from the Homeric elements, but which he views as being implicit in Homer's work. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the characters in The Iliad, which has the effect (for me at least) of personalising the Trojan War. Baricco also talks about how The Iliad celebrates the beauty of war, while preserving within itself an alternative voice that looks to a society in which humanity has weaned itself off war, and by extension, its beauty. Baricco believes that the human race at this point in time has never been in a better position to have the beauty of art supplant that of war. I am not sure that I agree with him, although I agree with the basic idea that the beauty of war lies in its intensity, and it is this intensity of experience that we crave as human beings. Unfortunately, I would suggest that on the whole, a divide has been steadily opening between two camps of people, i.e. those who would claim and spread the beauty of art, and those who would cling to the terrible, terrifying beauty of war, and at this point in our collective history, the gap is wider than ever before.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Episode 451: A Touch Of Nostalgia

Is it weird that having finished reading The Secret History, whose main characters play out events at a time in their lives that actually corresponds to mine, I instead find myself nostalgic for the two years I spent in RJC, before I even knew where I would be headed for university? Not that I ever had an ultra-charismatic Classics professor, nor did I indulge in ancient Greek bacchanals and murder people. Have you ever had that feeling that there are parts of life no one else will fully appreciate or understand unless they were the ones who shared it with you? In a warped way, that's the crux of this novel (and by extension, the two years it takes me back to). I already feel that way about my university years, and they're not even over yet. It's a curious admixture of relish and regret, and it's also, I think, why people who've lived abroad for any extended period of time never truly 'go home'. Some of us do, I guess, the ones who get homesick and are glad to exchange the awfulness of one weather for the mugginess of another. Me? I'm guilty of sentimentality, but buried so deep that usually I pretend it's not there. You know what? It's just occurred to me that I miss the UK more when I'm in Singapore than I miss Singapore when I'm in the UK. On some level, I think it has to do with which location dominates my pattern of life at this point. (Note to self: Don't come back at all next Christmas, even if it means holidaying in some random place by yourself.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Episode 450: The Bibliophile, On The Prowl

Trip to Borders and Kinokuniya proved fruitful, although was very irritated in the latter with these group of girls talking shop and obstructing the shelves that I needed to browse through. At Borders, discovered that Christopher Priest's novels have been reissued by Gollancz in quite attractive editions, so will be ordering those off Amazon UK when I get back to Coventry. Also decided to buy the American Del Rey editions of China Miéville's books. Thankfully, The Book Depository does free international shipping from both its American and British websites, so as long as they don't screw up the editions like the last time, I'll be satisfied. (This will, of course, come in very handy once I'm back in Singapore permanently.) Also bought two books by Charles Baxter, completely on impulse, persuaded by the glowing praise on the back, and the fact that they are Vintage International editions. Read through Yong Shu Hoong's second collection dowhile, and then finished off Ocean Sea. Slightly disappointed by how that novel turned out. It's divided into three parts, each of which is brilliant in its own right, but when put together, somehow don't add up to more than the sum of their parts, at least not for me. Naturally, there are meaningful connections established between them, but these don't seem to provide a satisfactory conclusion to the characters' journeys. In other news, have made the harsh decision not to bring Mark Z. Danielewski's books back with me, nor Robert Greene's manuals on how to gain power, seduce, and wage warfare, much as all of these books display intriguing marriages of content and form. Might change my mind again at the last minute, although only one of the two sets will be permitted to follow me back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Episode 449: The Dilemma Of The Bibliophile

Didn't manage to finish reading a book today, said book being Baricco's Ocean Sea. It is a dreamy work, behind whose plot lurks a palpable pattern, but the purpose of said pattern is as yet unclarified. There is definitely something going on with typography in this novel, whose paragraphs frequently flow across curious indentations, like a series of waves. Meanwhile, I'm still reading The Secret History, although that's definitely going to take longer than I thought. Really want to finish it though, since that's the whole reason I brought it back with me to Singapore. Am thinking of going to Borders tomorrow, and may end up bringing some of the books I buy back to England, so it's imperative I don't get tempted to bring any back that I'd intended to leave here. The dilemmas of a bibliophile. Caught up with the most recent episodes of Lie To Me and then tried to watch a new miniseries, Alice, but after about 20 minutes, I elected to do this some other time. I'm sure the miniseries is an interesting couple of hours, but I just wasn't feeling it so far and couldn't be bothered to stay up late this time. I guess the science fiction elements didn't kick in quickly enough for me and the cast at first glance wasn't devastatingly attractive, so this one's going on the back burner for now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Episode 448: Camera Sent In, So Now I Wait

Dad drove me down to the Canon service centre in Keppel Bay Tower. Have left instructions to rush the repair, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll be done in time. Otherwise, I'll just swap cameras with my dad. Anyway, today's book was Alessandro Baricco's Without Blood. I love reading continental European writers in translation, partly because the results always seem musical to me, although how much of that is due to the inherent nature of the original languages and how much to the actual content of the writing is difficult for me to disentangle. I'll admit that Baricco was an author whose books I initially purchased entirely on the basis that Vintage published them, but having read Silk over the summer, and now, Without Blood, I can safely say I don't regret that choice. May try to squeeze in time to read one of his longer novels before I fly back, either Ocean Sea or City. For now though, am re-reading Donna Tartt's The Secret History, before moving on to The Little Friend. I think I first read the former in JC, when Liling lent me her copy. I loved it then, but re-reading it now, as someone going through the same stage of life as the main characters, it's setting up resonances that the novel couldn't have had for me before. In particular, I see bits of myself in Richard Papen that chime disconcertingly with things that I've felt, about class, privilege, university life, etc. In any case, it's really a novel that bears re-reading well. Am looking forward to her third novel too, although slightly annoyed that she's switched publishers, which is going to disrupt my nice collection on the shelf.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Episode 447: Still Horribly Sleepy...

Am still really sleepy, but I also really want to watch the latest double episodes of Dollhouse! Appear to be succeeding with my one-book-a-day goal, since I'm just about to finish reading Sarah Kane's Complete Plays. They are intensely brutal and punishing, but at the same time, also beautifully poetic. I like how some of the stage directions would clearly be impossible to achieve in a strictly naturalistic staging, and it really makes me want to see the plays, just to know how the directors handle these. Can't remember if I've ever talked to Bella about Kane's work before, but I think it's a discussion that I should remind myself to have at some point. Have also been reading This Book Will Change Your Life, which is a sort of compilation of the best moments from the past six years of This Diary Will Change Your Life. It's wacky and downright insane in some parts, but a whole lot of fun to read. I imagine some people might even actually do the things recommended in the book. I know some of my friends definitely would. I read another book from Benrik before flying back, Lose Weight! Get Laid! Find God!, which basically takes the diaries' philosophy and applies it to a year-by-year guide for living, from ages 0 to 100. Once again, completely bonkers, but hilarious too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Episode 446: Watched So Many Films...

This time, I spent almost the entire flight watching films. Started with La Habitación De Fermat (Fermat's Room), a Spanish thriller in which a group of mathematicians must stop a room from crushing them alive by solving a series of logico-mathematical enigmas. The premise is clever, and sounds like it would be right at home in a collection of Borges's stories, but as a film, its plot suffers because the hidden connections between the characters are revealed too glibly, and it becomes hard to suspend your disbelief by the end. Watched The Time Traveler's Wife next, as I really loved the novel and regretted not seeing the film adaptation when it was on earlier this year. I'll admit to nearly shedding a tear at the doomed love story, and I'm glad that they didn't change the ending into some Hollywood cliché where everyone lives happily ever after, although I think they should have stuck to a final meeting when Clare's in her old age, rather than just a couple of years after Henry's death. Did find myself pondering the logical inconsistencies of time travel in the film, but if you scrutinise it too closely, it just falls apart and you can't enjoy it anymore. Kind of like The Lake House, in that regard.

Decided to mix things up a little, and saw Accident, a Cantonese film that competed at the 66th Venice International Film Festival. I generally avoid watching Hong Kong films because they tend to blur into an indistinct mess, much like the music. I'm glad I decided to watch this one though, as the paranoia of Louis Koo's character pushes the film off the beaten track, taking it almost into arthouse territory. I kind of dozed off in the last half an hour, so had to rewind for the denouement, which in contrast to the Spanish film, I felt was handled well. It has that same sense of arbitrariness, but this chimes well with the nature of the plot, which is essentially driven by a single genuine accident, as opposed to the choreographed ones that Koo's character is so good at planning out. So by the end, you end up feeling sorry for him, blinded by his paranoia. I then made the mistake of watching Disney's G-Force. An adequate film, but the amount of stuff that actually happens in it? Wafer-thin. This is one Disney flick that calls for even less thought than usual!

Since my brain had completely switched off by this point due to lack of sleep, the last film I picked was G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. Only realised at the end that Sienna Miller was in it. I did think her character looked oddly familiar. Great action movie, although that's not really my preferred genre. I can see it becoming the next successful film franchise, and wouldn't mind watching if it did, I guess. Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller are rather easy on the eye. Despite all this watching of films, I did actually finish reading Snark by the end of the flight. I sort of see the point Denby is making about media culture, but I was greatly relieved that he thinks high snark is still permissible in certain situations. At least there's something I can still aspire to, rather than having to be witty all the time. Haha! Have finished unpacking everything, which basically necessitated yet another reorganisation of my bookshelves. I'll definitely need to buy another set by the end of my university education, except there isn't exactly space for it in my room! My goal for the next week or so that I'm back is to try and read at least one novel a day. It's not like people are besieging me with requests to hang out...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Episode 445: En Attendant...

Am waiting in Pool Meadow for my coach to Heathrow, which was supposed to leave 10 minutes ago, but is reportedly delayed for half an hour. Slightly annoyed about that, as I rushed down in a taxi, thinking I would just make it. Randomly bumped into one of those Singaporean freshers who's sort of fallen off the collective radar of the Singapore Society, a position that I might find myself in next year when I move to Leamington whilst most of the Singaporeans in my year move back to campus. Anyway, we chatted a bit, and it turns out we're on the same flight back to Singapore, so I'll have some company of sorts. Managed to finish most of the food in my freezer, except for the beans, and there are still three pints of Ben & Jerry's in there too, so I hope the freezer doesn't break down while we're all gone during the holidays. Also managed to stuff all the books I wanted to bring back and leave behind in Singapore into my Crumpler and laptop bags. Am planning to read David Denby's Snark during the flight. As someone who occasionally refers to myself as snarky and witty in the same breath, it's going to be interesting to discover why one is regarded by Denby as less desirable than the other.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Episode 444: SG Buzz With Dennis Foo

Overslept this morning, but managed to get ready in record time, so I still made it to my 9 am seminar with David Morley. Or rather, with Tom Cornford. His session was definitely out of my comfort zone, but the points he was making were valid and worth thinking about in relation to my self-perceived inability to write sustained, lengthy prose. The Hemans and Landon readings for EN227 this week were a refreshing change, but still not the sort of poetry I would normally pick up. I strongly suspect I'll like the Victorian half of the module better than the Romantic half, and quite probably for all the wrong reasons as well. Skipped the last Varsity of term for the SG Buzz event, although if that hadn't ended so late, I probably would have made it to the pub for a drink or two. It was really cool to meet Mr Dennis Foo though, and chat with him about stuff. In all likelihood, this is probably the closest brush with the entertainment industry that I'll ever have in my life. He struck me as a very down-to-earth man, despite his success today. The Asian food buffet also tasted remarkably authentic, so everyone happily stuffed themselves, myself included. I might be going back in a day, but there's definitely no such thing as having too much spicy food in one's life. Haha!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Episode 443: Christmas Market Redux!

Was supposed to head down to church to do more administrative work, but the electrician's in today apparently, so Sarah told me not to come in. Within minutes of seeing her SMS, I decided that I would head down to the Christmas market in Birmingham again, to get some presents for people back in Singapore. Was pretty efficient, figuring out what I wanted to get after one complete circuit of the market. Would have stayed around longer, but I had to get back for cell dinner anyway. I did stop by the huge Waterstone's on New Street, the interior of which is quite impressive. Couldn't find a clearance section though, so ended up not buying anything, despite being tempted several times. The thing that most surprised me about my spontaneous trip was how little it cost, scarcely more than £2 for a return ticket. When you consider how that's actually less than it costs to get a return bus ticket in Coventry, it makes you wonder what exactly is wrong with public transport in this part of England. Ran into some people on the bus who were headed to the film screening organised by Dan, but cell on Wednesday is kind of a prior long-term commitment, so I had to pass. Managed to spend some time in the Library after the dinner getting some reading done though, so that was good at least.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Episode 442: Practice Of Poetry Party

Have a new episode of Gossip Girl waiting for me, so this post is going to be quick. Got back results for last week's French test, which were epic. 90% overall! Clearly, this module is going to be one of my cleverer academic decisions if I keep this up. Annoyingly, hindsight has shown me that I could in fact have posted a perfect score on this test, which would have been ridiculously awesome. I secretly hope that I was the highest scorer in class, although if that actually turned out to be true, I'm sure it's entirely because I have a knack for not recopying the text's vocabulary in the comprehension section, which really seems to be the aspect of the test that differentiates people's abilities. All in all, a very good way to end off the first term of LL209. Now I just need to work harder on my spoken French and this module is totally in the bag. The tutor just randomly commented today that I was right to make the liaisons in my pronunciations. I say randomly, as at least one of them, 'pas encore', is the kind of thing that I thought people would be used to doing, since the phrase is quite basic. Maybe after I do my presentation next term, she'll compliment my accent? Did some carolling at an old folks' home, and sang 'O Holy Night' solo. That didn't go horribly, although it could've been better. Bad throat! On a different note, would love to hear people doing versions of carols out of Michael P. Spradlin's It's Beginning To Look Like Zombies!: A Book Of Zombie Christmas Carols. Rounded off the day by writing an abcderian poem (that I quite like now after having revised it a little, as its speaker has one of those distinct voices that tend to crop up in some of my work) and a dirty limerick during the Practice of Poetry party, in between wine and nibbles. Now to be equally disciplined during the Christmas break...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Episode 441: Creative Writing Bar Crawl

Have been disciplined tonight and left the bar crawl with Dan to catch the last bus, just before it moved from Kelsey's to a house party. I think the turnout this time was double that of last year's? There's a new Vodka Kick flavour by the way, so that's one more bottle to add to my pointless collection. It bothers me, just a little, that the VK Pear bottle is slightly shorter than all the other flavours. Was not carded at The Benjamin Satchwell this evening, which was where the bar crawl started off. Have mixed feelings on that, since it suggests that I actually look my age now. Oh, the horror, the horror. Was supposed to go in for the second half of a seminar this afternoon, but a combination of not feeling well and thinking that I needed to be at home to wait for a parcel conspired to persuade me it was not worth going onto campus for just one hour. So I just stayed at home, watched a couple of episodes of Lie To Me. No sign of parcel, which leads me to suspect that the Royal Mail parcel I found outside my door the other day was in fact the one that I'd supposedly missed because it was too big to post through the letterbox. Oh well...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Episode 440: Christmas Dinner At Millsy's

Did a lot of singing today. Started off in church, backing up Matt with Bex. Second time around, and it's still fun. Had to dash off after the service to view houses in Leamington, but I think the most exciting part of the afternoon was visiting the milkshake bar with 100 flavours, right next to a sweet shop full of enough candy to make you feel slightly ill just looking at it. Chalk that up as one more reason I'm glad to be moving to Leamington next year. Managed to get back home and then to Millsy's in time for a quick carolling practice before the dinner proper. The food was pretty average, and less plentiful than I thought it would be, but it's not like I left feeling hungry. I guess I'm still kind of tired because I left pretty early. Needed to start (and finish) the poem for tomorrow's seminar anyway. (No progress so far!) I did discover that I cannot detect the taste of vodka in Smirnoff Ice, which means there's one more alcopop I can happily ingest. Planning on singing 'O Holy Night' for another carolling session on Tuesday. Hopefully, I won't screw up.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Episode 439: Hunting For Houses

Have started the search for houses in Leamington! We only actually saw one today, but we're going again tomorrow when all of us will be there. Have had a total of 10 hours of sleep over the past two days, so I'm going to turn in early instead of going to the Rev concert at church. That and take a taxi to church again for band practice, just so that I can wake up later. (Walking there would basically triple my journey time and require me to wake up at least half an hour earlier!) My camera's not working again, but I didn't drop it. The batteries died while I was switching the camera on, so now the lens mechanism is apparently out of alignment. It shouldn't cost more than $60 to fix once I get back to Singapore, if the Canon website is to be believed. I'm just annoyed and frustrated that the problem is, to me anyway, basically a design flaw in Canon's product. Guess I'll be using my N95 to take pictures at tomorrow's Christmas dinner. Finally, a situation I can use to prove to my dad the necessity of having a handphone with a good camera! Have also repacked my suitcase, putting in the sleeping bag and leaving all the papers for my carry-on bag instead, since I couldn't find a way of getting the sleeping bag to Eugene's place before my flight back to Singapore. The papers, consisting of almost all my stuff from first year, are pretty heavy, so not really looking forward to lugging them about. On the plus side, my suitcase when I'm coming back is only going to be as heavy as I choose to make it, i.e. it depends on how many books I decide to bring over.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Episode 438: Donald Barthelme Made My Day

Had only one seminar with Peter Blegvad this morning, but wow, what a seminar it was! He liked 'The Black Undulation' for its images and wordplay, but raised a good point when he asked if I would consider it enough, or should the piece offer something more to the reader. I agree that there wasn't any sort of higher purpose to what I wrote in this case beyond having fun, but I'm interested to do some work on the other piece I wrote, using the Swadesh list, now that he's freed us from that constraint and imposed a new one patterned after the Donald Barthelme story, 'The School', which we read aloud during the seminar and was thoroughly enjoyable. Totally think my impulse decision to buy his books was worth it now. The analysis of the story by George Saunders, which we also read cloud, was brilliantly engaging in its own right, and left no doubt that stories like 'The School' require considerale thought in order to succeed, despite how effortless it may feel when they're read. Spent some time in the Library reading Everything Talks by Sam Sampson, which I'd picked off a shelf at random and decided to polish off in one sitting because it was thin, the blurbs on the back cover were persuasive, and it had a gorgeous colourful cover, featuring Come Together by Peter Madden.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Episode 437: Monster Pizzas

Wrestled the terza rima into submission when it was close to 3 am, hence getting only half the amount of sleep that I should have. Bad times. Managed to survive through two seminars and one lecture, although I was struggling during the lecture on John Clare, which was less interesting than expected, considering the lecturer was Jonathan Bate. Stuck around in school because my handphone conveniently reminded me that I had to do an interview with the publicity people for the musical. Did that and got home, feeling completely knackered, but still having a cluster meeting to go to. Thankfully, Liam's place is just down the road from mine, and huge pizzas were awesome! See here for details. Great idea if you ever need to cater for a huge party. Have just got back home, and am updating the various blogs with my latest work. Managed to finish the 600-word piece using the Swadesh list while waiting for the interview, so that was an afternoon spent in productive work. Not sure about the story itself, but for something that I really didn't want to do, I think it's turned out adequately.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Episode 436: Terza Rima Woes

Have written 13 lines of my 91-line terza rima. I've got far enough that to quit now would be such a waste, but at the same time, I'm very conscious of the fact that I would much rather be in bed right now. Was in church this afternoon helping out with miscellaneous administrative stuff for Kidz Klub, which was a welcome change from my usual Wednesday afternoon, which prior to this would normally have been spent alternating between Facebook and TV shows, trying to procrastinate. It was actually very relaxing, and yet purposeful, so I'm looking forward to going back again next week. It sounds lame, but I could be happy doing data entry. It's a different sort of satisfaction from having written, say for example, this. Less intangible, that's how I would describe it. Anyway, the problem I'm having with the terza rima is the subject matter. How to write about a personal hell that you can't in all honesty say you've ever experienced? A couple of nights ago, Paul commented on how I always seem so serene, in the midst of it all. He's not the first person to have described me that way. He also asked if I would consider myself content, to which I had to reply in the negative. Yet that feeling of discontentment doesn't quite weigh on me. I get by quite fine on a day-to-day basis without thinking about it. Except on nights like this, I suppose. I wish I could do existential crises properly. Either that or be less finicky about getting things right and be more concerned about getting them done in the first place.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Episode 435: Everyone, Go Listen To The Shures!

I can't believe I forgot the word 'debrouillardise' in the French test today. If I'd only remembered, I'm pretty sure my score for the grammar section would have been perfect. (The grammar and reading comprehension sections were handed out separately, so we had 45 minutes for the former, and we could hand it in as soon as we were done and get started on the comprehension.) The only reason it's bothering me so much is because we did come across this word in class! Ah well. Came home and waited for a delivery that never arrived. Thanks, City Link. The one time I am available to sign for a parcel, and you decide not to deliver it promptly. Spent the time waiting writing new dialogue for the musical, which is now done and sent off to Bella. Should really begin on my 91-line terza rima, but am not enamoured of the form, hence procrastination. On a different note, have been replaying The Shures covers of Britney Spears's '3' and Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance' for the past few days, ever since I saw the YouTube videos on Bernard's LJ. They've actually given musical depth to those songs, which is pretty amazing. I possibly even like their 'Bad Romance' cover better than the original! So everyone, head over to YouTube and check them out.