Friday, December 31, 2010

Episode 830: 5/30

I suppose it's usual for people to make resolutions in their New Year's Eve posts. I don't have a habit of that though, and I'm not about to start this year. Thing is, I figure if you're going to make positive changes in your life, you can start at any time, right? How long can the symbolic rush if a New Year's resolution keep you going anyway, realistically speaking? Speaking of the end of the year, the online sales are so tempting! Would've bought a suit from Ted Baker at a 50% discount, but Claudia and Vaish pointed out that a 100% wool suit would be far too warm for a place like Singapore, so I've pretty much given up on the idea, especially since I can apparently get one tailor-made for less. Still eyeing a wallet that's on sale though, just that I'm unwilling to pay £4.50 for shipping. A bit silly, I'll admit, given that the wallet already costs £35. Oh well. Will give it a couple more days, and if it's still available, I'll get it. Have also finished the revision of 'The Daughters Of Lot' into a full two-part poem, so I might start on 'The Concubine From Bethlehem' tomorrow. That one's going to be grisly...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Episode 829: Reorganisation

Did some reading today for a Week 3 seminar. Scottish poetry! Liked some of it, found some of it almost incomprehensible because it was in Scots rather than Standard English. Didn't write any new poems today, though I've decided that my planned structure of 10 sets of three poems is unnecessarily restrictive. It was forcing me to pick out characters to fit into this arrangement, but these weren't characters that I felt I could write about in interesting ways. So now I've still got 30 poems planned out, but they're no longer grouped strictly. That means I'm free to expand 'The Daughters Of Lot', although I intend to make that a two-parter rather than splitting each daughter off into a separate poem. I've even got one poem that's on its own, and given the overall arc of the sequence, I think there's a case to be made for that. Of course, analysing my own work is fairly meaningless, outside of the accompanying commentary, unless other people can pick up on the echoes and patterns I've structured into the sequence as a whole. To be fair though, one would have to be fairly acquainted with the Bible to fully appreciate these recent poems, so I feel really lucky to be working with Michael Hulse this time because I know he'll pick up on the things I'm doing with my source material.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Episode 828: At Last, A Brand New PWP Poem!

Have hammered out a first draft of 'The Daughters Of Lot'. It turned into a bit of a structural game, this poem, although I'm wondering if 15 lines per daughter is quite enough to convey the hypothetical motivations I'm ascribing to them. Maybe I need to be more flexible about aiming for 30 30-line poems? Probably won't worry too much about that right now, need to focus on finishing the next two in this set of three. The target I'm setting myself right now is to have at least nine poems to show Michael Hulse in Week 1. I reckon it's entirely possible. If I look at the rather comprehensive rewrites I did a few days ago more as first drafts, then I'd say it's not been horribly difficult getting them out. For comparison, the sequence I put together during my Contiki trip over Easter break accumulated at the rate of one per day, including my usual redrafting on-the-go, and that turned out to be reasonably decent work. I can pull it off again, right? It's not like I began with terribly grand ambitions for this sequence anyway, like reclaiming female characters from a patriarchal text or something equally highfalutin. I just wanted to write about something that mattered to me, which also didn't strike me as being a particularly popular topic among twentysomething poets. Well, that and I figured 30 poems about the vagaries of human relationships à la my 'usual' poetry would've been rather tedious. Plus I'm running out of metaphors. Quantum physics was really pushing it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Episode 827: Running Out Of Books To Buy?

Met up with Ben Woon, caught up over lunch and bitched a little. We spent a few hours after that browsing Kinokuniya and Borders, but I came away with far less books than usual. Partly because I'm running out of things I want to buy, partly because I feel that there's no point paying extra when I can get them off The Book Depository for a lot less, with free shipping to boot. Ended up buying some volumes of local poetry and Vintage Contemporaries editions of Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius and How We Are Hungry, since those are American editions and will cost more on The Book Depository anyway. Am thinking I should save my money for paying a visit to BooksActually. If I'm going to pay more for books, I'd rather the money go to an independent bookstore like Kenny and Karen's than some big corporation! Haven't had time today to finish reading a play or writing a poem, but I've started re-reading The Taming Of The Shrew and I have an idea for how to structure this next poem about the daughters of Lot. Will have to make sure to get a draft written tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Episode 826: Really Knuckling Down...

So I ended up staying awake after watching the Doctor Who Christmas special to rewrite 'Abel'. I feel like I haven't nailed it yet, but I'm getting closer. Now working on rewriting 'Seth', before reading the last bit of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona. The whole thing with the rings reminds me of a similar episode in The Merchant Of Venice. I'm planning on reading through all the comedies by the time I fly back, which is entirely feasible, as long as I don't keep wandering away from the text to do other stuff. Like watching Cantonese dramas. I know, I know. It's not a scintillating revelation, but what can I do? My life while on vacation can be really...pedestrian. The Doctor Who special was really heartwarming, by the way. It was at best a very loose adaptation of Dickens's short story, but it worked and I think it's my favourite of the Christmas specials so far. Really enjoyed Katherine Jenkins's singing as well! File this one under the to-buy-one-day list. As for the poem, I think this one's going to work out. On the whole, having done some rewriting, I'm rather bothered that I honestly thought the originals were good enough. Normally, my opinion towards my own poetry tends not to flip so radically. I must have been completely blinded by self-satisfaction at having incorporated so much of the KJV's phraseology. Eugene remarked that the archaisms were part of the poems' charm, but what I'm aiming for is gravitas without being antiquated. I think it should be possible for a poem taking a Biblical narrative as its springboard to sound contemporary while not winding up being frivolously critical. I've put in a couple of lines in the rewrites that sound somewhat flippant in isolation, but I'm hoping that the context will anchor them so that the lines work as ironies rather than cheap throwaways. We'll see...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Episode 825: Finally Back To Working On My PWP!

Have finally begun revising the first three poems for my PWP that I showed to Michael Hulse before the end of term. Will only manage 'Cain' tonight I think, as I want to see the Doctor Who Christmas special before going to bed. I feel like I've mostly managed to relax the language into something that sounds more contemporary, but re-reading 'Abel', it looks like that poem's going to require a complete rewrite in order to even begin to work. I suppose it doesn't help that the thoughts expressed in it are so far from being orthodox, even after taking into account the almost completely hypothetical nature of my whole PWP, I can see why my writing sounds forced. It's one thing to take a troublesome aspect of the scriptures and deliberately push it to certain conclusions. It's quite another to attempt to manufacture something mildly controversial, just for the sake of being contrary. Looking at the Seth poem, it also needs work, although not quite as drastic as for 'Abel'. It's more of losing the rhetorical questions that also don't really build to a meaningful finish. I've got my work cut out for me. Hopefully, the next two sets of poems should be easier to write, so that I can show Michael at least nine at the start of next term.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Episode 824: An Uneventful Christmas

Not that that's bad, mind you. Discovered a site that converts YouTube videos directly to MP3s. All you have to do is type in the link, click, and it spits out the MP3. I'm probably being far too impressed by this, but it's just so incredibly convenient. Over the past couple of days, have started reading Antic Fables by A. P. Riemer and A Better Angel by Chris Adrian. The former is subtitled 'Patterns Of Evasions In Shakespeare's Comedies', so that basically tells you why I'm reading it. It seems like I have managed to find a book that is entirely relevant to what I want to explore in my creative project, so that's actually quite exciting. On the other hand, I'm interested in Adrian's writing because of his association with the McSweeney's brand. He's published two novels before this short story collection, Gob's Grief and The Children's Hospital, but I thought it made more sense to get a feel for his stuff before getting stuck into something as sprawling as The Children's Hospital, even if it is lauded. To be perfectly truthful, I don't think I even have time to read something that long in the days I've got left in Singapore! Not if I want to actually get work done. I've been using jet lag, then Christmas, as excuses for not having done work, but it's Boxing Day tomorrow and I'm finding it hard to maintain the illusion that there's still loads of time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Episode 823: The Carpet Makers

Have acquired some new music over the past couple of days, including Enrique Iglesias's new single 'Tonight (I'm Fuckin' You)', off the French limited edition of Euphoria. (The clean version released to radio replaces the offending word throughout with 'lovin'' instead.) Beginning with his previos album, Insomniac, Iglesias has been cannily reinventing his sound to be more compatible with what's dominating te airwaves. This single is pretty much your standard radio-friendly fare, sustained by an infectious beat and Iglesias's Spanish-inflected intoning of banal lyrics, i.e. I really like it but I know there's nothing special about it. On a related note, this French limited edition features a Cahill remix of 'I Like It', which I think has cemented them as one of my favourite remixers. Even more than Dave Audé! I'm not usually into remixes because I find them quite unlistenable outside of the dancefloor, but Audé and Cahill produce stuff that doesn't wind up sounding too aggressive and punishing on the ears. It's practically aural candy. In any case, I'm of the opinion that a lot of pop music these days (but not the ballads) is essentially designed to be remix-friendly, and producers like Audé and Cahill are just giving the original tracks more of an edge.

Have also finished Andreas Eschbach's The Carpet Makers. I really, really enjoyed it, which is kind of weird in a way because I first came across this book a couple of years ago when I began trawling the science fiction shelves at the National Library, but I never got around to borrowing it because I figured I wouldn't like it that much based on the blurb. Then a couple of days ago, I decided, what the heck, I'd give it a chance. So glad that I did! It's apparently the only of Eschbach's novels to be translated into English so far (let's not get into the whole issue of how translating into English seems to be on the decline as far as introducing new literary works is concerned), which is a shame because Eschbach's writing is beautiful. The Carpet Makers is really a series of interconnected stories, the effect of which is to evoke an entire universe without needing to go overboard on details to flesh it out. There's just enough material to hint at more stories that could be told in the same cosmic setting, but not to the point where it detracts from the main narrative thread. The denouement is understated, and some people might object to it and how it was achieved, but I think it really humanised a story that could have been in danger of being mystifying to the point where it alienated. It's not a terribly long novel, so I recommend getting a copy and reading it if you want some science fiction that's more character-focused as opposed to being about futuristic stuff.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Episode 822: Good Question

So the number of visits to the journal today suggests that the upward climb of visitors over the past two days was a random fluctuation, probably prompted by contributors' friends being directed to it. Oh well. On a related note, was chatting with one of my editors and he asked me if I would go with a Singaporean or a British publisher when I come out with my first collection. I'll admit that the question kind of threw me for a second. I mean, I've thought about eventually putting one together and going around knocking, and without wanting to sound like a complete twat about it, it's actually something a tutor has mentioned before as being conceivable, given my writing. I guess I haven't really been treating it as something that realistically could happen though. I'm hardly the Keats of my generation now, am I? (By which I mean neither tubercular nor capable of producing something like the odes.) For anyone who actually cares about my hypothetical future writing career, which in all likelihood is going to die an early death because of a teacher's workload, the answer's British. Not because I'm snubbing my home country, but well, let's just say I have a hunch that I'll find it easier to get readers by going down that route. I still wouldn't say no to putting out work through a local publisher though, and who knows how the local arts scene might evolve in the next couple of years? Then there's the whole manner of not actually being resident in the UK after 2012 at the latest, so how would that even work out in practice, publishing in the UK? Here's an even better question though. Why am I worrying about all these things when I haven't even revised the first three poems for my PWP? Or written anything for my Shakespeare creative project? Why am I still feeling so calm about this lack of productivity?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Episode 821: Jealous Of Murakami!

It seems that connecting Eunoia Review to NetworkedBlogs really does help to increase traffic. Either that or it's just another random spike in visitors. I suppose I'll be able to tell once tomorrow's visitor count is tallied at the end of the day. So I managed to finish the review in the afternoon for Vol. 2 of I'm Afraid of Everyone. It's an interesting effort, especially how the layout interacts with the text. I might have made too much of that aspect in the review, to be honest, but it really is one of the strongest aspects of this literary magazine. Here you can buy hard copies, or get the PDF if you're skint. My review copy's a PDF, and I think the monochrome design of Vol. 2 actually looks really good when you're reading off a screen. In addition to completing the review, I also finished after the quake, and am therefore now very jealous of Murakami for having written those stories. My favourite was definitely 'honey pie', partly because the central protagonist is a writer, but also because it happens to capture a fear I myself occasionally experience, which is that years from now, my life is going to turn out less satisfying than I imagined it would be. Murakami's short story ends on an ambivalent note that strikes me as ringing truer than the straightforward happy ending that the characters clearly could have been set up to have. It's a shame I don't have time the rest of this vacation to read a couple of his full-length novels, although I believe the Library does have a couple of them, so maybe I'll do that when I get back to Warwick...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Episode 820: Creative Procrastination

I've finished reading Vol. 2 of I'm Afraid of Everyone, so all that's left is to write the review. While I won't say that all of the work particularly drew me, there wasn't anything that I found bad either. So coupled with the interesting things being done with design and typography, it's a positive review that I'm going to be writing this time. I really should have finished it this afternoon, but as usual, I was putting things off. Except this time, I did it by doing other things that in theory, I suppose, needed to be done at some point, but it certainly didn't have to be today. For example, I read a bit of Murakami's after the quake, which is on the reading list for EN236 next term. I'm enjoying it, in case you were wondering about that. Murakami's one of those authors I'm almost 100% certain I'll like, which paradoxically means that I've never made an especial effort to spend time reading his output. Then I read through a submission for Eunoia Review, accepting two out of the three poems sent in. (On a separate note, I may have some new European poetry coming to me in translation in the future, thanks to a contact made through the journal, so that would be fairly exciting to publish if and when work gets sent to me.) To cap things off, I tinkered with NetworkedBlogs on Facebook, so now the daily posts at Eunoia Review have begun showing up in my news feed, which hopefully brings in more new readers. I'm secretly curious as to how my site traffic breaks down, as on some days, there'll be a sudden spike in views, and then things go quiet for a week or so. WordPress's site statistics give me a vague idea of which posts people are clicking through to, so in some cases, it's quite clear that it's simply friends of the contributor browsing the journal.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Episode 819: Hanging Out With Old Friends...

Okay, the PDF of the e-zine I'm meant to review arrived in my inbox yesterday, but it's going to have to wait till tomorrow to be read and reviewed. Editor said to aim for 400-500 words, which is about half the length of my last one, so I should be able to get it done fairly quickly. Then I really need to be getting on with my reading for my Shakespeare project! Spent the whole afternoon hanging out with Claudia, Derrick and Eugene Oh, which was good fun. Lunch and then drinks at tcc, or as the company would rather pretentiously have it, the connoisseur concerto. (I still don't see what was wrong with its former name, the coffee connoisseur. Do you?) I know I've said it before, but it's great to have a bunch of friends from my, well, relatively younger days to reconnect with, even if it's only every so often. We walked around Bugis Junction for a bit, which was significantly less crowded than I normally find it, so that was good, I suppose. Popped by the National Library and picked up a huge stack of books, half of which I probably won't end up finishing, and then headed over for dinner with my family at Szechuan Kitchen at the Fairmont Singapore. I think this is the third time in a week that I've had dinner in a Chinese restaurant, it's really quite unusual!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Episode 818: Seriously, Ceriph?

Read Issue One of Ceriph today, which is published quarterly by BooksActually's Math Paper Press. The production values are more than decent for a project so young. Unfortunately, while the quality of the writing contained therein has unquestionably gone up from Issue Zero, there remain troublingly glaring grammatical and typographical errors in several of the pieces that have left me wondering if they're down to editorial laxity or ineptitude. We're talking mixing of tenses for no discernable purpose, subject-verb disagreement, a repeated sentence fragment that looks like it was meant to be deleted. Basically, it's the same sort of problem I had with Lazy Gramophone's website, but with less impressive work being showcased. The occasional mistake is excusable. When a pattern begins to emerge, I want to know how attentively the editors are reading the submissions they receive. The faults are all the more damning because people pay to own copies of Ceriph. I'm all for supporting new writers and local literature, but if I'm shelling out more than $10 per issue, the least I expect is not to feel my intelligence being insulted as I read. It's not even about being a grammar Nazi, as all the errors I noted had nothing ambiguous about them. They were the sort of thing anyone who presumes to edit an English-language literary magazine ought to be able to pick out and correct before letting the issue go to print! On a side note, I hate biographies that try to sound whimsical. I'm willing to concede the line between flippancy and humour is easily crossed, but coming across as twee definitely isn't.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Episode 817: Monopoly Deal!

Oh wow. Monopoly Deal is actually a lot more fun than its board-based cousin. It's mainly because the pace is faster without hung to roll dice, and I suppose there's more room for strategic planning because of the gameplay tweaks (i.e. it calls for more scheming). Just played a couple of rounds with my family and I'm hooked! Now if only someone would make a card-based version of something like Risk! Sometimes I wonder if I'd enjoy card games like Magic: The Gathering. Probably more so the collecting aspect than the playing itself, I suspect. Ah well. I think it's a bit too late to be getting into stuff like that. Plus it would just become one more avenue for expenditure! Anyway, I've been trying to get on with my reading, but jet lag has been thwarting me so far. I did drop Craig an e-mail to say I'd do a review if no one else wanted to. Figured I might as well try and get more exposure while I still have the leisure of time. Can't imagine cranking them out quite as regularly once I start teaching. In a way, it's a shame because from the moment I graduate, it's essentially going to be a perpetual struggle to keep writing, whatever the genre. I like reviewing though. It forces me to develop opinions about other people's writing and defend them, and I'm quite proud of the fact that I generally try not to offer empty praise or criticism, but instead justify my claims from the writing itself. So far, it would seem that my various editors think what I'm doing works, which is nice considering that I only started reviewing stuff recently.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Episode 816: Not Distracted, For A Change...

For once, I actually started working when I said I would. Finished the review of Her Fearful Symmetry before dinner, so that's now been uploaded for my editor's approval. I actually found it surprisingly easy to write once I got started, so that was a relief. Now that that's done, I can get on with my heaps of reading. Haven't started on the Shakespearean comedies yet, but have commenced on The Brutal Art, which has already gripped me after a couple of pages. I think it's the patterning of the artworks in the story that intrigues me, really makes me want to know how and why they were created. It's pretty twisted and weird that they all connect into a larger piece of art! In a way, I suppose it's a good thing that so many of the shows I follow go on hiatus for the winter holidays. Fewer distractions! Honestly don't think I'd have been able to get the review done by dinnertime if I had an episode or two to catch up on. Add to that the fact that I've fallen back into the habit of watching Chinese and Cantonese serials continuously from 9 pm till past midnight, doesn't leave me with a lot of time on weekday evenings to do work! I'm wondering if it's realistic to aim to finish one comedy per afternoon. It's definitely feasible, but it depends on how focused I remain whilst reading, doesn't it? That, unfortunately, tends to be wildly unpredictable.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Episode 815: First (And Last) Day Of Relaxation

Have promised myself that I'm going to start doing work tomorrow, which for now is basically going to be a lot of reading, followed by a lot of writing. PWP and Shakespeare project, to be exact. First though, I have a review to write of Her Fearful Symmetry, which despite the overall lukewarm reception it's had from critics, I actually kept enjoyed for its intricate patterning. Yes, a few of the plot twists were glaringly obvious in the way clues were laid down by Niffenegger pretty early on in the text, but to accuse her of appropriating wholesale the ghost story structure kind of misses the point of the novel, in my opinion. You can read my review when it's up for what I've got to say on that. I guess it was always going to be impossible to top something like The Time Traveler's Wife, which even a hardened cynic has to admit is a sensitive portrayal of an unconventional relationship. That seems to be Niffenegger's forte, as mechanics of the plot aside, it's the relationships in Her Fearful Symmetry that are rendered wonderfully. Also starting on Jesse Kellerman's The Brutal Art, lent to me by Zoe over the holidays. Have high expectations, since both of Kellerman's parents are bestselling thriller writers as well!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Episode 814: Warmth At Last...

The woman sitting to my right on the flight kept invading my personal space, and she spent an hour sleeping with a blanket drawn over her whole body like a shroud, except the blanket was black, not white. It was just really weird. The movie selection on this flight didn't really appeal to me, although I did finally see Bright Star. I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, finding the ending particularly odd. I get that Fanny's mourning, but I think the way it actually ended, with her tearfully reciting 'Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art', wasn't a tight enough finish. Did get chills down my spine every time either Keats or Fanny recited lines from his poems though, and it made me glad that I didn't bring the Duncan Wu anthology back in the end, as I think I'm going to re-read Keats next term as and when I can. He's the only of the Romantics, I think, for whom I can unconditionally profess admiration. Oh well. I'm not saying it's a bad film, just that I generally found the pacing uneven. Next I saw a really silly Hong Kong film called City Under Siege, whose sole purpose seemed to be to have Aaron Kwok flexing and Shu Qi pouting, the actual plot being completely incidental. Ended the flight well though, by tuning into the Disney Channel programmes. Mildly embarrassed to say that I actually came close to bursting out in undignified laughter several times. Am now safely ensconced in my room, where even with the air-conditioner switched on, the room temperature is probably higher than anything I've experienced in Leamington all of this term.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Episode 813: Chance Encounters

Spent the last couple of hours before leaving the house repacking, which included leaving behind the two anthologies from EN227 last year. Was going to bring them back, but didn't dare to chance it at the check-in counter. That's how heavy those two books are. Although it turns out I needn't have worried, since my luggage was definitely overweight, but the person at the counter didn't bat an eyelid. Also quite pleased, by the way, that I managed to get all the trash bags into the bin. I know most of them were meant to be sorted for recycling, but I just didn't have the time and leaving them outside for a month didn't seem like a brilliant idea. (Laura should be impressed with me!) Randomly ran into Claire Lim when I got to Pool Meadow from Leamington, who was getting on a coach to Heathrow. Then after she left, I went to the cafe to get a drink, and I ran into Krisztina, who was waiting for a coach to Luton. So rather than having to sit around for just under two hours, waiting for my own coach, I had company most of the way instead! Couldn't post Dan's postcards back to him though, as the post office, to my bemusement, apparently keeps regular office hours, despite the airport experiencing traffic pretty much 24/7. (This is one thing I can never understand about service levels in the West, places not staying open late.) Will just have to do it from Singapore. If you're reading this, Dan, I hope you appreciate the effort, and never trust Laura again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Episode 812: Back (Briefly!)

Journey back from Barcelona was uneventful, although I am quite sleep-deprived after the past couple of days. I suppose it'll just merge with my impending jet lag? Quite excited to be back for Christmas, especially since a couple of people from JC days will be back too! Can't wait to meet up. Anyway, I got back much earlier than expected, so I had plenty of time to catch up on my TV shows, most of which are going into their winter hiatus anyway. The pace of Fringe in last week's episode felt curiously slack, like the wider storyline didn't seem to move forward at all, and all this just when things were starting to get interesting with the alternate universe. On the other hand, I thought The Vampire Diaries found itself in a very good place mid-season. The plot twists happen just as frequently here as on Gossip Girl, but the backstabbing tends to be a bit more believable, and with the supernatural setting, there's more leeway anyway. I've kind of watched all of the shows though, so now I don't know what to do to stay awake for a few more hours until I can do my online check-in. I'm too tired to read (and I don't have anything mindless to flip through, which is all I can handle at the moment), and I don't feel like watching anything else on my laptop, so I guess I could just play some random game on my iPhone? Or take a nap and set an alarm for a couple of hours from now? Such weighty decisions...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Episode 811: La Sagrada Família & Montserrat

Revisited La Sagrada Família today, only this time I actually paid to go inside. It's architecturally very fascinating, I feel, and it's recently been consecrated as a minor basilica because of its scale and artistic merit. The interior actually feels kind of futuristic, completely not what you'd associate with cathedrals. Then we headed out of the city by train to Montserrat. Religious/spiritual locales that have turned into tourist attractions as well always fascinate me. I will admit that I found Montserrat somewhat underwhelming as far as scenery was concerned, but then again, the views of Barcelona from above aren't really impressive in the day, in my opinion. Paris is a lot better for that. I would've liked to have attended Mass today though, just for the ritual solemnity of it. Sadly, the timings didn't work out at La Sagrada Família or Montserrat. Randomly, by the way, I'm somewhat amused that MasterCard flagged the transaction I made at the souvenir shop in Montserrat. (Audrey, that's your keychain for your birthday!) It was just under $6! I spent over $1000 on my flight and they didn't call up my parents then! Oh well. Incidentally, my poems are finally up at the new site for The Cadaverine. Check them out here. It's kind of like an early Christmas present, as I've been waiting quite a while since these were accepted. I think they're pretty decent work, so why not spare a couple of minutes and have a look?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Episode 810: Montjuïc & Parc Güell

Went to a couple of places today that I didn't visit when I was last here. Montjuïc was okay, although for the views the castle afforded, the 9€ return ticket for the funicular felt like a rip-off, given that it seems you can access the castle on foot anyway. (Sort of like how paying to ride the elevator up the Eiffel Tower versus paying less to walk up, I guess?) Got some nice photographs though. Yong Long got pickpocketed on the metro, so we then learnt that Barcelona has a police office dedicated to handling pickpocketing cases, situated next to Catalunya station. How very convenient, right? They even have stacks of photocopied forms in English, French and German, just waiting for the tourists who can't speak Spanish or Catalan. The existence of this place is both thoughtful and appalling. We wandered around Parc Güell after that, which is a nice place, but like so many tourist attractions in Europe, flooded with people, which ironically always bothers me just a little, even though I'm as much a tourist as these other people. We walked for so long in fact that when we tried to get lunch, the kitchens of restaurants had closed for the siesta. Wound up having desserts instead in La Nena. It's a lovely, family-friendly place, and the games on the shelves reminded me a little of Settlers Cafe back in Singapore. We did make it back to the restaurant we'd planned on having paella at, but this was obviously more than a couple of hours later, kitchens generally reopening only at 8 pm. The guy who seated us remembered us, though probably because as Orientals we stick out a lot. It was decent paella, in case you were wondering. Would've been better if it was a tad drier, but it was pretty cheap, so can't complain too much!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Episode 809: Barcelona Redux

Have read so much of Her Fearful Symmetry! Definitely going to be able to review it in time. Randomly, the hostel that we're staying at seems to do bar/club visits every night, and tonight, they're going to Shoko, which was where I went while on tour with Contiki. Guess it's not too surprising really, since Shoko is apparently one of the hottest nightspots in the city. We had lunch at Cerveceria Catalana on a hostel staff recommendation, and it truly was amazing. Left feeling stuffed, which was a bit of a surprise because we didn't think that we'd ordered especially much in the way of tapas. The only dish that didn't impress me was the patatas bravas, simply because it seemed like nothing more than fried potato drizzled with ready-made sauces. I liked the crispy anchovies that we got though! I think when I'm back in Singapore, a visit to The Tapas Tree is in order with the usual suspects from JC days. Anyway, being in Barcelona again is bringing home to me just how little of my self-taught Spanish I've actually retained. I've got pronunciation rules in place, and that's about it! Not that I was ever able to communicate in Spanish while on holiday in the way I can in francophone countries, but still, I wish I'd tried harder. Incidentally, we did an insane amount of walking today, so my feet and back are absolutely killing me. Thank goodness there's free WiFi in this hostel by the way, as I don't think I could stand being cut off from communicating. Call it addicted to Web 2.0, whatever you want, but it's all become massively important since getting the iPhone made it so easy. It's having it available as a recourse that matters, I think, like some sort of psychological prop.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Episode 808: Haunting The Airport

Had assumed I was going to spend an uncomfortable night in the airport waiting for the others, but mercifully, there's a 24/7 Costa outlet in Terminal 2, so I'm reading Her Fearful Symmetry now with a frescato beside me. The question is whether I'll be able to stay awake till sometime past 3 am, which is when they're arriving. Maybe caffeine will have an effect for once? Last day at Warwick for the term was actually quite eventful. Went to a reading in the Chaplaincy by José Luís Peixoto because Laura reminded me about it, and it was really good. Plus Peixoto, like China Miéville, has an impressive number of earrings and piercings. I suppose I'm fascinated by piercings because I'm almost 100% I'll never work up the nerve to get any. (Plus my parents would total freak out, I think.) Then I ran into George Ttoouli while waiting for my EN331 seminar to begin and we chatted for a bit. Well, more like I rambled and he listened. He did say he enjoyed the poems I read last night, which made me happier than it ought to. (Then again, I've always been a bit unsure what he thought about my poetry, so this puts my mind more at ease, I suppose. Even I can get insecure where my writing's concerned.) The seminar itself ended pretty dramatically, everyone having just received confirmation that the essay's due on the first week after the holidays. Doesn't affect me because I'm only auditing, but it still feels like a crazily tight deadline, and way to ruin Christmas vacation for people! So that's the end of term, and hopefully, the next couple of days in Barcelona will be relaxing. Then back to warmth (and unfortunately, humidity)!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Episode 807: Dinner At Strada

Dan and I read at the Ugly Cousins slam, and then joined the rest of our house for dinner at Strada with Annie and Kathy. (We're such classy people!) Then it was drinks at The Robbins' Well, where I discovered the cocktail menu. Gosh, the list was yummy. I mean, there was even one with mango juice in it. I don't think I've ever come across that before. (Yes, that was the cocktail I ended up having, and it was rather moreish, I'll admit.) Didn't carry on from there though, as I've got a seminar tomorrow morning and I haven't even read the stories that we're meant to be workshopping. Was going to do it when I got home, but obviously, I've decided to update my blog instead, so I guess I'll be reading them on the bus tomorrow. Oh well. I'm actually kind of looking forward to spending about six hours alone in the airport tomorrow before my flight. You know, just me, a novel or two (Paul Golding's Abomination and Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry, the latter which I've decided to review for Evolve Journal this month), and possibly several cups of overpriced coffee blended with ice, assuming the airport outlets stay open that late. If they don't, well, it's clearly a #FML moment for Twitter.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Episode 806: Christmas Slam!

So didn't want to go in for my EN301 seminar this morning, but I did. Was a couple of minutes late because I caught the wrong bus, but the seminar was pretty fun. Then I was supposed to do another experiment for DR@W, but that had been cancelled, so I decided to just go home and bum around until the AdHoc Christmas slam. I thought the slam went quite well anyway. We sold some cupcakes, at the very least! I should probably stop buying pitchers of Blue Lagoon at Kelsey's though. I'm starting to realise that I don't actually like the taste that much. One glass is fine, but after that, it feels like I'm drinking lemonade that tastes just a little bit off, which is either from the Malibu, the vodka, or a combination of the two. Incidentally, how good was the Gossip Girl mid-season finale? I thought it was pretty surprising. I'd figured the full revelation of the Ben/Juliet back story was going to be a bit boring, but wow, I completely didn't expect the actual reveal. It was a brilliant way to go into the mid-season hiatus, although if Blair and Dan don't end up sleeping together over the holiday season, I'm going to be really disappointed. I mean, they're literally the last remaining heterosexual, non-incestuous pairing available that hasn't actually been explored on the show yet. Right?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Episode 805: Pretty Much Done For The Term...

Just finished reading Doctor Faustus, the A-text anyway. Not going to bother with Macbeth! So after grumbling about the review yesterday, I came home after my lecture and forced myself to finish it. That I did, between eating dinner and rewatching No Reservations. Multitasking is like my forte or something. The review ended up being the complete reverse of what I'd planned, in that I got the negative stuff out of the way first, before going on to dissect a couple of pieces that I particularly enjoyed. I'm quite pleased with my analysis of Sam Rawling's 'Hung', at the very least. So with the review out of the way, I'm basically done for the term. (Technically, I have another review due in for Evolve Journal, but seeing as I haven't even decided what I'm reviewing, I don't think I'll worry about it until I'm back in Singapore.) Now it's Barcelona, then home for Christmas, where I'll probably spend most of my time not doing work, even though I really can't afford to this time if I'm to avoid falling drastically behind on everything. Such is life.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Episode 804: Okay, Why Did I Agree To Do This?

Just watched Mean Girls on Claire Heffer's recommendation. Isn't it funny how Lindsay Lohan was so normal way back then? I'll admit, by the way, that I had no idea that Tina Fey wrote the screenplay. I guess that actually makes it okay to like the film? Now trying to get on with that review of Lazy Gramophone. I like the idea that they're really a grassroots kind of collective, but at the same time, it really bothers me how some of the pieces don't seem to have been edited properly. It's either HTML hell, or really random typographical experimentation. It sounds like a petty complaint, but given that this is the third iteration of their website, and how organised it generally is otherwise, I don't think I can give them a free pass on this. I'm not going to make a big deal of it though, as I really like some of the work, so maybe just a small paragraph at the end, like a sort of caveat. I'm finding it hard to review Lazy Gramophone because the site is really more like a gallery of the collective's artistic efforts than a straightforward literary journal, so the sheer volume of material is a little overwhelming, to say the least. Oh well. I've got another day or two to figure it out...

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Episode 803: Christmas Dinner!

Have begun looking at the Lazy Gramophone website, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to read through work by all the 48 artists before writing my review. To be honest, I'm guessing that's probably way more effort than my editor actually expects. I just feel like I should do the site justice by going through it all. Had already started on the first featured artist (I'm going in alphabetical order), but I had to leave for the annual Singapore Society Christmas Dinner. Was the only third-year Singaporean there apart from Keegan, but it was nice to talk to some of the second-year people again. I don't think I've actually been to any sort of Singaporean Society event this year so far, and I think the only Singaporean I've spoken to for any sort of extended time this term has been Bella, and then only because we went to see a couple of productions together. Anyway, getting to where the dinner was being held was pretty interesting. I had to walk along Stoneleigh Road, in complete darkness where the road wasn't lit and no cars happened to drive by. Exciting times! Was going to do it again on the way back, this time probably in utter darkness because I wouldn't have expected many cars to be passing by then, but ended up snagging a place on the bus back to campus. Now watching the season finale of Merlin, and Morgana is still being pantomime-evil. It's actually really annoying.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Episode 802: Bookcase Is Back!

So this afternoon, I finally went over to my old place and brought my bookcase back. It's now reassembled and teetering beside my bed, so if you stop hearing from me, assume that I was crushed by something you wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen reading (like a China Miéville novel) and mourn my passing by cracking open a book. It also means that pretty much the first thing I'll see every morning from now on when I wake up is five shelves of (mostly) unread books. I'm sure it's going to be immensely motivational, even if the Norton Shakespeare isn't exactly at eye level even when I'm lying down. Have randomly sent off a round of submissions for no other reason than that I was trying to avoid doing work and I had a bunch of poems that I thought were good enough. Definitely spent more time on this than I had to, especially given that I've got another literary website to review for Sabotage Reviews and two unread plays for next Tuesday's seminar. I'm thinking that I'll try to read at least Macbeth over the weekend, but I'm not terribly fussed, given that it will be Week 10 and who actually does work then unless they've got a deadline to meet?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Episode 801: Bitten The Bullet!

So after weeks of vacillating on what exactly my creative project was going to be, including deciding on something and then undeciding within days, I went in to see Carol Rutter today and finally committed to an idea. Reassuringly, she seemed to think it was worth exploring, although it does mean that now I'm probably going to spend the whole of the Christmas break reading the various comedies, or at least their endings. I'm basically riffing off what I saw on the second night of The King Lear Project, which was a production about rehearsing 'problem scenes' in King Lear. I'm almost certainly going to be able only to have time to write about one of the comedies' problematic ending, so I have to pick one pretty soon. She suggested Measure For Measure as one of the plays particularly worth exploring, and I've seen a production of that before, so I agree that it definitely leaves a lot hanging, even for a Shakespearean comedy. Between this and my PWP, it looks like this is turning out to be a Christmas holiday when I actually have to do work!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Episode 800: The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui

Saw Brecht's The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui with Bella at the Arts Centre. I thought the second half after the interval gelled better for me in terms of pacing, which isn't to say that what came before wasn't good, just that it felt a bit too disconnected. I thought using physical mannerisms to distinguish all of the characters was brilliantly done, and I especially enjoyed watching the characters from the Cauliflower Trust. Less keen on the guy who played Actor/Bowl, who seems to play all his characters the same way (this isn't the first production I've seen with him in it), i.e. pretty much like how he is in real life (from the limited times that I've encountered him in passing). Wasn't quite sure precisely which bits of the Nazi rise to power were being satirised while I was watching the play, although I did pick up on the Ernst Röhm and SA references. Thankfully, Wikipedia informs me that practically everything in Brecht's play is pinned to someone or something historical. Kebabs to end the night! Disgustingly unhealthy, but hey, I was hungry. Now have to read through 8000+ words if I want to have anything useful to say at tomorrow's workshop...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Episode 799: It Did, But Not Enough!

The title about says it all. There was a point about 10 minutes before the seminar was due to begin when the half a dozen of us seated outside did wonder if we were going to be the only ones in attendance, but a couple more people showed up to bring us to a complete dozen. Meant to get a lot of reading done, of Mark Doty poems, but ended up finishing off the Editor's Highlights from the three issues of The Economist on my iPhone. I'm going to be so smart and knowledgeable in a couple of weeks! I did do the supplementary reading for next week's EN301 seminar as well, although I can't say that I fully understood it. Anyway, I'm watching the new Gossip Girl now, and honestly, by this point, the show's basically jumping the shark on a regular basis, but precisely because of that pattern, everything all makes a kind of weird, only-in-television sense. It's completely barmy, of course, but still fun to watch. I'm not sure if I fully approve of Juliet's sudden descent into psychotic-bitch mode, especially since it means her tenure on the show is definitely going to be limited. Really, a better decision would have been to bench Jenny for good and bring Juliet on as her replacement, to switch up the dynamics on the show a bit more. (Jenny would be less annoying if the writers could actually make up their minds about how they wanted to characterise her.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Episode 798: Will It Snow Tomorrow?

Have only just finished reading The Jew Of Malta, so there's no point trying to re-read The Merchant Of Venice at this hour. Sleep is definitely more important. In any case, I've done the preparation for the seminar and picked out two scenes from each play to illustrate the debate position I'm meant to be taking. Even so, my favourite take on the whole anti-Semitism issue in these two plays has to be from this review of a Marlowe/Shakespeare double bill. It's really just the syntactical parallelism of 'Yes, but...' and 'Yes, and...' that gets me. I'm a complete sucker for stuff like that. Not looking forward to having to read both Doctor Faustus and Macbeth for next week though! Won't try too hard if the seminar doesn't call for much textual knowledge. Was quite amused by Tom Cornford's passive-aggressive e-mail about tardiness, by the way. It's a little sad that a tutor has to send that sort of e-mail, since you'd think students would know better and aim to arrive on time despite the weather. Given that snow has apparently been forecasted for tomorrow though, perhaps it'll be so bad (or not really, as it doesn't take much for things to grind to a halt in the UK) that nobody will be able to make it to the seminar! One can live in hope...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Episode 797: An Unnecessary Epiphany

Have been filling up my iPhone with more applications, particularly literature-related ones, the most substantial of these being the one for Narrative Magazine. I even found one in French, although it seems more like a prototype for a fuller product than anything else. My iPhone, like my personal library, is more aspirational than anything else. I have more than 400 applications on it, a fraction of which I use on anything that resembles a regular basis, but I keep them because they were free. Loads of them are games, and I'll probably start deleting them when I run out of space for stuff that I actually want on my iPhone. I suppose the truly scary thing is that I can't imagine life without my iPhone, kind of like how I can't imagine listening to music without my iPod anymore. Curse you, Apple! It's like there's no going back, once you cross to the dark side of owning a smartphone. (I don't think the N95 really counted, since compared to the smartphones of today, it might as well be virtually unrecognisable.) To return to more prosaic matters, I think I need to spend some time in the Library again tomorrow, like I did last week, once again scrambling to finish reading a Marlowe play. Sigh. I hope The Jew Of Malta turns out to be more interesting than Tamburlaine The Great was...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Episode 796: I Wish I Were Jewish And Reading These Plays...

So I've just finished my review of Jonathan Raban's Driving Home: An American Scrapbook. Didn't manage to read the whole thing because I'd put off getting started for too long, but I did get through about 200 pages out of 500+, which was more than enough for me to highly recommend it. Curiously, I got a lot out of Raban's own introduction to the volume, in the sense that it was easy to read the subsequent pieces against Raban's expressed beliefs and influences and see how these were reflected in his writing, a point that I think I came close to belabouring in my review. We'll see if my editor has anything to say about that. Now reading The Jew Of Malta, although I'm not sure how hard I should try to finish it, since Tuesday's seminar really sounds like I could get away with just doing research on Google Scholar, and only then reading the relevant scenes. We'll see if I can finish it by tomorrow, since I've got to re-read The Merchant Of Venice, which has always been one of my favourite Shakespearean plays. At one point, I used to be able to recite both Portia's speech on mercy and Shylock's speech about being a Jew. It's mostly gone now, but it's nice to think that there was a time in my life when I cared enough to commit stuff to memory.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Episode 795: McSweeney's Black Friday Sale!

McSweeney's is offering their iPhone application at a steep discount as part of Black Friday sales. It costs only £0.59 to purchase it, including a 180-day subscription. Renewals of this can also be purchased for the same price. I think it's a pretty fantastic deal, especially if like me, you can't afford quite afford to commit to subscribing to the print magazine itself. (Though I still cherish hopes of doing so eventually!) The in-application material comes from the four publications under the McSweeney's grouping: Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Wholphin, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency. It's an incredibly generous sale offer, so if you've got an iPhone, it's definitely worth getting the application. I suppose the caveat is that you've got to like McSweeney's output in general to begin with! Am now watching Julie Taymor's 'Titus', and I must say, that Lavinia post-rape scene when Marcus Andronicus discovers her is possibly one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen. Watching it, I can also completely understand what Carol Rutter meant when she said that seeing the film was enough to make her lecture redundant. Highly recommend viewing it for the sheer density of its imagery and symbolism.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Episode 794: Barcelona, Here We Come!

Flight tickets and hostel for Barcelona sorted by Yong Long! I've booked my train tickets to get to the airport as well. Also bought my return ticket for the Christmas holidays, but haven't got around to getting the corresponding tickets for transport to Heathrow because I can't decide if I'll need the coach or can I cope with lugging stuff around on the train and the Tube. For a change, I could probably do the latter, since I'm only planning to bring one suitcase back, assuming the books to be carted back will fit along with my clothes. Should probably try packing next week! The thing is, it's a lot cheaper to go by train than coach. Like 90%? Anyway, Michael Hulse thinks the language of the poems I've written so far can afford to be tweaked so that it doesn't sound so stiff, which is a problem I'd sort of anticipated even as I was writing them. Basically, I'm writing in the wrong century, when we don't go in for heavy rhetorical flourishes anymore. Oh well. Hopefully, I'll revise these at some point, and hopefully, the next group of poems won't present as much of a problem, seeing as there's actually very little material I can lift directly from the KJV for them, which will definitely help with not getting bogged down by archaisms.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Episode 793: ACCR Occupied!

Pretty much wrote the third poem on the bus journey to cell, so I'm all set for my meeting with Michael Hulse tomorrow afternoon. I'm quite pleased with it for a first draft, as it contains a pair of lines that represent a pun which I think wouldn't be amiss in a Shakespearean play. I know, such a lofty claim! I'm hoping that the pun actually works and it wasn't just all in my head. Incidentally, I was there when the Conference Room in the Arts Centre got occupied by student protesters. While I applaud their desire to take a stand against the cuts, I personally find their list of demands to be somewhat naïve. The post on their WordPress blog states that they 'consider these demands to be fair and reasonable, and would appreciate a quick response'. I would suggest that it is irrelevant how they view their demands, given that the power structure in which they're operating is weighted in favour of the university. You might say that's the problem, but I somehow doubt that a protest will achieve anything significant that couldn't have been reached by a less openly confrontational approach.

I also (mildly) take issue with their signing off as 'Students of the University of Warwick', as if they somehow spoke for a wide section of the student body. The BBC reports more than 70 students as being involved, which is a paltry number in comparison to how many students there are at Warwick. It's worth pointing out that when they occupied the ACCR, our EN301 lecture had just finished and people were leaving. Despite their exhortations, I didn't witness droves of people rushing to stay behind with them. I for one was rather discomfited. As someone who believes that university education is not some sort of right to be claimed willy-nilly (for it is certain that there are people who do not desire to go to university) and believes that fees need to rise, the protesters do not speak for me and never have. As an international student, who indirectly cross-subsidises local students by paying thrice as much in fees to begin with, I also think the burden of the cost of education needs to be distributed more evenly. Basically, why am I indirectly paying for so many of you to get hammered on a regular basis? (The argument that fees elsewhere in Europe are lower is wilfully ignoring the fact that other European countries aren't in fact replicas of Britain, and perhaps, I don't know, their governments just had better long-term planning.) Oh, but I've forgotten. We're trying to keep foreigners out of the UK system, aren't we? How ironic.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Episode 792: Finally Wrote Something For My PWP!

Tried to work on my PWP in the Library, but that didn't work out too well. Guess I am really not a pen-and-paper kind of writer. Give me a keyboard and a word processor any day! Came home after band practice and banged out the first poem of 30. Am trying to finish a bit more of the second poem, especially because I already have an idea for the ending. It's just the middle bits that are missing! I'm worried that the language of the poems is going to end up being too archaic, although given the subject matter, it's somewhat excusable, I suppose. Should probably discuss this with Michael Hulse when I meet him on Thursday. In a way, I'm using this first trio of poems to test if I'm going far enough in the right direction, as far as what I want to do with my PWP is concerned. I've also picked the full list of 30 Biblical figures that I want to write about, so that should keep me going, especially over the Christmas vacation. Also somewhat frantically trying to read Driving Home: An American Scrapbook. No matter what, I'm going to finish at least the title essay before I turn in for the night. Less than 40 pages to go! Plus Raban's prose is very readable, a point that I'm sure to note in my review.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Episode 791: Mocking Up CV And Cover Letter...In French

Sat in the Library after the EN301 lecture and just read Titus Andronicus. Pretty pleased that I actually managed to finish it in one sitting. Man, talk about a heavy first scene! Anyway, the lecture on Tamburlaine The Great did go some way towards changing my mind about Marlowe. Was hoping to finally read more of that Jonathan Raban book that I need to turn in my review of in a week, or maybe finally write something for my PWP instead of just thinking about it, but all such plans were derailed by my attempts to finish my French homework, which consisted of putting together a CV and writing a cover letter. The trouble was finding a job advertisement that I a) understood and b) qualified for. In the end, I just gave up and wrote one asking for an internship at Hachette Livre. Can't imagine that they'd actually give one to me based on what I've handed in, but hey, whatever gets the homework done. Guess I'll write a poem between my seminar and band practice. I could come home, but I'd probably get more done on campus without my laptop and easy Internet access. (It's quite a pain to have to log onto the campus WiFi every time I want to do something on my iPhone that requires an Internet connection.) Perhaps there's still time to read a bit of Driving Home: An American Scrapbook after all...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Episode 790: One Play Down, One To Go

Am almost done with Tamburlaine The Great, after which I shall try to make a start on Titus Andronicus. I will say that Marlowe's play feels kind of flat compared to the complexities in Shakespearean plays. I'm hoping that Tony Howard's lecture tomorrow will help me to gain some insight into it. On the other hand, I've happily figured out what I want to do for my EN301 creative project. This happened because I missed the first evening U1 after service, so I went to the Library for the warmth. Got to looking up articles on Google Scholar, and I think I've narrowed my area of interest down to Shakespeare's comedies. What I'm going to focus on are the characters for whom the endings seem particularly problematic in terms of unresolved issues, explicit or implied, and the creative project itself is going to be a series of dramatic monologues addressing these issues. If it doesn't work out, I'm pretty sure I can find enough material for an essay anyway, so it should all work out fine whichever way I choose to fulfil the assessment. Right?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Episode 789: Gangsters & Molls

Let's just say I'm both unsurprised and appalled that racism is alive and well where I live, but thanks, Laura, for having my back. Anyway, Gaby and Sophie Mac's themed birthday party was good fun. Had read a bit of Marlowe before leaving the house, so I did manage to get some work done today, despite having woken up sometime past noon. Should probably be able to finish Tamburlaine The Great before service tomorrow and get started on Titus Andronicus. Pretty impressed as well that I didn't spend any money on alcohol! Just 47p for a bottle of Tesco own-brand cola, that bottle of Bacardi from our housewarming party weeks ago, and I was set for the rest of the night. (The alternative would have been buying two bottles of Bacardi Breezer for £5, and that would have been silly.) Tying helium balloons to Dan was possibly the funniest part of the evening actually. I think at one point there were about 10? Further hilarity ensued later in the night when people decided inhaling helium would be a good idea as well. Chipmunks!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Episode 788: Propeller's Richard III

Went to see Propeller's production of Richard III at the Belgrade this evening, which I thought was a really solid piece of work. The most surprising thing, for me at least, was the amount of gallows humour the company managed to unearth. The footnotes in the Norton edition of the play already highlight several instances of punning and irony, but by bringing some of the action onstage that is otherwise not made explicit in Shakespeare's text, e.g. Richard and Anne's wedding, the company was able to do things like have the couple walk down an 'aisle' of dead bodies, with Anne tripping midway and looking mildly horrified. I also really liked how their Richard basically murders everyone in full view of the audience, including the two murderers (with their Mockney accents and their nimble feet) and Tyrrell (who looked like a character straight out of some torture porn film) right after they've done his bidding. None of these characters die in Shakespeare's text. Nice touch, by the way, taking away all of Tyrrell's lines and having Ratcliffe act as the go-between instead. Really enhanced the former's axe murderer vibe. Another great little moment was when the Scrivener came back on to denounce Richard before the Citizens, was promptly silenced, and then Catesby was comically trying to conceal the body.

It seems to me that the production's greatest strength was its attention to the small details. (Randomly, I'd never noticed how the play's two wooing scenes both end with the idea of faring well.) The hospital trappings and paraphernalia were definitely not something that would immediately have come to my mind if I were staging Richard III, but they worked very well, I thought, especially in the exchange where Edward bids Elizabeth, Rivers, Hastings and Buckingham to be reconciled to each other. Just before, we saw all of them lined up, together with Richard, and vials of blood being drawn from them by the orderlies in smocks and masks. So when they swore amity, they exchanged the vials and drank from them. Kind of creepy, but as a literal embodiment of blood oaths, it was brilliant. Richard, of course, appeared after everyone else had drunk from each other's vials, and so was never bound by anything other than his words, feigning friendship to Elizabeth. I also liked how when the orderlies transformed into the Citizens in the first scene after the intermission, where Buckingham is trying to incite them to support Richard, they pulled down their masks to around their necks, and it almost made their costumes look somehow clerical.

This was particularly interesting because of how the religious aspect of the play appeared to have been deliberately foregrounded. Just before the intermission, we had the visual image of a cross, with the crown positioned at its base. In the scene where the coronation of the young prince is being discussed, Richard tells the Bishop of Ely to send for some strawberries, and the latter walks off the stage. Never occurred to me while reading the text that this was literally the Church being moved out of the picture, so that Richard and Buckingham's conspiratorial confabulation now takes place in a space vacated by religion. Then there was the whole Latin choral chanting, which was creepy but very effective in invoking particular moods. Like the Dies Irae whenever someone was about to die. (Ratcliffe's ticking timepiece in the death scenes of Hastings and Buckingham was also wonderfully funny, by the way.) I think the use of the chorus throughout the entire production was just fantastic in general, and it did make me think of Tom Cornford's comment in his lecture on how there are two ways of reading the play, as history turned into myth or myth turned into history. It seems that the chorus here was almost functioning like one from a Greek tragedy (and Margaret did seem like some sort of avenging spirit when she was cursing everyone and sprinkling them with her bowl of blood).

To go back to the religious angle, I also found it interesting because of how Richmond came across as such a Bible-thumping character. The good-versus-evil element was converted visually into Richard's all-black and Richmond's all-white costumes. What complicated this, however, was how the latter's costume seemed just a bit too slick. Think televangelist. (Richard just looked a bit like Darth Vader, to be honest, and later, Captain Hook, with his shrivelled arm and missing hand.) Then there was that cross he kept swinging in his right hand. I'm pretty sure he held it with his right hand every time it appeared, except in the final scene, where he'd transferred it to his left because his right was holding the pistol he used to shoot Richard. Twice. I was curious as to how Propeller would portray Richmond, and it seems like they've gone for ambiguity. Apart from that switch of hands, there was also the manner of Richard's death. The battle Shakespeare's text calls for didn't happen because as Richard drew his weapon, Richmond took out his and fired off a shot. That was it. Game over, basically.

Leaving aside the obviously non-confrontational (and therefore not-quite-heroic) nature of Richmond's victory, there were little details that suggested to me this production was deliberately aligning his character with Richard's. This began all the way from the dream sequences, where I must say having the ghosts unzip themselves from their body bags was superb. Instead of setting up two separate spaces for Richard and Richmond, they occupied the same space, with the orderlies moving hospital screens around to allow for transitions. Then we saw them sleeping sitting up on the bed, back to back, so that the ghosts' cursing of one and blessing of the other overlapped. The most telling detail, to my mind anyway, was their interactions with the crown. Both characters take the crown up and crown themselves. One might argue that Richard's avaricious seizing of the crown wasn't quite the same thing as Richmond's more measured placing of it on his head, but the fact remains that the actual act of putting on the crown was self-initiated in both cases. Furthermore, Richmond ends the play on his knees, holding a pistol in one hand and a cross in the other, wedding martial and religious imagery even as he delivers a speech calling for divine blessing on the forthcoming time of peace. A bit dubious, no?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Episode 787: A Quiet Night Of Reading...

It's probably a sign of how out of touch I am that I've only recently realised that apparently the next big battle in the technology industry is going to be between Facebook and Google. Basically, Microsoft who? Now this is the sort of business and current affairs that I wouldn't mind reading about for LL251! Have been doing a set of readings for a seminar a week from now that I only got today, mainly because I'm trying to avoid reading the plays that I actually have to by Tuesday morning. It's okay though, as I got to read Ted Hughes's 'February 17th', which is possibly one of the most graphically gruesome poems I've ever encountered. (I meant that in the most positive way possible.) Since I've got started on reading, I might as well carry on, so I figure I'll read one of the books I got out for my PWP ages ago but haven't touched, Theology And Literature by T. R. Wright. I figure I should figure out after a dozen or so pages if it's potentially going to be useful for the commentary to this bunch of poems that are as-yet unwritten. Have also been inching my way through The Atrocity Exhibition, chapter by chapter. Currently aiming for one per day. On a related note, I returned this other Ballard book yesterday, and the seller's going to fully refund me and throw in some money for postage too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 786: Writers In Prisons 50th Anniversary Event

Just found out some pretty shocking news. Nothing that affects me directly, so don't worry, but it's still shocking nevertheless. Anyway, moving on, I just got back from the Writers in Prisons 50th Anniversary Event at the Arts Centre, which featured people from English PEN and Index on Censorship in conversation with Maureen Freely. It was an interesting session, including the bit where one of the ladies from Index on Censorship basically lambasted Singapore, albeit briefly. I didn't say anything, partly because I totally see where she's coming from, and also because this wasn't the forum for going into the matter, which I think is a lot more complex than most Westerners can appreciate, purely because they're not coming from the same place as I do. To summarise my general position, I think any criticism levelled at Singapore needs to be viewed in the context of Singapore as a giant socio-politico-economic experiment. To go back to the event itself, it was fascinating to see people so engaged in defending something that I have to admit I've always taken for granted. Most interesting thing I learnt was probably that the USA is apparently the only country in the world that legally protects freedom of speech, in the form of the First Amendment. Also had no idea how tough libel laws were in the UK!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Episode 785: Almost Caught Up!

Ended up staying awake till 2.30 am to finish the play. Ran into Adam Putz, my tutor from EN122 in first year, and remarked to him on the difficulty of actually finishing a play. His opinion was that to just read isn't a problem, more of having a few hours to set aside. To really get stuck into a play, on the other hand, is a lot harder. Given that I've got two plays to read before next week's seminar, well, I should probably have started yesterday, at the rate that I take. Part one of Marlowe's Tamburlaine The Great and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to be precise. Have dashed off my two film reviews, am going to dash off a short conversation I'm writing for this new student drama project I've got involved in once I finish catching up on some of my shows, and then I might spend a couple of hours reading. What, I'm not sure yet. Oh, and I should probably make myself dinner at some point too. I'm down to one meal a day again, which isn't healthy, but I just can't be bothered really. Also a bit annoyed that a book I ordered from a third-party seller has once again turned out to be the wrong edition. It's in excellent condition, but just not what I was looking for. Am seeing if I can get a refund because postage should be around £1, if not less. I wish sellers would be more careful with their listings!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Episode 784: Now Reading Richard III...

Seems like I have to write the reviews after all, so I'll have them done by tomorrow night. Also have a one-page conversation to write for this student drama thing that I'm planning on getting involved in, so I need to get that done by Wednesday. Am not supposed to spend too much time on it anyway, so I won't. Should be fun to write! Am now valiantly ploughing through Richard III, and have about 50 pages more to go, so realistically, I could finish it before going to bed. It's really a question of whether I have the willpower. Or not. Yong Long's asking if anyone wants to go to the Canary Islands after term ends. I'm tempted, just because the RyanAir flight is ridiculously cheap (but it probably will be the worst flight of my life ever), and I still haven't sorted out my flight back to Singapore! The redemption plan appears to be falling through, so I'm going to have to buy it, but I can't do that for at least another week, when the redemption window closes and I know for certain that I can't get a ticket that way. Fingers crossed that a miracle will happen and I get to spend Christmas at home for free! (I suppose my parents would pay if it came to that, as I really can't afford to pay for my flight home at the current prices.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Episode 783: Still Not Reading Richard III...

Doing one last batch of titles instead of reading Richard III, which is a shame because this is one of the plays I actually really like. Can't believe Natalie is studying this for her 'A' Levels next year. At the rate I'm going, she'll have read it before I do. Was going to finish it before heading to the evening service, but unsurprisingly, I left off starting till such a late hour that I only made it to Act 1 Scene 2. I must have read that whole bit about four times now. No idea what I want to do for my creative project for this module, so I might end up doing an essay instead, although honestly, that just begs the same question, doesn't it? It would be brilliant if I could find some sort of excuse to produce more poetry, instead of faffing about, trying to write a (screen)play. I just need to find the right hook, so that the reflective essay won't turn out to be a shambles. Completely blanked out PWP from my mind during Reading Week, to the extent that I had to e-mail Michael Hulse to ask when I was meeting him again. (It's this week, but I've postponed for obvious reasons.) With any luck, I can get through, what, six poems by next week?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Episode 782: Reading Week Produces Bad Sleeping Patterns

Had such grand plans for being productive today, which all came to nought when I work up sometime past noon. Was going to write my film reviews, but upon looking at the schedule again, I've noticed that my films aren't on it anymore, so I'm waiting to hear back from the reviews editor, seeing as I wasn't actually told that the films were taken out. I did collect another batch of graphics and titles, so that's pretty much been my entire evening. Whatever was left of the afternoon by the time I was awake enough to function was given over to the obligatory hours spent on Facebook and keeping up-to-date with TV shows that I always say I plan to watch but never do, as well as a couple of minutes spent finishing up my French homework. Business articles are so much sexier when the vocabulary's in French, but they're still pretty boring to read, if you ask me. The article I was reading was about how managerial positions are being filled again in France after a supposed hiring freeze. I know, riveting stuff! (Okay, so it was actually sort of interesting, but really not the sort of thing I would actively seek out for perusal.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Episode 781: Carver Or King?

Had planned to write the two film reviews for WSC once I got home, but ended up finding more titles and graphics instead. Hadn't planned on signing up for a graphics slot initially, but there are still loads available, so I figured I might as well help out since I've got a spare hour tonight. Guess I'll just have to get cracking on the reviews tomorrow. Should be fairly quick work, since New York, I Love You and Resident Evil: Afterlife are hardly obscure films. It's only 250 words each anyway! Got pretty good feedback on my short story today, which was great because everyone had helpful ideas on where I could take the story next. The consensus is that 2000 words is too short for it, and that right now, the story could play out as something from either Raymond Carver or Stephen King, depending on which aspect of it I want to focus on. I'm glad Tim Leach thought the narrative voice was interesting, as I think that's generally the greatest (and maybe only) strength in my prose work. Maureen Freely commented on it as well in my first year's assessed work for EN124. We'll see what everyone else says about it in workshops, although I could probably start making revisions right now, to be honest. I'm just putting it off because that's what I always do...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Episode 780: Sandcastle

Am on my way back from seeing Boo Junfeng's Sandcastle with Eugene at the Birkbeck Cinema in London. It's an impressive full-length debut, and if there was ever any doubt before (as if that were even possible for one of Singapore's most fêted young filmmakers), it should cement his status as someone to keep an eye on. During the Q&A, he did mention that his goal is to get to a place where he can just make films for a living, so I really hope that happens! It's a bit hard to summarise the whole film, so I'm not even going to try, apart from saying that memory plays a big deal in it and it's all very sensitively executed. I think the encore screening on Saturday is already sold out, so it's too late for anyone who's planning on catching it, I'm afraid. Also raided Oxfam Bloomsbury and Marylebone while I was in London, nabbing a couple of plays from Oberon and a whole lot of poetry from Shearsman, who are definitely one of my favourite publishers when it comes to designing covers. I mean, I like the poetry I've read so far, just that the covers are pretty fetching as well, which can only be a good thing in terms of attracting casual browsers like myself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Episode 779: I Think Fees Should Go Up...

A couple of friends were protesting the rise in fees in London today. Unsurprisingly, my views on the whole issue are somewhat detached, since the rise in fees by no means directly affects someone in my position. I mean, come on, I'm already paying fees that are at least thrice as much as what they're paying now. If anyone asks me, however, I'd quite frankly say that I think a rise in fees should happen. I don't dispute that education is a social good, but there should still be a limit to how long the government goes on funding it, and if thinking that way puts me in league with the Tories even though I probably think fees should rise for completely different reasons than they do (not having any vested interests that I need to protect after all), then so be it. I can see why the protesters are angry about fees, but honestly, effectively what they're also protesting for, like it or not, is the right for their fellow students to party and booze their way through three or four years of university at a lower cost. Having walked past many a drunken twat over the past couple of years, I sincerely think that lot deserve to pay more for an education they're obviously not too bothered about anyway. Anyway, my thoughts are more complex than I can be bothered to convey here, largely because the whole issue doesn't concern me. (Somewhat hypocritically, I will totally be singing a different tune if my MA funding from MOE doesn't happen.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Episode 778: 1310/2000!

Still ill, but I'm making surprisingly good progress on the 2000 words for Friday and I'm really pleased about that. In fact, I've written 1310 words today. So to reward myself, I'm about to watch the episode of Gossip Girl that I've been saving all day, despite receiving an SMS in the morning from Eugene Chan, who apparently makes it his habit to see it in the morning now because that's the only time he can spare. Come to think of it, I can't do any work tomorrow or on Thursday either, so I might actually finish up the rest of the rewrite after the episode's finished. It's mostly just merging what were originally footnotes into the main body of the text, which was one of the things George Ttoouli suggested last year in his feedback. I've left out some of the material from the footnotes, as well as reworked the plot, so I think the final product is going to contain more original material than I'd thought. Once I get this done, I can switch my focus to dealing with my PWP. I spent some free time during the weekend away in Sheffield thinking about groupings, and I've got way beyond Cain/Abel/Seth at this point. Will actually have to start writing the poems before I can decide how successful some of my groupings are though.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Episode 777: Reading Week Woes

Randomly, I've discovered that Peter Outerbridge from ReGenesis has a guest spot on Nikita! The storyline that's been set up seems like there's potential for him to become a recurring character, so that's great news. The new episode of The Walking Dead, by the way, is a bit disappointing compared to the premiere. For starters, the intelligence of the zombies is a bit inconsistent. Why are they clever enough to smash in the department store windows with bricks but not clever enough to climb up the fire escape after Rick? Also, clearly sneaking away from your kid to have sex in the forest is just one of those things you do in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. I suppose it makes some long-term sense, you know, perpetuating the human race, but I can't imagine the pregnancy would be much fun. Have managed to get my French composition done like I'd planned to, and even did the titles for WSC, which is just as well, since it looks I'm going to have to sign up for another week soon if no one else takes more of the empty slots. Still need to write two film reviews by the end of the week. At least I've settled on what I'm going to cobble together for Friday's 2000-word EN236 deadline. It's basically the rewrite of something I showed to George ages ago, since I obviously didn't actually rewrite it back then. (Just as well, or I'd be completely stuck now, wouldn't I?) Basically, there's so much to do and now I'm ill! It's ridiculous.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Episode 776: Church Twice In A Day

First time I've been asked during a conversation which part of the country I'm from, rather than which country. So it has been empirically established so far, after just over two years of university, that I sound American to a mainland Chinese guy, Canadian to a German girl, and presumably, some indistinct English accent to the English girl in question. To be fair, even my 'normal' Singaporean accent when I'm back home is generally a bit more 'classed up' anyway, although it's more like I'm just not being lazy and actually bothering to enunciate properly. (Sorry, this is definitely one of my pet peeves about Singaporeans.) Anyway, I attended church twice today. Was at the morning service in St Thomas', then had a bit of lunch and the drive back to Leamington. Was tempted to just crash into bed after a shower, but I ended up going to the Westwood evening service instead. Couple of my favourite songs in the worship set, so that was nice. Peter's talk about giving quite resonated though, and it echoed something Toby Bassford brought up during the weekend away, so it's probably an area I need to be reflecting on! Quite intrigued by the church model that St Thomas' pioneered, which Westwood has also adopted, because it seems to me like the sort of model that COGS should be thinking about in terms of growth.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Episode 775: Become Day 2

I think tonight was the first time anyone has prayed for me and given me words of knowledge, which I really appreciated. Most interesting part of my day definitely had to be attending the seminar on Christianity and social justice. There was a good discussion going on about how we as Christians need to engage with social issues like the environment and poverty in the developing world, and how this realisation is a comparatively recent thing for the wider church. Not too sure I agreed with the guy who expressed reservations about buying food ethically as a student because of the additional cost. I mean, how much would it really cost? Sacrificing a couple of drinks every week, perhaps? Anyway, I'm playing The Settlers Of Catan in the kitchen area instead of watching Michael McIntyre downstairs, although really, what I should be doing is trying to get more sleep than I did last night. It's a good thing I have all of Reading Week to catch up on my sleep, even if I do still have 2000 words to write by Friday! Nonetheless, I'm definitely glad I came on this weekend away with my church friends.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Episode 774: Become Day 1

Spent just over two hours squashed in the back of Harri's car, travelling to Sheffield. Most amusing part of the trip was probably taking an accidental detour and winding up having to pay the M6 toll twice within 15 minutes. Oh well. These things happen, I suppose. Pete James was leading worship tonight, and man, that guy's voice is good. Was genuinely tempted to buy his CDs, but ultimately decided that it wasn't crucial. I can always pay a little bit more to get them some other time! Toby Bassford's talk was really interesting, especially the part about the tension between the mindsets fostered by American and British societies, as I think it partially informs some of the contentious issues faced by the church in Singapore, specifically with regard to the rise of the megachurch movement and the current criticisms being levelled at those megachurches. Incidentally, our sleeping quarters are better than we'd expected. We were supposed to have been in a large hall of some sort, with a huge heater roaring away, but instead, we've wound up on cushions and couches in a quiet room. Sweet!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Episode 773: Massive Win In Seminar!

Am incredibly sleepy, but I've managed to finish the last post for Incwriters! Now it's time to pack for the student weekend away in Sheffield, which I'm pretty excited about because a lot of my good friends at church are going to be there. I think I'm in a pretty good place at the moment work-wise, and whatever areas I'm behind in, Reading Week is definitely going to give me time to catch up. Like finally finishing Richard III, damn it! (Or him, I suppose.) I'm a bit pleased that I managed to get through the whole of today's EN236 seminar, despite not having read Robinson in its entirety. My contribution to the seminar was also one of the few that Michael Gardiner did not express any reservations about at all, so I was immensely pleased with myself. Just think what I could've said if I'd actually managed to finish the novel! Yeah, probably wouldn't have said all that much more, to be honest. I only spoke today out of self-preservation, like say something I know is correct before he asks me about something I know nothing about. Clearly paid off, so I'm going to carry that moment of triumph with me to bed. Just for tonight, I promise. I'll be back to my humble self tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Episode 772: Rebound Procrastination Strikes!

I just Googled how to sign off an e-mail to my French tutor because I was pretty sure that 'Veuillez agréer, Madame, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées' was not only much too formal, but also pretty ridiculous since it would be longer than the content of the email, which was simply 'Voice ma présentation sur l'économie de Singapour', so I finally settled on 'Bien cordialement'. Anyway, was actually kind of dreading LL251 today, but it turned out to be just fine. The three hours actually went by quite quickly, considering that there were less people than usual in the class. My private opinion is that it's because quite a few of the French department first-year students weren't around. I know it's really uncharitable of me, but I just find their accents so annoying. I'm now sitting in front of my laptop, watching ReGenesis and eating chocolate, when what I really should be doing is making a last-ditch attempt to read Muriel Spark's Robinson. If I'm honest with myself, I don't care about Robinson. I'm just slightly intimidated by Michael Gardiner, although before today's EN301 lecture, I was standing beside someone who professed that he was his favourite tutor at university because of his intelligence. Fair point, I guess?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Episode 771: Ramping Up The Productivity!

Just randomly watched Serenity with my housemates, so now obviously I have to watch Firefly too. Finally finished off Fahrenheit 451 today, and damn it, that book really gets to me. I mean, I've always been fond of Ray Bradbury's work before, but reading this novel has taken things to a whole new level of respect. Down to just two more posts for Incwriters that need to be written, and it's good because they're going to be on topics that I find easy to write about, so hooray for that! Might get it all done tomorrow if I get back early enough from cell, otherwise it's going to have to be on Thursday, possibly during that ridiculous stretch of free time between my two seminars. In keeping with the title of this post, I'm actually going to make the effort to finish reading that chapter by Harold Bloom on John Ashbery. Bloom's being a snob, unsurprisingly, and I feel slightly embarrassed that I was once upon a time in awe of him as one of the canon-definers of recent times. I mean, be a critic, but come on, don't be nasty about it. I'm also going to try and read a bit more of The Wild Boys, with a view to finishing it by Thursday. Would be a good idea to finish those Shakespeare plays too, I suppose. Am already going to have to restart Richard III for the fourth time because we've got a task to do for after Reading Week that would involve looking at the text in fairly close detail. Sigh.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Episode 770: Progress In My Reading!

It seems like I'm only really good at reading books weeks after I'm meant to have read them. Fahrenheit 451 is the book I'm on at the moment, and the only thing keeping me from finishing it is the fact that I'm watching the premiere of The Walking Dead. I mean, who doesn't love zombies, really? Now back to the book at hand. I just wanted to say that it's quite possibly the first occasion that a work of fiction has made me desperately angry and sad for its characters. Specifically, it's that moment right after Montag has revealed to his wife that he's been stealing and hiding books, and he's trying to convince her that it's important that they read them, at least just once. I literally stopped reading for a few seconds at that point. Anyway, a flash fiction I wrote as part of an exercise last week has received quite a good reception when I've read it out to people. Of course, maybe they're all just being really polite, but I'd like to think otherwise. Someone asked me (I've no idea why) how much of it was true. Well, none of it. I just thought it was a fun idea. I've got a thing for ironic stories. You can read it here, if you like.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Episode 769: A Clockwork Orange

No progress on the Incwriters posts yet, and now I've got to get started on WSC stuff as well. Collecting titles for a couple of films, which shouldn't take long, and writing two reviews, of New York, I Love You and Resident Evil: Afterlife. Don't think I'm going to offer to collect graphics this term, at least not until I've cleared everything else that I need to do. That would be, oh, reading three plays, a bunch of novels, and starting on my PWP. Nothing much really. I did finish reading A Clockwork Orange at last, and my opinion of it has been completely reversed. I think it has definite flaws, but at the structural level, it's interesting because of the way the final chapter, originally excised in the American edition, brings the narrative full circle, and then breaks out. I think without that final chapter, the tone of the story is completely shifted to something potentially more sinister, and yet the rest of the book, though set in a dystopian society, does not quite match up to the dismal ending of the American edition. That said, this novel has definite pacing issues, as I found the first third unbearably taxing to plod through, but the rest of the book was a surprisingly quick read. Finished it in an hour or so before service, sitting in the Library!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Episode 768: Reconsidering My Options...

Had blueberries for lunch because I felt so guilty about eating Vialli's again last night. Meant to finish writing all the blog entries that I need to schedule for my upcoming Incwriters stint, but have only managed to finish three out of eight, with the fourth half-completed. Oh well, at least I'm still ahead of schedule. Managed to finish the reading for this week's EN301 seminar, which I found myself disagreeing with on principle because there's nothing worse than militant feminist literary criticism. Have been acquiring a fair amount of music today, including albums by Matt Redman, Danny Saucedo, Erik Segerstedt and Matthew West. That reminds me, I need to purchase Sophie Mac's EP! Anyway, I think I'm slowly coming around to the opinion that it's not logical for me to spend time taking the GRE and applying to American universities if when I rank my choices for MOE, Warwick is still going to be the first one. The reasons for this are mostly non-academic, like being part of an awesome worship band in church, and possibly getting to do a reading in Leeds next September. It might seem like my priorities are wrong, but given that I don't have a strong preference for any of the four universities over the others for purely academic reasons, I say the peripheral factors are now the central ones for decision-making.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Episode 767: Flagging Productivity

You know that feeling when you've got loads to do, but you just don't feel like getting on with it? Am sort of in that state right now. I've just been reminded that I've got eight days of blogging to schedule for Incwriters, and I've only got ideas for three so far, which is slightly worrying. I haven't completed my readings for EN236 since weeks ago, and that's not going to change this week, especially since I don't actually have a copy of Muriel Spark's Robinson. You can see bits of it on Google Books, so I suppose that'll have to do. Pretty certain it's not going to turn out to be my kind of book though. Have just finished my writing task for this week after getting back from Louise's birthday bar crawl, so that's something accomplished at least. Totally going to do a Saturday of hardcore reading, and possibly some writing as well. I think it's best that I get cracking on the PWP as soon as possible, even if it's bashing out a mediocre poem that Michael Hulse would not approve of. I mean, I don't have to show the awful drafts to him, since I'm only checking in with him again in Week 7. Have even ordered a two-volume anthology, Chapters Into Verse, which collects poetry inspired by the Bible. I think it's going to make for interesting reading, allow me to compare what I'm writing against what other poets have written, or maybe even to see gaps that I can fill. Just briefly glancing through the contents pages, I could see that there are loads of poems about Adam and Eve, but very little about Cain and Abel, let alone Seth. It's definitely going to be that last aspect, giving voice to the silent characters, that'll be fascinating to work on.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Episode 766: First PWP Meeting

So today got off to a pretty disastrous start. Missed the 68 down to the Parade, and then I walked halfway to the U1 bus stop before realising that I'd left my bus pass at home in the pair of jeans I wore yesterday, so I had to double back. Then at the bus stop, two full U1s went by, so by the time I finally made it to the seminar, I was 35 minutes late. Absolutely mortifying. The Internet is also being temperamental. It works on and off, and I can't figure out why. It's either incompatible router settings or a weak wireless signal, and I can't figure out which it is. Or maybe we just have a lousy connection. Wouldn't explain why I have absolutely no problems connecting to the wireless network using my iPhone though. Argh! At least my PWP meeting with Michael Hulse went really well. He was enthusiastic about the idea that I've got, and I can tell he really thinks I could do something amazing with it. The original idea I had is already expanding in my mind, but what I need is to find the right stories out of the Bible, pairing iconic figures with non-speaking characters. The first group I've got so far is Cain/Abel/Seth, and I'm thinking of ending the sequence off with John/Judas/Matthias. Matthias particularly interests me because he was Judas's replacement among the Twelve, but I believe the Bible doesn't actually mention him again outside of Acts. I think there's an interesting parallel there with how Seth is Adam and Eve's 'replacement' son after Abel's death and Cain's subsequent banishment.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Episode 765: The Red Shoes

Caught Kneehigh Theatre's revival of The Red Shoes with Bella at the Arts Centre. They first produced it 10 years ago, and the revival's part of their thirtieth anniversary celebrations. There were loads of students in the audience because this play is on the curriculum, I think, and this was the performance with a post-show dialogue. Didn't stay till the end of that, but was around long enough to hear all the student-type questions. As for the production itself, it was excellent. The character of Lydia, incidentally, reminded me of The Emcee in Cabaret, which I saw in Singapore a couple of years ago with Fei Xiang starring as that character. You have that same ambivalent sexuality, narrating the events of the play. To me, however, The Red Shoes presents a far more primal tale than Cabaret. What's interesting about Emma Rice's take on Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale is how The Girl is clearly portrayed as having a future beyond the traditionally received narrative's ending where she dies. That ending may be viewed as problematic because of its very strongly moralising tone and connection to the church, not to mention that it's an angel that condemns her to dance in the first place. With Kneehigh Theatre's production, she appears to successfully overcome both the taint that the red shoes represent, as well as the strict religious institution that would have her damned without being given a second chance. The focus in the play is less on dialogue per se than on visuals, which is an interesting way of staging things. I particularly liked how The Girl's costume became progressively redder throughout. All in all, a thought-provoking evening, especially in light of what I'm working on for my PWP.