Sunday, January 31, 2010

Episode 496: I Hate In Memoriam A. H. H.

Overslept and missed church, but the extra hour or so of sleep helped a lot. I don't know why, but this term's just felt a lot more crowded with incident than the last four, which has made having a lie-in a veritable luxury. Not to say that the entire day was wasted. I watched an episode of The Vampire Diaries. I also did my French homework, although I've elected not to write out answers to comprehensions in future, since we never hand them in and I could probably conjure up the answer on the spot anyway, having read the article twice. Now all that's left to do over the next couple of days is the musical and putting together something that I can send out to solicit sponsorship for AdHoc. I even spent some time reading the remainder of 'In Memoriam A. H. H.', which was just as frustrating as the last time I sat down to read it in the Library. It was so unmemorable, I had trouble remembering where I stopped at first. Having got to the end of it, I found myself feeling like the transition was too abrupt, in the sense that Tennyson spends so many stanzas bemoaning what seems to me to have been at the very least, a very suspicious bromance, but at the end, there's this huge reversal and it's all very tout est bien qui finit bien. There's even a marriage, for crying out loud, even if it is stashed away in the epilogue. Now that reading for work is done, I've moved on to re-reading books I last read years ago. Am beginning with Armistead Maupin's novels, which although they sound a bit dated now, are still pretty funny to me. In other news, Gollancz is now definitely my go-to publisher for science fiction.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Episode 495: Dollhouse Series Finale

So my ears are still ringing just a little after the aural assault of clubbing last night. Nevertheless, I survived rehearsal, and have picked up a simple dance move for the last verse of 'What Lies Before Us'. Maybe with some training, I could be a passable dancer after all? Nothing professional, you must understand, just coordinated enough so that I don't embarrass myself. Am not in the mood for serious work (i.e. trying to comprehend that French article for Tuesday), so I've caught up on most of my TV shows. The Dollhouse series finale was perfect. It was, first of all, very economic. We leapt forward a decade into a future last glimpsed at the end of the first season, and Joss Whedon gave us just enough clues from what characters said and did to infer what their lives had been like during that time, which to me will always represent the unrealised potential of this TV series that was cancelled because Americans are stupid and would rather watch American Idol than something that raises serious ethical questions. (I'm picking on American Idol because it's broadcast by the same network that axed Dollhouse.) Then there was the ending. Without spoiling it, I just want to say that it was a brilliant ending in that it was genuinely open-ended. You know how it's said that Shakespeare's comedies end in weddings and his tragedies end in funerals? Well, none of that conventional tidiness for this show. We get resolution, but only in the sense that we feel like a chapter is closing and a new one about to begin. To put it another way, the two seasons of Dollhouse are a dream for those who're into writing fan fiction because there are so many gaps in the chronology, but yet it's still pretty clear what generally takes place in them. Ultimately though, it's the ethical questions Dollhouse is clearly posing to its viewers that is really fascinating. What does it mean to be human? Are there limits to what we should seek to know and be able to do?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Episode 494: My First Kasbah Experience

Someone said during today's seminar that my introductory paragraphs on Haiti, which I wrote between my lecture and seminar yesterday and then fired off from a computer in Rootes Social, sounded like a column from The Guardian. So tempted to switch to writing about this subject for my non-fiction portfolio instead of the decline of the study of modern languages in the UK. If anything, the Haiti introduction makes for way more interesting reading, now that I compare it with the proposal I sent to Jeremy Treglown. Anyway, still plenty of time to worry about that! Went to Kasbah for the first time ever after tonight's rehearsal. Now when it comes to clubbing, I've got a set of complicated, if not entirely original, views. To begin with, I believe that fundamentally, all clubs and the experiences they provide are fairly similar. Due to that, there is a part of me that instinctively rejects the entire thing as a waste of money and time. (Given that entry to Kasbah costs a fraction of what your average Singaporean club would though, the money factor is less of an issue. Was also pleased that my NUS Extra card was accepted as ID, although I told a white lie and said my passport had been stolen and the card was thus my only proof of identity in the whole wide world.) On the other hand, there is also a part of me that responds to the whole atmosphere of a club: thumping beats, drinks, the crush of bodies on the dancefloor. (How can you not dance to something like Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance'?) It's like for the night, you can forget yourself among your friends, with the assurance that the next morning, everyone else will be too hammered to judge you anyway. (I'd like to mention at this point that I only had one drink all night.) It's a feeling that can get pretty addictive. Anyway, for once, I left a club not feeling like the entire thing wasn't worth what I paid for it and that I never want to do it again. So yeah, I can see why people would return to Kasbah, week after week. Oh, and I also picked up £20 off the floor on my way out. Now if that happened every time I went clubbing, I'd definitely do it more often!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Episode 493: Feeling Industrious Today...

So in a late morning spurt of productivity, I typed out the short piece on Haiti due for tomorrow's seminar between my EN238 seminar and EN227 lecture. It's written in a voice that is possibly mine, although I wouldn't say distinctively so. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that it's written in a voice that I would find engaging, alternating as it does between acerbic, cultivated and flippant. I realise that makes me sound like a better prose writer than I actually am, so here's the link and you can judge for yourselves. Did some preliminary research for the essay due at the end of the term, and already some interesting lines of inquiry are being thrown up. Am going to re-read 'The Eve Of St. Agnes' and 'Goblin Market', then go through the secondary reading I've amassed so far. I mean to get on top of this essay way in advance for a change! It helps that Emma Mason's lectures for the module are pretty damn interesting. I think lecturers need to be confident in their delivery, i.e. no stumbling on words, and after that's accomplished, they need to season it with either light humor or serious intellect. However much we want to pretend that all university students are conscientious, highly motivated individuals, the reality is that our attention is fickle, just like everyone else's.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Episode 492: First Full Dress Rehearsal!

Just back from our first full dress rehearsal, and I'm exhausted. It was good to finally put the whole thing together though, hiccups and all. I've also managed to get 11 people to come to the musical so far, which is pretty amazing, so all of you who're coming, I love you! On a completely different note, Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H. is frankly a really tedious thing to read. Okay, I get it. Your best friend died and you really, really loved him (and the way you describe that love is rather suspect from our contemporary perspective), but I've read poems that dealt with grief so much more economically and had a far greater impact on me as a result. So yeah, it might be a 'great poem' and all, but I don't buy it. (In general, I dislike poems that go on for too long, since a big reason for why I like poetry is its linguistic economy.) Speaking of which, I wrote two light verses during rehearsal for tomorrow's EN238 seminar. One of them's meant to be a rhyme to jump rope to, which I'm actually quite pleased with. Personally though, I've never actually jumped rope while reciting a rhyme. Does this mean I had a deprived childhood?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Episode 491: Emily Of Emerald Hill

So my French presentation went really well today. I'm just assuming this from my tutor's reaction right after because she didn't actually have time at the end to give me feedback. I think the general coherence and fluency of it threw people off, if I may boast a little. (Indulge me here.) Anyway, I thought I had to be at rehearsal today, but Bella disabused me of that notion, so I went to see Ranon's production of Emily Of Emerald Hill instead. Very, very wise decision on my part. I believe Ranon's a first-time director, but his work was quite frankly, bloody good. The idea of taking a monologue and dividing it according to the shifting personalities of the speaker was ingenious. I've read Stella Kon's play when I was much younger, but I always thought of the shifts as a classic case of the unreliable narrator, and what Ranon's done is take that and go a step further in interpreting the text. The acting was really solid as well. For me, the litmus test where emotional scenes are concerned is whether the actors can convey the emotional content without slipping into bathos or caricature, and the cast did it excellently here, particularly in the scene where Emily receives the telegram informing her of Richard's suicide. The production's travelling to London last two days of this month, so if anyone reading this lives there, I highly recommend it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Episode 490: SomethingALaMode & Mark Ravenhill

I'm into classical crossover stuff like bond and Maksim, so it's not so surprising that my latest earworm is 'RondoParisiano' by SomethingALaMode. To be fair though, labelling them classical crossover is being reductive. (Their MySpace page describes their music as electro/classical.) Although they're playing string instruments like bond, SomethingALaMode exude more sophistication, right down to the drum loops they employ in their tracks. If you want to be a snob about it, they're making classical music cool without it descending into cheesy club-friendly stuff. Plus Karl Lagerfeld lends his voice to 'RondoParisiano', saying something in French about how fashion and music are alike because they both express the spirit of their times. How much classier can you get than French? Had some time between my Kidz Klub administrative work and practice, so I sat in the Library and read some plays. Yeah, I'm aware of how sad that makes me sound to some people, but hey, it was Mark Ravenhill, so I get some street cred, right? I've basically read every play of his that the Library has. So that's Shopping And Fucking, Faust Is Dead, Handbag, Some Explicit Polaroids, Mother Clap's Molly House, Citizenship, Product, The Cut and Pool (No Water). That's too many to talk about in one post, so I'll just say that on the whole, I really like his work. I'm surprised that Beatrice Chia was actually allowed to stage Shopping And Fucking in Singapore! Handbag shows that Stoppard and myself aren't the only ones who've been thieving from The Importance Of Being Earnest, and does it in a clever way, to my mind at least. Pool (No Water) should be required reading for everyone on my course, just because it's such a searing commentary on the jealousy that success can breed among fellow practitioners.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Episode 489: The Threepenny Opera

So, The Threepenny Opera. Let me first say that the only thing I've ever read by Brecht is The Good Person Of Szechwan, and my knowledge of him comes entirely from what Dan was talking about last night. That said, this was one of the more curious productions I've seen. It was, as Dan said, alienating. A strange touch was the series of videos projected onto the three screens above the stage. These were clearly intended to be related to what was happening onstage, but recast in a contemporary setting. I'd say they worked to universalise the themes of Brecht's work, showing them not to be limited to a particular time or place. The singing was good, although at times, I thought Polly's voice was a bit on the soft side. You know what was my favourite bit of the whole production though? Mr Peachum's outfit. Ever since the episode of Gossip Girl with the Vitamin Water White Party, I've been dying to own a white-/cream-based outfit. I know, how unbelievably shallow can I get sometimes, right? Anyway, managed to squeeze in some work at the Learning Grid after lunch at Varsity, although it was very painful having to script a short presentation on 'la Nouvelle-Calédonie' without a dictionary handy. Had to Google every suspect phrase.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Episode 488: The Triptych Papers, Part 4 (Commentary)

Today has been a day, in the words of Lady Bracknell, 'crowded with incident'. Got back past midnight, but did not miss the last 12, so no angry e-mail is forthcoming. Still had to wake up early for rehearsal though, which was not fun at all. Would have been late, but Louisa saw me crossing the road and gave me a lift, pulling up at the bus stop just as the 12 was entering the bus bay as well. Turns out that I didn't need to stay beyond noon, since my new speaking role has now been given to Jeremy, partly because I hadn't had time to learn the few lines anyway and partly so that Jeremy can sit next to Shen Ting in the dinner scene and not forget the guys' melody line. However, my dinner order from Friday had already been shifted to Saturday lunch, so I stuck around. Would have gone to my Archaeology lesson, but I was dressed in completely the wrong clothes. The combined value of my outfit would have been approximately thrice of what I paid to do the entire Open Studies Certificate, so I did a cost-benefit analysis and decided ruining my Ted Baker coat while digging in the mud was not something from which I would derive much utility. Ended up going home to try and finish my commentary for the portfolio, which I've chosen to write as a satire of academic criticism. Managed to get it done before going to see Brecht's The Threepenny Opera in the Arts Centre with Dan, so I'll probably print it off after service tomorrow. Will say more about that tomorrow because I'm beat.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Episode 487: Avenue Q Redux

In case you didn't already know, Daniel Boys is leaving the London production of Avenue Q at the end of this month. So since one of the things I had promised myself after seeing it last year was that I would see it again in my three years in the UK, this seemed as good an excuse as any. Plus I really do like his singing. Enough to have bought his debut album anyway. So yeah, I really enjoyed it again. This time, since I already knew the plot, I could focus my attention on other things, particularly the actors' facial expressions, which I'd kind of overlooked the last time because of the puppets. As I was sitting in the fourth row (you've got to love half-price matinee tickets), I also noticed the microphone rigs. Just a random thing really. Anyway, I'm still on the coach back to Cannon Park because our coach was delayed by about 45 minutes. It's ridiculous! If I miss the last 12 because of that and have to walk home from Cannon Park, I'm going to have words with the Megabus people. On side note, I am still impressed by how much cheaper it was to get to London from Leamington in the middle of the afternoon, compared to going from Coventry. Guess there are going to be some unexpected benefits from living there next year...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Episode 486: The Triptych Papers, Part 3

Typed out the last part of the portfolio on my N95 while I was in the Library, and managed to snag a computer on which to type it out. I didn't like the ending though. It felt like a very lame ending, but I just couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. Wasn't going to bother with it until Saturday, but I got Mel to take a look at it and she's helped me to work out what's wrong with it, so I've rewritten it and I'm pretty satisfied now with what the final three-part story looks like. Now all that's left to do is write the commentary, which I'm sneakily transforming into a sort of Part 4 to The Triptych Papers. It's going to spoof the idea of a commentary, so I'm going to get to mention the stuff that influenced me, but I'm going to treat it so earnestly that it'll be patently obvious (I hope!) that I'm not actually being totally serious about it, if that makes any sense. I think it'll be more evident what I mean when I've posted Part 4 to my LJ. Shall probably do it on Saturday evening. It also appears that I can't actually go for the second half of my Archaeology lesson, as I now have more speaking lines in the musical that just came out of nowhere, so I'll have to stay for the entirety of Saturday's rehearsal after all. Now it's clear that deciding to catch Avenue Q tomorrow was a good decision!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Episode 485: The Triptych Papers, Part 2

Michael John Kooy is such a polite seminar tutor that he thanks everyone for practically everything. It's like affirmation carried to the extreme. Anyway, I managed to finish the second part of 'The Triptych Papers'. Should be able to do the third part tomorrow and possibly start, maybe even finish, the fourth, which will be the 1000-word commentary that I have now co-opted as the final piece of my portfolio puzzle. This is either going to go extremely well, or just completely bomb and get a 2:2. That would be exactly what happened the last time I handed in something that I thought was clever and Peter Blegvad graded it. (Incidentally, am getting the assessed close reading on 'Ozymandias' back on Friday. Let's hope I have better luck there.) I did stick in wholesale that flash fiction he liked, which I had intended to rewrite but found a way to avoid doing so completely, so maybe I'll get a 2:1 this time? Have been watching Hidden Palms, another of those short-lived TV series, and I liked this brief exchange very much:

Nikki: 'Why did you call me?'
Cliff: 'What can I say? I'm attracted to the hopelessly reckless. Why did you say yes?'
Nikki: 'Because I'm attracted to the pathologically insane.'

The syntactic echoing is what gets me, I think. The sentiments behind it are trite as hell, and Michael Cassidy's character in this show is either badly written, or he was a really horrible actor before he appeared on Privileged. Usually I like the mean characters (e.g. Blair in Gossip Girl, Ella in the Melrose Place reboot), but here, there's something off. The nastiness is too carefully choreographed, I think.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Episode 484: The Triptych Papers, Part 1

Got a haircut today, which will look weird for a couple of days until it grows out a little. Was a kind soul and stayed on campus after LL209 to wait for Lizzie, so that we could catch a train together to Birmingham for a lecture at Aston on women in film. It sounds so adventurous, jetting off to another city just to attend a one-hour lecture that you only knew about because you received an e-mail. The reality is slightly more prosaic, like fretting over whether you will miss the last train that gets you there on time, losing your way on the streets trying to find the university campus when you're actually armed with a map, and having a security guard tell you that you've actually just come from the direction of the place that you're looking for. Brilliant stuff. The actual lecture was good, delivered snappily and considerably more interesting than a lot of the lectures I've sat through in my four terms so far at university. The movie trailers helped, even if I felt compelled to object to the films on principle by the end of the lecture. Incidentally, I've gone from typing out mere poems on my N95 to typing out chunks of prose. About 700 words yesterday during the rehearsal, and today, about 500 on the train back to Coventry. I've decided that enough is enough, and I should just finish off the first part of the story tonight before going to bed. It's not going to be perfect, but hey, I happen to think it reads like a science fiction homage to Borges, so I'm happy. Not to mention that the remaining two parts I'm going to start on tomorrow are just going to escalate the craziness that now has a title: 'The Triptych Papers'.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Episode 483: I Did Some Writing Today!

Today was one of the more crowded days I've had in a long time, involving lots of walking back and forth. Cell lunch in the Arts Centre, then went to the Union to sort out housing stuff. Walked to church to do Kidz Klub stuff, which was just making lots of checklists and labels, so I got that done pretty quickly and headed over to Emscote to stuff flyers under doors with Jeremy's help. Can't do data entry stuff until I get the CRB check done, so I'm filling out the forms over this week. Thought there was an AdHoc meeting because Alex called to remind me while I was still in church, so I doubled back to the Arts Centre, where I started filling out the forms. Turns out meeting's shifted to Wednesday, so I went to the Library instead, and finished reading Rod Moran's The Paradoxes Of Water. He uses full rhyme in a way that sounds so natural, it reminds me of Thom Gunn and Philip Larkin. Sat there and read the collection till the end, while two people nattered away in French behind me. Couldn't really understand what they were saying because I can't keep up with the speed of native speakers, but it was quite distracting because it really stuck out from the general (English) murmuring in the Library. Last stop, the Reinvention Centre to pick up tickets from Keegan. Stayed on and watched them rehearse scenes, but I was also typing out my story, which is now about 500 words longer. It's plodding along a little and may need revising, but I think I can definitely hit the ending by 2500 words and go out with a bang then.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Episode 482: A Sunny Day At Last

Have decided that for my factual piece for Jeremy Treglown, I'm going to investigate the decline of modern languages study in the UK. It's actually something I find rather interesting, especially when contrasted with the language situation in Singapore and set against the backdrop of the emergence of competing spheres of influence that are at least in part determined by countries sharing a common language. Have sent off my proposal by e-mail, and am now knuckling down to finishing this French composition that I should have done earlier. Church was great today, by the way. Woke up with aching feet and absolutely no desire to leave the house, but I made it anyway and worship made up for everything. We did 'For Who You Are', which is one of my favourites from Hillsong, largely because of the ringing guitars and judiciously light percussion. Spent the rest of the day after lunch at Varsity agonising over what to write about, but now that's been decided, I can go back to focusing on my portfolio. I've totally got the structure mapped out in my head, now it's just a matter of finishing this first long story and everything else will fall into place, I just know it. Oh, and can I just mention that the weatherman got it right today for once? It was sunny the entire day, just like it was supposed to be.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Episode 481: Thaw

The assessment for this term's Archaeology module looks a lot less strenuous, which makes me very, very happy. Anyway, I got a 68 for last term's report, which was exactly what I was expecting, so I'm satisfied with it. I'm just feeling a bit stressed about next week, when I have to go from a rehearsal to the middle of a dig to London to see Avenue Q with Laura. I'm probably going to get on the train with muddy knees and all the other passengers are going to look askance at me. I'll probably have to pack a change of clothes anyway. I'm just thankful that there is a cheap Advance train fare that I can get for next Saturday. Practically all the snow has melted after yesterday's rainfall, and the pavements aren't iced over. However, this resulted in a very squelchy experience when we went out to the field in the afternoon. It was definitely the right decision to bring this old pair of New Balance shoes from Singapore. I'll probably just throw them away after the dig is over, since spring should have arrived by then. My feet are still in pain though, and they've actually been like this since that afternoon of trudging through the snow in Bristol. I seriously think I need a foot massage.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Episode 480: TGIF (Not!)

So I brought my bling to class today for show and tell, to hilarious effect. Some people thought I should actually wear it, but in this weather, it would be buried below so many layers. In any case, the bling is definitely not my style, except for possibly one piece. I would still really like to know who sent it and why though. I'm leaning towards a disgruntled Topman employee mailing stuff to everyone in their database. I guess it's just leftover stuff from a previous collection that would have been dumped anyway, so I don't feel bad about keeping it! Jeremy Treglown brought in Colm Tóibín for the second half of today's EN232 seminar. It's always a bit surreal to see writers you've heard of in real life. (Kind of like attending the Weird Fiction series last year and seeing China Miéville in the flesh.) Tóibín's one of those writers whose work I've always wanted to read but never ever got around to. I must say though, his book review that we were given to read was pretty damn interesting. Had a cell leaders' meeting on campus before rehearsal, so I spent a couple of hours reading in the Library with Dan. I finished Sean Bonney's Blade Pitch Control Unit, which I would say I did not enjoy on the whole, although it had its moments for me. Rehearsal was okay for me, at least when I was singing anyway, as it is a lot harder to maintain the English accent the script calls for in my three speaking moments when the people I'm speaking to aren't my classmates. Sigh. I'm exhausted, my feet hurt, but I've still got to make it through the first session of this term's Archaeology module tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Episode 479: We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

That's apparently one of the mottoes of Amazon UK. For once, I actually believe a company's claims for itself. What happened was that I sent the hard drive back after my seminar, but the lady at the post office said I'd have to pay for postage, so I did. First Class, £5.85. Went to Leamington after that to look at houses, and came back with the intention of sending an e-mail to customer services to complain, since returns are supposed to be free. That's when I realised that I was supposed to have arranged a collection by DHL, but I didn't notice this when I was printing out the label. So in a way, it was my fault for being careless. I sent an e-mail to customer services explaining what had happened, letting them know that all I wanted was to make sure that the actual refund would still come through even though I'd posted the item back by Royal Mail. Lo and behold, I came home from rehearsal to find a reply, politely informing me that the return label is intended to be valid, regardless of which carrier I use. So I'll be getting a refund on the postage, in addition to the original item's value. How awesome is that? The third-party seller who sold me The View From The Ground has also offered a full refund because I wasn't satisfied with the condition of the book as advertised. I'm considering, although it's unlikely they'll pay for postage and the book itself only cost me £0.01, so I think I'm just going to send them a polite reply letting them know that I'm not upset, just recommending that they be more stringent in their quality control. (Maybe I should change my feedback rating for them on the site?) The truly bizarre incident of the day though? Receiving a bag of bling from Topman that I didn't order, with no indication of sender or an order form. No suspicious activity on my bank account. Very bizarre, right?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Episode 478: Snow Day, Again!

It never ceases to amaze me how this city (and this country as a whole) grinds to a halt when it starts snowing. You'd think that they'd be more prepared. Eventually. Apparently not. The 12 didn't show up this morning, so I thought I was being all rebellious by skipping my EN227 seminar at 10 am, but it turns out I have not in fact started on the slippery slope to academic perdition because Michael John Kooy cancelled his 10 am seminar but carried on with his 11 am one. Since this cancellation was after the fact (I checked once I got home and it definitely wasn't cancelled at 10.05 am), I'm guessing it's because nobody showed up for the class. Little wonder, since I heard that down in Leamington, the U1 took an hour to crawl from the bottom to the top of the Parade. Tomorrow's EN227 lecture has been cancelled as well, which basically means that if Peter Blegvad is snowed in tomorrow, I won't have any lessons at all. Win! Anyway, I've been uncharacteristically productive, but only in the past hour or so. I've doubled the length of my story! It's kind of sprawling out of control, beyond what I'd initially envisioned, but stories have a tendency to do that, don't they? I might actually be abandoning the idea of inserting some of my shorter pieces within this framing narrative, possibly expanding them somewhat and letting them stand as individual stories in their own right, as I think that in its current shape, the framing narrative will not bear interruption, even if it's with an intriguing flash fiction. All this is going to provide grist for the commentary, naturally.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Episode 477: Incwriters Want Me!

Well, at least David Morley said he liked most of them, which was more than I expected him to say. I would have liked to have been told which ones he didn't like as much though. He told me why, but like most writers my age that I know, we are often quite blind to the merits or defects in our own writing, while being capable of pointing them out in other people's work. Perhaps I shall show the 21 poems to someone else and see if they can pinpoint the ones that he meant. In more exciting news, I've got a guest blogging stint on Incwriters for a week each in July and November! I still can't believe I actually got it, but it's great. I also just realised that the director of Incwriters knows David Morley. Isn't Facebook just so randomly useful at the most unexpected of times? So yeah, totally psyched about the blogging thing. No idea yet what I'm going to say during those two weeks, but I've got about half a year to ruminate. It's going to be awesome. Incidentally, initial euphoria over readability of The View From The Ground has died away. It's still readable, but now it's become work. There's just so many other books I'd rather be reading, like China Miéville's novels on my shelf. Oh, and Royal Mail failed me again. They didn't show up today. I would give up, except I actually need to return the bloody hard drive to Amazon UK for my refund.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Episode 476: Getting Into The Swing Of Things

Tried to work this afternoon before rehearsal, but all I managed was a piece inspired by Christina Rossetti's 'Goblin Market' that tried to be a sly commentary on the nature of consumerism. Am now trying to make a final push to finish the remaining two of 21, so that I can e-mail the whole damn thing to David Morley at last. I honestly think there are some gems in there, but a lot of it would probably be better off deleted. Graze box arrived, by the way, and because it was late, I've been awarded £1.50 in credit towards a future box's cost. This company has got to have one of the best customer service attitudes I've ever experienced in my life, and just for making me so pleased with them, I might even consider ordering a second weekly box. Healthy snacking! Didn't really have to do that much at rehearsal because we were just working on general blocking, entrances and exits. Started reading The View From The Ground for Jeremy Treglown's class on Friday. I hate to have to admit this, but I'm actually finding it engaging, and I speak as someone who usually has major difficulties reading non-fiction unless it's popular science writing. Will try to finish it while alternating between procrastinating and accumulating words for the 4000-word portfolio due in two weeks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Episode 475: Term Starts Tomorrow But I Have No Classes!

So I walked to church this morning for band practice because I stupidly didn't keep enough cash on me for a taxi. It was manageable though, and by this I mean 40 minutes of treading across icy pavements, so in more clement weather, it should take me half an hour at the most. It's funny, but I don't miss leading worship half as much as singing backup. Not that I don't want to continue doing the former when I get back to Singapore, as I do think it's an area that I've been gifted in, but there are times when I really, really like singing harmony more? Anyway, bought loads of groceries after service, so now I have enough food to survive on for about two weeks! Have written two poems today, and this was after taking a nap in the evening to try and cure a headache. Tempted to just push on and reach 21 before going to bed, but now that we're not going to look at houses until Tuesday, I could spend some time writing before tomorrow evening's rehearsal if I headed onto campus earlier. Incidentally, I'm loving the new Planetshakers album, and I think it's really entirely due to Joth Hunt's songwriting and vocals, as I noticed this album is almost entirely written by him. (I also find his vocals a lot less annoying than Henry Seeley's.) I swear some of the guitar riffs and drumming on the praise tracks remind me of Hoobastank, which is brilliant!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Episode 474: Royal Mail Fail!

Just finished the French comprehension, so now all I have to do is write 200 words on whether ethical and humanitarian concerns factor into my consumer behaviour. It's going to be boring, but it'll sound sexy because it's written in French. Wrote another two poems today, so it's less than I'd hoped to get through, but I'm still on track. My box from Graze was supposed to arrive today, but it didn't, which is odd, since my Railcard did and that was sent by Royal Mail First Class as well. Have e-mailed the company to make a complaint, which they'll hopefully sort out on Monday. It's not that big a deal though, since this first box was free. I'm just upset because I was quite looking forward to some healthy snacking for a change. Also, I can't believe Royal Mail chose this day of all days to be efficient. They tried to redeliver my hard drive at 7.20 am! Obviously, I wasn't awake, so have had to reschedule for Tuesday instead. Knowing my luck, the van will probably come around when I'm at French class. It boggles my mind why they came at 7.20 am, especially since it was snowing! What happened to British inefficiency? Is there nothing you can rely on anymore?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Episode 473: I'm Really Starting To Hate The Snow

I've made no further progress on the portfolio, although I am still on track to completing my 21 poems. Wrote two today that were more word games than anything else, and am now contemplating whether to go for a third, which would be an epistolary poem. I could handle that quite nicely, I think, which therefore tempts me to put it off till tomorrow. I've also discovered that I can in fact download that PhD thesis on Kazuo Ishiguro's novels because it's been digitised and access to it is free! This excites me terribly because the thesis, for all its academese, the points it's making are really relevant and are leading me to rethink my experience of reading Ishiguro's novels. Won't go so far as re-reading all of them though, since it hasn't been that long since I finished the latest one. That and I've got other more pressing books demanding to be read. Anyway, to continue on one of yesterday's random topics, I noticed on the way home in the bus that Pizza Hut does deliveries here. Why, then, does KFC not do the same? I thought they were owned by the same parent company? (Yes, another instance in which I've been pampered by the way things work in Singapore. See? Home is really all about the mundane little things.)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Episode 472: I Spent The Whole Day Trying To Write One Poem (And Finally Succeeded)

Have fulfilled my goal of finishing the poem about ice, which naturally ended up as yet another poem about a mildly dysfunctional relationship edging towards open disaster. You could say it's a pet theme of mine. Randomly, today I discovered that KFC does not offer a delivery service in the UK. This upsets me greatly, even though there is a KFC conveniently located along the 12 route between campus and my house. It's just that I've been craving unhealthy, artery-clogging fried chicken since, well, before Christmas, and I have yet to satisfy that craving. It's so upsetting that I'm going to drown my sorrows tomorrow with lunch at NoodleBar. (Yeah, substituting Chinese for KFC doesn't really make sense to me either, but hey, nobody said you had to read this.) Also randomly, did you know Singapore was at one point (i.e. in 1992) the number two market for Fisherman's Friend? I also discovered the word 'mamihlapinatapai' today, which holds the Guinness world record for most succint word. Wikipedia says it describes 'a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start' in the Yagán language of the Tierra del Fuego. Pretty damn impressive, if you ask me.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Episode 471: I Can Still Feel My Toes

Missed the train back from Bristol due to a combination of bad weather and Laura's absent sense of direction. We did get a complimentary slip from First Great Western for another company's train, which turned out fine in the end. Guess the bad weather made the train conductor more sympathetic? Either that or Dan's right and people do respond more positively to that grown-up Ted Baker coat. (I knew it was a sound investment, I just knew it!) I haven't done any work since getting back, having mostly concentrated on restoring feeling to my feet, having trudge through a lot of snow between Laura's place and the station. Have some nice pictures of the snow though. You would think after all the snow I've seen over the past two days, writing a poem about ice wouldn't be that hard, right? Well, apparently, it is. I've got a vague idea at the back of my head for a poem, or the ghost of one anyway, but I think I'm going to sleep on it. I've also figured out what's wrong with Accidentally On Purpose. It's a two-hour romantic comedy forced to stretch its plot out over a full TV season. That and some of the jokes are definitely not that funny.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Episode 470: Snowy Bristol

Hopped over to Bristol with Dan to pay Laura a visit. (Managed to finish a poem on the train down!) It was snowing in Birmingham, but I thought we'd escaped the snow at first, since the weather at Bristol Parkway Station was fine. By the time we got to Temple Meads though, it was quite clear that the snow was pretty much everywhere. (The university even had to invoke the Severe Weather Policy!) We did get to walk about in the snow though, which was pretty cool! At dinnertime, my lack of culinary experience was once again mercilessly mocked, although I'm pretty sure I could pick up enough within a day to begin making 'proper' meals. So there. The biggest reason why I don't cook from scratch is that I hate washing up. Baking in the oven means there are only ever two things to clean. One, the glass tray. Two, the fork I use to eat with. Haha! It was quite funny that Waitrose was completely out of eggs. Apart from expensive quail eggs. (I do love them though.) It wasn't even a weekend! Bet you anything people have started panic-buying groceries...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Episode 469: Wrote A 60-Line Poem In Under An Hour!

Spent time in the Library today reading and writing. Got through Seamus Heaney's Selected Poems: 1965-1975, and then wrote a three-part poem about Singapore because the one simple thing that kept coming back to me as I was reading was that Heaney loves Ireland, in a way that I could never feel for my own country. Or at least I don't think I could, and I wanted to begin exploring that in this poem, even though I'm not really fond of writing poetry with political overtones. Then I wrote a funny poem about a hungover chorister, inspired by an episode in Chekhov's short story, 'Choristers'. Was going to write one based on this entry from Neil Gaiman's blog. (Yeah, I know it's a bit random!) A bit tired now though, and I've got to be up early to catch a train to Bristol to see Laura, so maybe I'll do it on the way down instead. Am ending off the night with an episode of Accidentally On Purpose. Some of the punchlines fall flat, which is a shame because I used to think Jenna Elfman had really good comic timing when she was on Dharma & Greg.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Episode 468: Hexagonal Mirrored Rooms?

Have done no work today beyond writing this line: 'My name is John, and I have seen the end of the world.' I like to think it's a recognisable Biblical allusion. I described the future contents of my portfolio to Chris as the ideas of Jorge Luis Borges meets the weirdness of Tim Burton (thanks to Shirley for that comment), set in a library that owes more to the two-parter storyline, 'Silence In The Library'/'Forest Of The Dead', from Doctor Who than I realised. Maybe I could talk about all this in my commentary? It would definitely help me hit the 1000-word limit for that, just not very sure whether whoever's marking my portfolio will approve of Doctor Who as an influence. It is, admittedly, a very polarising cultural touchstone. I did also read Borges's 'The Total Library', 'The Library Of Babel' and 'The Book Of Sand' though, so I guess that somewhat makes up for things. Haven't quite figured out how I'm going to make the whole story apocalyptic, although I guess it is kind of hellish to make your narrator piece together his story in Morse code, which is a direct reference to W. V. O. Quine's reductio of Borges's ideas, as expressed in his short essay, 'Universal Library': 'The ultimate absurdity is now staring us in the face: a universal library of two volumes, one containing a single dot and the other a dash. Persistent repetition and alternation of the two is sufficient, we well know, for spelling out any and every truth. The miracle of the finite but universal library is a mere inflation of the miracle of binary notation: everything worth saying, and everything else as well, can be said with two characters. It is a letdown befitting the Wizard of Oz, but it has been a boon to computers.'

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Episode 467: Getting Work Done, Bit By Bit

I've finally figured out how I'm going to structure my 4000-word portfolio! I don't think anyone really cares all that much about my inconsequential dilemmas, so all I'm going to say is that I'm going to be reading some Borges in the name of research. Am quite excited by what I've thought out so far, as it definitely allows me to play to my strengths. Spent the day trying to write a poem, and all I came up with was a lame truncated terzanelle that's now been posted up. Had hoped to finish another one by tonight, but I'm finding it hard to cope without adjectives, adverbs and similes. Including the word 'lime' is really the least difficult thing at the moment, as I've already figured out why it's going to be in the poem. We'll see how it goes. Have totally not been doing any work for French so far, although there are some listening comprehensions online and written work that needs to be in for our first lesson of term. Still have a week though, so it's not quite time for panic mode yet. In fact, I might just be nuts and spend the whole of Monday on campus in the Library, reading and writing poetry, and listening to French news. (Yes, I'm aware that these activities sound just a little bit pretentious.)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Episode 466: Happy New Year!

I can safely say that was the most random New Year's Eve I've ever spent in my life. Come to think of it, most years I just sleep right through it. It is, after all, just a midnight like any other. Not even the first of the decade, as I was explaining to Dan. This is just one of those things I'm a bit of a pedant about. Anyway, I wasn't drunk, although that vodka lemonade Reece made me down was quite vile. Crashed at Sophie's for the night, and we had to get into the house via the back door because she was brilliant and left her keys at Jemma's, only realising after we'd got out of the cab. Classic moment! Getting back to Coventry this afternoon was quite an experience for me. There were no buses, so I walked northward hoping to reach some sort of building where a taxi would be able to find me, but I was pretty far north of the town centre, so I eventually reached a point where there wasn't even a pavement to walk on anymore. Was tempted for a moment to walk all the way back to Coventry, but in an uncommon display of sense, decided against it. Called Keegan up to check there were trains running between Leamington and Coventry, and then walked all the way to the train station in South Leamington. I suppose I should be grateful I didn't get lost then, as well as while I was walking back to Earlsdon from the train station. The price for all this? No work done today. Again. At this rate, I'm going to spend the first two weeks of term panicking about the portfolio.