Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Episode 708: Where Did August Go?

So I've given up trying to finish a chapter a day of that Shakespeare book. It's just too dry to get through so many pages in one sitting! I've already read more than half of it anyway, so I'll definitely get through it before I fly back to the UK. Also took some time today to finish my review of The Secret History for Evolve Journal, but as usual, my ISP refuses to play nice with the site, so I haven't uploaded it yet. Will try again tomorrow, otherwise I'm just going to e-mail it to Shirley and get her to post it, since she has no problem accessing the site whatsoever. David Tait got back to me a couple of days ago on how long my reviews of the online magazines should be, so I think I'll finish off the Pomegranate one by this week. Still have to read through one more magazine's archives and make a decision on whether to include it, but I keep putting it off to do other things. I don't actually think I've done anything in August! Didn't even spend time writing until yesterday, when I finally decided it was time to continue my sequence of irregular sonnets on the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues. The first half on vices was finished more than a year ago, but I've been stuck in the middle of the virtues ever since. Ended doubling the existing poems into full sonnets, and finished off another brand new one. Doubt it's any good though...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Episode 707: The Joneses

There are three films out at the moment that I want to see: Heartbreaker (or in the original French, L'arnacœur), which stars Romain Duris from L'auberge Espagnole (that film that made me want to live abroad because it seemed so exotic and cool), Boo Junfeng's first full-length feature, Sandcastle, and The Joneses, which stars Ben Hollingsworth from The Beautiful Life. I've found a copy of L'arnacœur, which I'm going to try and watch without subtitles tomorrow, and I hadn't realised films at Cinema Europa in GV VivoCity were so expensive, so ended up watching The Joneses with Jared at GV Plaza instead. Spoilers coming up! The film's a satire of undercover marketing, in which a fake family, the eponymous Joneses, moves into a suburban neighbourhood and begins to sell an entire lifestyle to their neighbours, mostly revolving around the purchase of more and more luxury goods. As a satire, it's smart, and the early shot of David Duchovny's character eating alone amidst all the gorgeous furniture is a brilliant moment of irony.

Where the film doesn't quite gel for me is when the personal lives of the characters come into play. Ben Hollingsworth's character is a closeted gay, but this is only hinted at once before the big reveal happens later on, in a moment of gaydar-gone-wrong that rings completely false because it's so blatantly contrary to the self-preservation that seems to go hand-in-hand with being closeted. Amber Heard's dalliance with a married man that eventually goes south allows for a beautiful moment when her fake parents suddenly behave like real ones, but apart from that, it's too hastily resolved. Duchovny and Demi Moore's developing relationship is probably the most solid subplot, although its being temporarily derailed by Duchovny's impulse decision to out their status as paid employees because of his neighbour's death feels a bit forced, like it had to happen because the film needed to be zipping along to its heartwarming resolution, so here's the turning point that needs to happen first. The critique of consumption isn't as strong as I would have expected, but hey, this isn't a Michael Moore documentary, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. I think it's terrible of me that my greatest takeaway from the film was how much I would have loved having their job. Didn't help that I was wearing one of my favourite Diesel jeans (the black pair) and those awesome white Diesel shoes, so I was like some walking billboard for the brand today. Discreet (because that's how I roll), but still...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Episode 706: YouTube Love!

Just spent an hour or so watching clips from The Onion News Network. (Just like the real news, only better.) Hardly a productive use of time, but oh so entertaining! Before that, I was checking out Mike Tompkins's YouTube videos, which are amazing. He's got a couple of covers uploaded where the effects are done almost entirely using his voice, including a brilliant one of Maroon 5's 'Misery', but even more incredibly, he's managed to make me listen to Miley Cyrus's 'Party In The USA' without wanting to stick a pencil in my ear. He is that good. I haven't come across such good singing on YouTube since I stumbled upon The Shures. You can find his YouTube channel here. I'm turning into one of those people who are glued to YouTube whenever they log onto the Internet, aren't I? Anyway, a technician from SingTel came around today to finally fix our problems with SingTel mio. Initially, he didn't want to come down because he claimed that when he checked on his side, there wasn't anything wrong. I'd say it is a problem if the moment I start a torrent running, mio TV stops working and I can't surf the Internet any longer. Everything seems peachy right now though, after he swapped our router for a newer model. So, uh, there clearly was a problem of some sort, right?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Episode 705: Musics

Quite unintelligent spiel about the music I listen to coming up. You have been warned. First up, I'm pleased to learn that Gareth Emery is finally releasing his first studio album, Northern Lights. Would order a signed copy, but MOE hasn't credited my annual allowance yet, so I don't have any pounds in my account. The money for my attachment has finally come through though, so I'll be picking up some books over the next couple of weeks. I'm listening to a preview of the album now on his website, and I'm liking what I hear. There's a level of complexity in Emery's sound that I've found appealing ever since I heard 'Exposure' and 'Metropolis' in 2009. On the other hand, there really isn't anything terribly complex about my latest favourite song. It's the title track off BoA's sixth Korean album, Hurricane Venus, so yeah, except for the couple of English words she sprinkles throughout the song, I have absolutely no idea what she's singing about. It's insanely catchy though. (Much more so than anything on her Japanese release, Identity, that's for sure.) The problem I have with J-pop and K-pop is that I can't stand the ballads. If a song doesn't have a thumping beat, the vocals start to grate on my nerves. Yet when it comes to English songs, I can completely appreciate more laid-back stuff. For example, I came across a Joshua Radin song on Shu En's LJ today, and I love his stuff. (Incidentally, is there a TV show that has not featured one of his songs? It's ridiculous how they've popped up everywhere.) Is it because I can understand the lyrics, and so that allows me to connect with their emotional content in a way that I can't with Japanese and Korean lyrics (even after having looked up the mangled English translations)? Perhaps. Anyway, have yet to finish today's chapter from that Shakespeare book, so I'm signing off now to go and get some reading done.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Episode 704: First Bit Of Academic Reading In Ages!

Started reading Adam Zagajewski's Eternal Enemies today, as well as polishing off one chapter of Andrew Gurr's The Shakespearean Stage 1574-1642. I figure the way to make myself finish the latter is to commit to reading at least one full chapter a day, since I'm usually quite rubbish at getting through academic works. Am contemplating bringing back some novels this time, in addition to the poetry I'm carting back. It's either going to be Bret Easton Ellis or A. L. Kennedy, although ideally, I would read them all by the end of September instead and save the hassle! Furthermore, I've already planned my next round of acquisitions, so it's not like I won't have another stack of novels to ship home next year. My mum would appreciate it if I stopped buying books, as it's become quite inconceivable where I would store them. I admit that's a serious issue, but somewhat unfortunately, I could totally see myself doubling my personal library. No sweat. It's probably a good thing I'm not terribly into 'classic' novelists, or my shelves would've overflowed way before now. I like to think that my library reflects pretty well on my taste, which is admittedly very heavily biased towards contemporary writing, with Thomas Hardy being the notable exception. (I sometimes think I only love Hardy so much because when we did The Return Of The Native in JC, Mr Purvis totally convinced me of his brilliance. That and all the thwarted desire bubbling away in all the novels. Seriously, all of them.) At the same time, there are some areas of literature I feel obliged to explore further. French literature, to pick an obvious example. When I get my own place in future, there's going to be a room dedicated to my library. Definitely.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Episode 703: The Great Enigma

Boxes of books have finally arrived! I've got nowhere to store them though, so they'll have to stay in their boxes for a couple of days yet. Don't think there's anything in there I particularly want to read, so it should be okay. I've whittled down the number of library books I've got lined up to read too. Got rid of stuff that I was only marginally interested in, as well as a book that had been savaged in a review by
The Guardian. Am reading Cyberabad Days at the moment, before going on to tackle one of the books listed as preparatory summer reading for EN301. Had to wait the entire afternoon for the delivery, so I ended up finishing Tomas Tranströmer's The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, translated by Robin Fulton. This is a volume of poems I've been trying to get through since before I even left for university! That it's taken me so long is a reflection on my lack of concentration, not the quality of the poems, which are filled with beautifully economical images, like this opening line from the first poem in the volume, 'Prelude': 'Waking up is a parachute jump from dreams.'

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Episode 702: Okay, Am An Ian McDonald Convert

Stayed up last night to finish reading Ian McDonald's Brasyl, which was on the longlist for the inaugural Warwick Prize for Writing in 2009. Compared to River Of Gods, Brasyl feels like a tighter novel, even if the intertwining of the three narrative threads still only becomes truly apparent pretty near the end, as in River Of Gods. I remember that one of the reservations I had about River Of Gods was the Indian setting, and whether this was just a little too calculated. Well, the Brazilian setting this time felt completely right, and for what it's worth, McDonald does come across as the sort of author who does his homework. There was mention in the novel of loop quantum gravity, string theory's competitor in the field of quantum gravity as a theory unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics. Or to (over)simplify, a Theory of Everything that will explain both the macrocosm and the microcosm. In short, the Holy Grail of physics. I'd have liked a bit more of the science stuff, à la Greg Egan's novels, which for me strike that remarkable balance between detailed scientific explanations and interesting narratives. The ending of Brasyl is sufficiently open-ended to leave room for a sequel, and I think the story deserves one, if only to further explore the contest between those who wish to destroy the multiverse and those who wish to preserve it. Surprisingly, the good guys aren't who you'd expect. They've concluded we live in a simulation that uses the multiverse as a quantum computer, in an age when the multiverse is dying, but they hope that the energy running the simulation could be enough to create another Big Bang. Now all this only becomes clear in the last couple of pages, so you tell me, is there room for a sequel to explore all this further?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Episode 701: Red Tape Versus $500

Got an e-mail this morning informing me that the stuff I shipped back had arrived, and I had to collect it within 36 hours of its being unloaded or face storage charges. Wasn't expecting that! So this has messed up my Thursday lunch plans with Bella and Hui Lin. Was going to handle the collection by myself, but gave up in the face of red tape, and since the recommended freight forwarder contacted me, I caved and decided to fork out more money to make my life easier. So for $500 (cost of which I'm splitting with Chris), everything from paperwork to delivery will be taken care of. All I have to do is stay at home on Thursday and wait for the cartons to arrive. Things almost didn't work out though, as my scanner has broken down. Miraculously, it temporarily revived itself and allowed me to scan my IC to send off to the freight forwarding guy. Unfortunately, this also means that I have to wake up early tomorrow in order to accompany my dad to send it for repair. (This is what happens when you don't have a social life to speak of. You have no excuses for not doing stuff, however much you don't feel like it.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Episode 700: Five Years On...

So the reason why Thong was calling me yesterday was because he wanted to know if I'd be up for visiting our tutors back in RJC today. I figured I might as well, since I'd been planning on dropping by at some point anyway. It's always interesting to see how much the place has changed between visits. For one thing, the bougainvillea that used to grace the railings is all gone now. (Apparently, they were planted because Mr Hodge likes them.) The block that houses the Humanities classes has also been completely overhauled, and it actually looks really good. The programme's doing really well under the new principal, which is good to know. We spoke to Mr Purvis, Mr Tay and Mr Rollason while we were there, and it's quite sobering to realise how quickly time flies. I hate to invoke the cliché, but it really does. It was great to see a happier Mr Purvis, for lack of a better description. It's like all the changes have helped him to find his second wind, teaching-wise, and I envy his students. I'm happy where I am now, but some days, what wouldn't I give to be back in JC? Ah, nostalgia...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Episode 699: Unimpressive Buffet!

Just got back from a buffet with my and my godparents' families. Didn't think the variety of food was that great though, especially not for the prices we were paying. Plus the dessert selection was a bit lacking, and everyone knows dessert is clearly the most important thing at a buffet, right? (The ice-cream flavours were mislabelled!) Anyway, Remainder is intriguing so far. Reminds me of how I felt when I was reading Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled. Now that was another strange book. I thought worship went quite well today. I mean, I didn't even lose my voice as badly as I normally do. Why I always seem to lose my voice is an interesting question in itself. I think it's because our PA system doesn't normally use feedback monitors, so I can't tell how I sound. It's a lot easier during practice, since my PA skills are almost non-existent and I know just about enough to get my microphone to work. That means I usually crank the volume way up, only to have it turned down once the PA crew shows up to do their stuff. So I end up pushing my voice too hard to compensate. It's not so bad really. I mean, in the long run, if I did this on a regular basis, it'd be awful, probably get throat cancer or something. Nodules, at the very least. For now though, it just means I'm a bit hoarse and usually can't hit low notes by the end of a service. That's not too much of an issue though, since I'm typically more a soaring, anthemic chorus kind of guy when it comes to choosing songs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Episode 698: Me, Nominated?

Finished with Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink, so am getting started on Tom McCarthy's Remainder. Would re-read Donna Tartt's The Secret History because that's what I'm due to review next for Evolve Journal, but that would be the third time I'm reading it (first was when Liling lent me her copy in JC, second was when I last came back to Singapore), and I don't think that's particularly necessary. Anyway, had a pleasant surprise yesterday when I learnt that Camroc Press Review is planning to nominate this for inclusion in Sundress Publication's Best Of The Net 2010. Not to sell myself short or anything, but a nomination's probably as far as it's going to get, realistically speaking. Still, pretty awesome thing to happen. Incidentally, Sophie Mac's single came out five days ago, and you can get it for free here. It's completely different from the kind of music that I normally listen to, but I like it anyway. The website says a full album's in the works, so looking forward to that!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Episode 697: MRT Rant

Why is it that older women insist on cutting in front of me at MRT stations? Do I have a face that says, 'Please step in front of me. You don't even have to pretend you're not doing it because I'm too polite to call you out on it!' Not being sexist here. It is absolutely true that every time this has happened to me, it's been an older women. By older, I mean someone old enough to be my grandmother. Okay, I get that we should be considerate to the elderly. What ticks me off is that some of our elders seem to think that old age gives them an automatic right to behave in a manner that would get people of any other age told off. (Or at least complained about in an angry letter to The Straits Times Forum.) It's not even like I was jostling them out of the way or anything. Being old is not a free pass for being rude. I can't be the only one who experiences this on a semi-regular basis, so why don't we hear more about it? Is it because it's politically incorrect to suggest that the elderly should behave with the same level of decency that we seem to be encouraging the rest of the population to emulate? Another group of people who irritate the hell out of me are those who insist on fiddling with their mobile phones while in the middle of a crowded carriage. Honestly, would it kill you to not send that SMS when the carriage is so packed that your hair is brushing my face? I secretly hope that these people will drop their mobiles and not be able to pick them up. I suppose all I really want to know is why more Singaporeans can't behave like me. More often than not, I find myself giving way to people in this country, and it makes me feel like a doormat because all these people seem to think it's their prerogative, to have others give way to them. Well, to all you ill-bred Singaporeans out there, it's not, okay?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Episode 696: Library Drama!

Don't you just hate it when library books aren't where they're supposed to be? Was going to get the two books on the summer reading list for EN301 Shakespeare and Selected Dramatist of His Time. Only found one, but I guess it doesn't matter, since there's a copy of the one I couldn't find back at Warwick anyway. It's just whether I can finish reading it in three days or not. (Naturally, there should be doubts as to whether I'll even read the one I've borrowed. All this summer reading is uncharacteristically hardworking of me, you have to admit.) Anyway, while I was in the National Library, there was this crazy woman screaming her head off at the entrance. No idea what was going on because the drama was already in progress by the time I came over from the stacks in the back, but it sounded like it was something to do with newspapers. Whatever it was, it'd made her really riled up because she was yelling at everyone, totally not holding back. She was getting a pretty good audience too. I mean, people were openly standing there and staring away. I'm wondering if it's going to show up on something like Stomp, or perhaps in the newspapers. It's not every day you get such drama in a public location in Singapore!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Episode 695: IT Services, You Fail!

So the university's student e-mail migration to Microsoft Live@edu happened over the weekend, and I figured today would be a good time to try and get access to my new account. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I was unable to. IT Services had noted that some students were affected by the migration and had had their passwords reset accidentally, but I didn't think that was my problem, since my password still worked for accessing the university's internal pages, which IT Services said wouldn't be true if I were one of those affected. Thanks to Yannis, I discovered that what I needed to do was change my password to conform to the new requirements first, namely that it should contain a mixture of upper and lower case letters, and numbers. Only then was I able to access my university e-mail. All of this leads me to suspect that what IT Services has failed to realise is that by implementing this new requirement, people are being locked out of the very e-mail accounts to which they've been happily sending reminders to change our passwords. Brilliant, no? So I'm betting that all these students supposedly affected by the migration, who need to call IT Services to reset their password, are simply the victims of poor communication on the part of IT Services. In fact, I've concluded that none of the instructions concerning the e-mail migration are actually worth following! Even their instructions for forwarding e-mail from our old account to new were not helpful, and I had to figure out how to do it all by myself. Not impressed at all...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Episode 694: I Need A New Bookshelf...

Met up with Hui Juan and Shirley for dinner at Brotzeit in VivoCity, and managed to buy five books from PageOne, despite being in there for less than 15 minutes. My excuse is that they're all by A. L. Kennedy, two of them were going for 40% off, and they're all American Vintage and Anchor editions that I've been looking for anyway. (I prefer not to buy the Vintage editions put out in the UK unless I absolutely have to.) Started reading Indelible Acts on the bus ride home from VivoCity, and it's powerful stuff. Mind you, these are just short stories. Can't wait till I actually find time to read one of her full-length novels. Of course, this is after I finish reading the Bret Easton Ellis books that have been waiting on my shelf since last summer, and after I finish Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, which followed me unread to the UK and back, and after Ian McDonald's Brasyl and Donald Barthelme's stories, and after this enormous mound of library books on my desk at the moment. Probably should cull some from that pile and return them. Just did that today in fact, returned the books from the Interlogue series on local literature. I borrowed them thinking that reading all these essays on local writing would somehow help me to see something in it that I haven't in the past, but flicking through the contents pages, I realised all of the essays were on writers that I'd heard of, but had never read, and more importantly, have no desire to read. Call me a literary snob or unpatriotic, whatever, I don't care. Besides, it's quite hard to take a series seriously, whose stated aim is to bring into critical focus Singaporean writing in English, when the foreword by the series editor contains such egregious errors. So I'll pass on the whole series for now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Episode 693: I Blog Too Much About TV...

Was tempted to add a couple of shows to the massive collection on my external hard drives, but decided against it in the end. Too much time required, and besides, someone I know probably has the DVD box set. In case anyone wants to help me out, I was going to grab Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. (Yeah, late to the party and all that. E-mail me if you have the DVDs. Thanks.) Was also going to get Outrageous Fortune, which is the New Zealand series that Scoundrels is based on. It's apparently far superior to the American remake, which has just aired its season finale. Didn't realise the episode order was so short, just eight episodes. I'm really wondering which of the new summer shows that I'm following are going to get picked up for next year. Pretty Little Liars is already getting another batch of episodes that's airing in the traditional fall television season, so it's clearly on its way up. I really want The Gates to get renewed, just because it's suburbia-meets-supernatural premise is cheesy enough to work, in my opinion. Stuff like Haven and Scoundrels isn't quite pushing the right buttons for me so far.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Episode 692: Food, Glorious Food!

Alongside that anthology of poetry, I've also begun reading Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink, edited by David Remnick. It's making me feel so good about myself. I mean, next to some of the gourmands writing in the book, I'm positively ascetic. I say that as someone who just came home from a dinner buffet, and is probably headed for another one in a week. Now I don't consciously watch my weight (most of the time), but I would like not to be on the receiving end of comments like 'You've lost weight.' It makes me suspect that the person thought I was fat in the past, but didn't remark on it. Or I could be over-analysing. (Hey, even I'm allowed the occasional moment of insecurity!) I guess reading about this kind of food is a fair substitute for actually consuming it, since in all likelihood, it either doesn't exist anymore or I can't even afford it. Best to stick to more realistic aspirations, like Pierre Hermé macarons. Not even talking about going to Paris for it, just Selfridge's when I'm next in London. Haha!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Episode 691: Youth Olympic Games 2010

Congratulations to Singapore! Even though I personally think the opening ceremony was indistinguishable from the National Day Parade just five days ago, right down to the cheesy costumes, music and choreography, I think we should still be proud that we're hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. (I mean, we're never ever going to have enough space to host the Olympics.) Let the naysayers carry on. They'll always find something to criticise, as long as this government is still in power. (I'm curious as to whether the complaints would cease should the ruling party change in the future. I suspect not. Probably just a change in acronyms, but with the same grouses attached, over and over. We are Singapore! We will stand together, complain till we're sore!) Personally, I'm not terribly enthused about the YOG myself, but that's purely because I'm not really into sports. In terms of making history though, I'm proud of Singapore. Honestly. Oh, not impressed, by the way, that Sean Kingston didn't show up at the opening ceremony to sing, reportedly because of disagreements over his fee. At least he apologised on Twitter. Funny that I can't find much news about his no-show on Google though...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Episode 690: Boeing Boeing

Caught Boeing Boeing with Ben Woon, Dan Leong, Kay Hwee and Thong. Ka Tsai joined us for dinner, so it was kind of like a mini-JC reunion, except we're like five years older. (Gosh, we're practically fossils!) I was wandering around Bugis Junction before dinner, and it felt less crowded than when I was last back, so I guess Illuma has helped to absorb some of the human traffic. Just as well. I hate shopping centres that are too crowded. The play's based on Marc Camoletti's French farce, so you know that's already a good start. Infidelity is, after all, très française, non? A lot of the humour is derived from the increasingly close calls that Adrian Pang and Daniel York's characters have to weather onstage, involving lots of door-slamming and anguished wringing of hands. It was Siti Khalijah's Rosa who stole the show though, every single time she appeared. What a scream! Also really loved Emma Yong's Japanese stewardess, Junko. Without spoiling the ending for people who plan to see it, it all works out in an unabashedly farcical manner. Theatre like Boeing Boeing represents the triumph of the comic over the conceptual, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and comedy is definitely one of W!ld Rice's strongest suits. It is possible to read some social commentary in the play (e.g. as Kay Hwee pointed out, both the Singaporean characters in the play were the ones toying with multiple partners, the man refusing to settle down and the woman holding out for the fattest bank account), but even without engaging Boeing Boeing at this level, it is furiously entertaining stuff.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Episode 689: Getting Back In The Game

Yes, in a way, I really think it is a game, especially in our time. Did my first submissions in more than a month. One batch was to Pomegranate, which I've just finished reading all the back issues of, so that's one online magazine that I was supposed to review done. (I've already ruled out one, and another's site seems to be down, so that just leaves one last magazine, which is looking iffy anyway.) The other was to Counterexample Poetics, which I'm hoping will take at least one of my more oddball pieces, of which I sent in eight. Aside from reading Pomegranate, I've started on My Life In Verse: A Journey Through Poetry, an anthology put together to accompany a BBC series no less. Haven't seen the series, so no comment on that, but skimming through the contents pages of the book, I'll say it's a handy introduction to a lot of poets that I've been meaning to check out, but never would've bothered to under other circumstances. The book opens with a selection from T. S. Eliot, so that's already winning me over.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Episode 688: Sinking Into Intellectual Mediocrity...

The latest book that I'm reading is called Taking The Red Pill: Science, Philosophy, And Religion In The Matrix, edited by Glenn Yeffeth. Once again, highly readable fare. I'm not sure if it should bother me that my choice of reading material seems lately to be determined by how 'easy' I find the text to wade through. Whatever. I will attempt to reestablish my intellectual credibility at some future point, when I read Tom McCarthy's Remainder. Yes, I admit that I only want to read it because that book review of it that we got during a seminar made it sound intriguing. I mean, I read House Of Leaves based on a blurb that called it a 'satire of academic criticism'. (If I recall correctly, I didn't even learn of that for myself. Eugene told it to me. Via an SMS, I think. Oh well. It's still a damn good book. Readable postmodernism, if I had to coin my own meaningless blurb for it.) Anyway, the book's title is pretty self-explanatory. I feel like I should've rewatched the entire film trilogy before reading the essays, but gosh, that would've been time-consuming, wouldn't it? I mean, I've still got the whole of The Lord Of The Rings to get through. (Yeah, despite being a fan of Tolkien, I've never actually seen all three films in their entirety. Can't remember why exactly. It's like how I've never seen Titanic! Quite proud of that somehow.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Episode 687: Post-NDP Thoughts

So it was Singapore's 45th National Day yesterday, and like most Singaporeans who weren't lucky enough or couldn't be bothered to get tickets to see the parade live, I parked myself in front of the TV. (Apparently, international visitors to the NDP website could watch a live stream of the event, and the recording will stay up for a month.) The parade was the usual thing, although the star-shaped fireworks were an interesting touch this year. I honestly wonder how the organisers come up with the segments each year. I mean, they must feel like it's all been done before, right? What I wanted to blog about was the two National Day theme songs that were sung last night, 'Home' by Kit Chan and 'Song For Singapore' by Corrinne May, being respectively the first and most recent of the so-called 'modern' National Day songs. (There were four earlier ones from the 1980s, which are now perennial inclusions in one of the parade's early segments.) Now, if you know me, you'll know that I'm not one of those desperately patriotic people, so it shouldn't be surprising that I hate 'Home'. I think it's overtly manipulative, and I resent the song's attempt to tug at my heartstrings. (If you've ever heard it, you know what I mean. You can just hear the soaring string section sawing away for dear life, as Kit Chan's voice breaks into the chorus.)

'Home' is also apparently the best-loved theme song of Singaporeans, which speaks (sings?) volumes of the song's canny writing and instrumentation, as well as revealing how most Singaporeans probably do subscribe to its sentiments. I can't really explain any better what irks me about the song, but it may have something to do with the proprietary tone of its lyrics. 'This is home, truly / Where I know I must be', but somehow, it makes me feel like the sense of ownership is going the other way around, and that's frankly, more than a little discomfiting. I'm a lot more comfortable with the equally heartfelt sentiments of Corrinne May's 'Song For Singapore': 'I want to sing / Sing a song for Singapore / With every generation / There's more to be grateful for'. It's not sugar-free either, but it feels less nakedly manipulative to me, and that really matters to me. A lot. I have no problems with loving my country, but if I feel like I've been compelled into doing so, doesn't it defeat the whole point? Ah well. File these thoughts and feelings away for another year, until the next National Day comes around. I leave you with Sam Ho's hilarious pseudo-Freudian analysis of NDP. (Caveat: Do not click if you examine yourself and find no traces of a sense of humour.)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Episode 686: Is Philosophy For Me?

Ever start out really liking a book, but growing more uncomfortable with it as you go along? That's what's happening to me with this Mark Rowlands book of pop philosophy. (I've subsequently discovered it's not the only one he's authored. There's another one drawing lessons from television.) Oh, all the things I praised it for still stand. It's breezily readable and lucidly constructed. That's the problem though. It seems intended to advance Rowlands's own philosophical beliefs (biases?), and I would prefer this agenda to be less transparent, especially since Rowlands's essays seem more interested in systematically demolishing strands of thought he doesn't personally agree with so as to force the reader into agreeing with his cleverness, rather than encouraging the reader to think for himself. It's probably unfair of me to take issue with the anti-Christian slant of his philosophical positions, but as a Christian, I'm not convinced that my beliefs and philosophy are irreconcilable. This is an area I'd be interested in exploring further, if I have the time. On a related note, the new Open Studies Certificates have been announced, and there's a new one on Writing Features and Articles for Publication. It's an online course, which appeals to me because I can zip through it at my own pace. (A big reason for choosing the one in Archaelogy this year was that it had so few sessions. I hate adding unnecessarily to my schedule.) There's one on Philosophical Studies again, of course, but looking at the topics covered, we wouldn't get to anything I'm honestly interested in until summer term, and by then, my mind'll definitely be on my final examinations, followed by partying and graduation, so I really don't want to still be tied down, attending a weekly lesson. I will likely do more reading on philosophy in future though, especially since I've learnt that the university has a copy of Alvin Plantinga's The Nature Of Necessity, in which he sets out a free will defence to the problem of evil from a Christian perspective.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Episode 685: Earphones Spoilt...

It's quite surreal to be playing a Scrabble clone on the iPhone with one of your favourite singers. You've got to love technology. (The singer's Coury Palermo, and the Scrabble clone is Words With Friends, which I came across because he tweeted about it.) The nice thing about the application is that you're free to return to it as and when you have a move to make, so you don't have to stay on it throughout the whole game. Am very annoyed that my (fairly expensive) Sennheiser earphones have stopped working, reducing me to using Apple's own earphones again. (Can't very well justify buying new ones when I have two brand new Apple earphones, one each from my iPod Classic and iPhone 3GS!) I'm sure I'll get used to the poorer quality. Eventually. (They also have an annoying tendency to not stay in my ears.) I'm not really a hardcore audiophile, but I have quite precise notions of what my music should sound like, and having used the Sennheiser ones for quite a while now, I can assure you that despite Apple's claims that its earphones are optimised for the iPod, your music definitely could sound better.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Episode 684: Pop Philosophy?

Finished reading Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-opening History Of Famous Frauds yesterday, and it's really readable. Each of the hoaxes detailed comes in the literary equivalent of bite-sized chunks, so it's easy to just get through a couple at a time. I'm about halfway into Mark Rowlands's The Philosopher At The End Of The Universe now. It's one of those books I started over one of my holidays but have no memory of finishing. Rowlands's writing style is engagingly conversational, which works, given its target audience, i.e. non-philosophers who are more conversant with Hollywood's output than the thinking of some of the keenest minds over the centuries. This is kind of my problem with philosophy, I suppose. I find it fascinating, but I'm quite averse to having to work it all out for myself by reading the original writings. I want someone to break it down for me like Rowlands does, and if it seems like he's dumbing it down a little by making references to Arnold Schwarzenegger, so be it. I will probably get around to reading original philosophical writings at some point, but for now, I'm quite happy to read about how The Matrix has a lot to teach me about the nature of reality.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Episode 683: Inception

Finally caught Inception this afternoon. Having read the various theories explaining the film, particularly its ending, it felt a little bit like cheating to be able to watch it without having to figure everything out from scratch. For the record, I'm with those people who argue that Dom wakes up to reality in the aeroplane, but I'm also with those people who say it doesn't matter anymore whether that's real, at least not to Dom himself. Not going to bother dissecting the film further, although I will note that Tom Hardy definitely has the best lines in it, and there's probably going to be a book forthcoming in that film and philosophy series I spotted in the library a couple of days ago that deals with Christopher Nolan's oeuvre. After Memento, The Prestige, and now Inception, I frankly don't see how it can be avoided. (Yes, I know I've left out his two Batman films. I'm sure they're philosophical too. It's just that they're, well, Batman films. Never mind.) So now that we've had our dreamscapes established as a valid setting for Hollywood films, let the imitators begin. With any luck, some of them might actually be interesting in their own right. Now if someone would just mash Nolan's ideas with some science fiction and write a novel, I'd read that. Heck, I'd even go so far as to buy it. (Come to think of it, isn't any science fiction novel that's ever had a virtual reality setting kind of already running with this train of thought? That's okay then.)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Episode 682: Don't Get Too Comfortable

So I've just finished reading David Rakoff's book of essays, which gives this post its title. I have to say, his merciless skewering of our contemporary (Western?) culture of excess is downright hilarious in parts. It is undeniably snarky, and for that, I love it. In fact, his style of writing reminds me of my own, if one is allowed some vanity in these things. Maybe I should find a way to show Alex a copy, since he's the only person I know who seems confident of identifying my writing based on style alone. Anyway, the contents of Rakoff's essays run the gamut of crazy things that money can buy, including a flight on the Concorde, a liquid diet that fails to bring enlightenment, and cryopreservation. The subtitle probably says it all anyway: The Indignities Of Coach Class, The Torments Of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest For Artisanal Olive Oil, And Other First World Problems. It's all delivered with such a breezily deadpan manner, you can't help laughing at what he's recounting even as you (probably) experience a twinge of guilty recognition. Altogether quite a delightful way to have passed the afternoon, if I may say so. Now moving back to reading Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-opening History Of Famous Frauds by Melissa Katsoulis.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Episode 681: I Support Dead Tree Editions

Stayed up till 3 am reading Carol E. Meacham's Machina Obscura. It was a good read, until the last chapter or so. That's when it felt like a deus ex machina had been shoved in, so that a semi-happy ending could be achieved. That this plot development raised the most interesting question regarding artificial intelligences, i.e. whether their inability to see shades of grey makes them impartial or merciless, was therefore a bit of a disappointment, since there was no room to explore it further. (Tony Ballantyne's Watcher trilogy has successfully explored this on a much grander scale anyway.) There's apparently a sequel, Aquaria, but that's only available for free as a podcast, so I'm not too keen on having to listen to the whole novel being read to me. It's difficult enough getting through a full-length book on the screen, let alone to have to adjust to someone else's reading speed. There really is quite nothing like holding a physical book, I think. It's also much harder to concentrate on clicking through the pages of an e-book, whereas turning physical pages somehow makes it easier to devote one's attention to the act of reading itself.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Episode 680: CSI Trilogy

Remember when I mentioned I was waiting for the Foundling Review piece to be published? Now you can read the whole thing here. Creative writing people should find it familiar because it's based off the exercise that Maureen Freely had us do in our first year. (This is the longer version that went into my portfolio last year.) Finished reading A Field Guide To Surreal Botany, from Two Cranes Press. It's edited by Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg, the latter of whom, randomly, teaches at HCI. It's an interesting little volume, and QLRS has a review of it that describes it better than I can, so click here. Singaporeans, you can pick up a copy at BooksActually. Tell Kenny I sent you. Haha! I also made some time to watch the much-hyped CSI Trilogy, which has only just been broadcast on AXN here. Wasn't terribly impressed by it as a whole, although in terms of individual episodes, they all worked fine. It's just that the way the three series were tied together felt so contrived, like the whole thing was being done for its advertising potential. It was nice to be able to compare the three series against each other though. As usual, CSI: Miami had the most awful acting. The way Emily Proctor delivers her lines is so stilted, you actually hope it's a deliberate thing.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Episode 679: Library Fiend

I'm such a nerd. First truly free day in about a month, which I could have spent lazing about, and what did I do? I paid a visit to the library and came back with an armful of books. A lot of it is stuff that I've been trying to read the past couple of times I've been back in Singapore, but just haven't been disciplined enough to finish. It's all interesting stuff too, like Memory: An Anthology, edited by Harriet Harvey Wood and A. S. Byatt, or Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book Of Food And Drink, edited by David Remnick, or Prince Of Stories: The Many Worlds Of Neil Gaiman, by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden and Stephen R. Bissette. I should probably also find an afternoon to go and watch Inception while it's still screening, since I live so near to one of the more deserted suburban cinemas on this island. Plus I wouldn't even have to pay. Just swipe that gift card my godmother gave me when I got back! Purchased tickets for Boeing Boeing, which were fractionally cheaper than I told my friends they'd be, as I realised that incredibly, the student concession applies to international students as well, so that saved us all another 5%. Very pleased now...

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Episode 678: Half A Day's Sleep!

Backlog of shows cleared! I know I'm rather slow on this, but can I just say that the new BBC series, Sherlock, is amazing. Anyway, I slept for about 12 hours, which was pretty awesome. It also meant that I arrived at 5.15 pm for a 4 pm church service. Haha! Wouldn't even have gone if I hadn't needed to pick up some notes for my dad. Finally had a meal at Aerin's in Raffles City, although it wasn't as impressive as I'd expected. Their signature apple pie was good, but the Mojito I ordered was disappointing. I mean, even the one that the SU serves back at Warwick tastes better! I may try to get back into this reading one book everyday thing, now that I'm free from all work responsibilities. Today, it was a slim volume of poetry, entitled Reflecting On The Merlion: An Anthology Of Poems, edited by Edwin Thumboo and Yeow Kai Chai. A mixed bag, if you ask me, but interesting as a snapshot of how Singaporeans have reacted to the Merlion, that bastard child of lion and fish. It's like some rite of passage you have to go through as a local poet, writing about the Merlion. I sort of did it once, although it was really quite derivative, so I guess it doesn't really count.