Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Episode 799: It Did, But Not Enough!

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Episode 798: Will It Snow Tomorrow?

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Episode 797: An Unnecessary Epiphany

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Episode 795: McSweeney's Black Friday Sale!

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Episode 794: Barcelona, Here We Come!

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Episode 793: ACCR Occupied!

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Episode 792: Finally Wrote Something For My PWP!

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Episode 790: One Play Down, One To Go

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Episode 789: Gangsters & Molls

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Episode 788: Propeller's Richard III

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Episode 787: A Quiet Night Of Reading...

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Episode 786: Writers In Prisons 50th Anniversary Event

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Episode 785: Almost Caught Up!

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Episode 784: Now Reading Richard III...

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Episode 783: Still Not Reading Richard III...

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Episode 782: Reading Week Produces Bad Sleeping Patterns

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Episode 781: Carver Or King?

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Episode 780: Sandcastle

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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

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

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Episode 778: 1310/2000!

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

Monday, November 08, 2010

Episode 777: Reading Week Woes

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

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Episode 776: Church Twice In A Day

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

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Episode 775: Become Day 2

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

Friday, November 05, 2010

Episode 774: Become Day 1

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

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Episode 773: Massive Win In Seminar!

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

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Episode 772: Rebound Procrastination Strikes!

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

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Episode 771: Ramping Up The Productivity!

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

Monday, November 01, 2010

Episode 770: Progress In My Reading!

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