Friday, December 31, 2010

Episode 830: 5/30

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Episode 829: Reorganisation

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

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

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Episode 827: Running Out Of Books To Buy?

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Episode 826: Really Knuckling Down...

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Episode 825: Finally Back To Working On My PWP!

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Episode 824: An Uneventful Christmas

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

Friday, December 24, 2010

Episode 823: The Carpet Makers

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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Episode 822: Good Question

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Episode 821: Jealous Of Murakami!

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Episode 820: Creative Procrastination

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Episode 819: Hanging Out With Old Friends...

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Episode 818: Seriously, Ceriph?

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Episode 817: Monopoly Deal!

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Episode 815: First (And Last) Day Of Relaxation

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Episode 814: Warmth At Last...

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Episode 813: Chance Encounters

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Episode 812: Back (Briefly!)

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Episode 811: La Sagrada Família & Montserrat

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Episode 810: Montjuïc & Parc Güell

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Episode 809: Barcelona Redux

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

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Episode 808: Haunting The Airport

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

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Episode 807: Dinner At Strada

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Episode 806: Christmas Slam!

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

Monday, December 06, 2010

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

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

Sunday, December 05, 2010

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

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

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Episode 803: Christmas Dinner!

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

Friday, December 03, 2010

Episode 802: Bookcase Is Back!

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

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Episode 801: Bitten The Bullet!

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Episode 800: The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui

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