Monday, January 31, 2011

Episode 861: Women Beware Women Indeed...

Have forced myself to stay up to finish reading Women Beware Women. Not going to bother sacrificing more sleep for The Changeling, even though the word on Facebook is that it's the better play of the two. A bit annoyed that I haven't managed to read it, as it actually sounds like the sort of play that I would really be into, but Carol Rutter's lecture today was brilliant as always, and I feel like I know enough about the play to make it through tomorrow's seminar. Women Beware Women strikes me as being a tad overly melodramatic on the page, but I'm sure the massive carnage in the final scene plays out fantastically on the stage. It does seem excessive though, having practically everyone die, like Shakespeare does in Hamlet. That's tragedy for you, I guess? Carol's point about whether we should really beware the men in the play rings quite true though. Normally, I'm not a fan of feminist readings, but I'm quite happy to accept that characters like Bianca and Livia act in the manner that they do because of the patriarchal societal structures they are inevitably tied up in, and that the men of the play are just as guilty as the women of being faithless and scheming.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Episode 860: Dear Self, Please Read/Write Faster

Still haven't read the two Middleton plays for this week. It's a shame though, as the introduction in the Oxford edition makes them sound really interesting. Going to try and get through a couple of scenes of Women Beware Women before going to bed, and then read the rest tomorrow, along with The Changeling. I'm only making such a huge effort (or planning to anyway) because I think it would be nice to be at a Shakespeare seminar for once this term and know what's actually going on, instead of relying purely on guesswork to get by. No, I still haven't made progress with my creative project either, and it's really starting to bug me. I have a concept, but am unable to bring myself to execute it. Am actually hoping that reading Pirandello's Six Characters In Search Of An Author will help me to get things moving. I've also realised that I'm going to need to write a really brilliant commentary to justify what might otherwise be construed as laziness, i.e. the whole dancing around the issue of interpretation. Again, hoping one of the articles I've got will give me something clever to say in order to back up my position. Incidentally, fiction meeting didn't happen, but at least now I've got another story that can be edited and go into the portfolio due next term.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Episode 859: China Court

I'd originally intended to head down earlier to trawl the Oxfam shops, but they're all too far away from the Birmingham New Street station, so I didn't bother in the end. Instead, I spent the afternoon finishing up a story to send around for the fiction meeting, although that doesn't look like it's actually going to happen after all. Got ready for the Chinese New Year dinner just in time to catch the X17 to Coventry to meet Jerrick and Jasmine. (Randomly, the sales assistant at the shop in the station was surprisingly friendly.) Didn't actually do much in Birmingham when we got there, just walked around for a bit. We were fashionably late for the dinner itself, which turned out to be a somewhat underwhelming experience. It wasn't like the food was bad or anything, pretty average on the whole. The service at China Court was quite bad though, I thought. The dishes were pretty much rushed out one after the other, so towards the end of the dinner, there wasn't really a lot to do except wait for the coach back to campus. Grabbed a couple of books from the Library (totally did not know that the loan limit for finalists has gone up to 20 books) and came home to the last bit of Alex's belated birthday do. Arrived at the house just as a couple of people were leaving it!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Episode 858: No, I Will Not Attend Your Gala

Neglected to mention an amusing thing that happened to me yesterday at the Library. I was going to zap a copy of Susan Sontag's essay, 'Against Interpretation', and as I was about to go up the stairs, I was accosted by this mainland Chinese girl, trying to hard sell the Chinese Society's annual Chinese New Year gala. While I didn't have a problem with her giving me a flyer, immediately following that by asking if I wanted to buy a ticket right now was going a bit far. So I bluntly told her no, and it was absolutely delicious to see her surprised expression, as if I'd threatened to slap her in the face or something. To add insult to (her) injury, she offered me another flyer (in colour this time) when I came down the stairs about 10 minutes later, but despite being assured that the gala would be very interesting, I still told her I wasn't buying a ticket. Look, just because we happen to share the same skin colour doesn't mean I necessarily want to attend your gala, however interesting it will be. This is quite possibly one of the few things that really annoy me, when people make assumptions about me based on my ethnicity. It's not that I'm self-hating; it's simply that my racial ancestry doesn't form a part of how I'd normally define myself. It was her expectation of solidarity, I suppose, that bothered me, as I knew without a doubt that the fact that I was Chinese was the only reason why she approached me. There were loads of people going up and down the stairs at the time, and she wasn't exactly racing to get them to buy tickets to the gala, was she?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Episode 857: MA Dissertation?

Harry's Law has been crossed off my list of shows to watch, after delivering a second episode that felt like it was just more of the same, compared to last week. We had the slightly amusing subplot with the other lawyer in Harry's ramshackle practice, and Harry's impassioned closing argument that was just on the wrong side of inspirational for a cynical modern audience. I don't like my TV characters lecturing me, even when there's a modicum of truth to what they're spouting. The ratings have been good though, so clearly, a lot of Americans want to watch crazily happy endings, because that's really what this show is all about. It's so predictably happy, it hurts. Plus the characters are all quite uninteresting. Disappointing, given that this series comes form David E. Kelley. In other news, I may just have decided on a dissertation topic for next year. I know I've been saying that I wasn't going to do one, but thinking years ahead to when I want to apply for a PhD, it would be great to have had the training to write a sustained piece of academic writing, which would also be a useful writing sample to show. So tentatively, I'm planning to write on the Merlion and how the varying responses to it of Singaporean poets reflects wider shifts in their thematic concerns that are then tied to questions of identity construction (and fragmentation). I think that sounds focused enough to be manageable, yet offering enough scope for 16 000 words to explore.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Episode 856: The CW Switched My Brain Off

After watching Gossip Girl yesterday and concluding that I can no longer pretend there's any logic involved in it at this point (everyone goes through emotions so quickly, it's like they're permanently on mind-altering drugs), The CW doesn't disappoint with the returning episode of Hellcats. This show is actually quite weak, if you look at it. Plus since the plot is all about them getting to the finals of a cheering competition, I don't know what Season 2 could possibly be about. I'm expecting the same thing's going to happen for Nikita and The Vampire Diaries and that will make four shows I follow on The CW that I can't pretend are anything beyond fluff, although these two really should make a bit more of an effort since they're quite plot-driven at this point in their seasons. Especially The Vampire Diaries, which has been doing a surprising job of not getting caught up only by the Stefan-Elena-Damon love triangle. Anyway, applications stuff has stalled for now because my sister hasn't scanned the comments sheets for me yet. Could write my personal statement, but I think I can put that off for another week at least. Or until my review's written anyway. Speaking of which, that book needs to have been read like last week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Episode 855: No Work On Tuesdays!

Am repeating last week's experience with regard to watching TV, which basically means I'm never ever getting any sort of sustained work done on Tuesdays as long as my TV shows are airing new episodes. (Not that I mind terribly!) I did manage to finish my French comprehension while watching an episode of Shameless, so the day hasn't been a total wash. Also made £20 from that DR@W experiment, which was the maximum possible for this one. I'd definitely like to think that the majority of my choices in the experiment were rational in economic terms, and believe me, there was some really odd decision-making going on with the other participants, producing decidedly suboptimal outcomes for themselves. Went straight from that to get my tutors' feedback for last term from Michael Gardiner, which was almost uniformly positive, so much so that I was labelled a 'golden boy' for the first (and probably last) time in my life. Only caveat came from a comment that I was slow to speak up in seminars, which I get every year. Seriously. Mr Purvis said as much in my JC testimonial, although it was phrased as a positive trait in that. I don't mind so much. If I really had something I wanted to say, I'd say it. Eventually.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Episode 854: Sponsorship Application Open!

So the application for Masters sponsorship is officially open, and I've got exactly one month to get it all done, printed and posted to MOE. Got off to a good start by completing the attached CV template, but now I've got to get my references and personal statement done. I was pleasantly surprised at not having to attend an interview though! Wasn't expecting that. All that time spent on the CV means that I haven't read Troilus And Cressida though, which was my original reason for going to the Library. I've thought of an idea for my creative project for mirroring the beginning and ending of the play, but I'm going to talk to Tom Cornford about it after tomorrow's seminar, in case he thinks it's just pointlessly pretentious. Then I need to spend some time doing work (like that French comprehension) before the DR@W experiment at 2 pm, which I'm only doing because it's £5 just for showing up, with the promise of more. Am completely behind on my reading again, so I might stay on campus after that, just to force myself to get it done. I mean, my most successful attempt at reading a Shakespearean play in one sitting was that afternoon last term when I just sat in the Library and went through the whole of Titus Andronicus.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Episode 853: Student Weekend Away Day 3

Am actually exhausted after the weekend! No, it's nothing to do with Jonny's snoring keeping me awake, though it sounded pretty scary. It's just that breakfast has been at 8 am and I haven't gone to bed before 1 am the past two nights. Definitely going to bed earlier tonight! Was actually hoping to read Troilus And Cressida, and maybe even an article or two on Measure For Measure, but I think all that's going to be put on hold. Maybe just a couple of scenes at the most? The introduction, at the very least. Also really need to finish reading that book I'm meant to be reviewing. Traffic to Eunoia Review spiked over the weekend, having dipped as I predicted once the series of Len Kuntz's flashes finished. I think the spike now is probably thanks to R. L. Greenfield's poetry. Speaking of the journal, I accepted a couple of pieces for it over the past few days. The most recent is a six-part short story, each part having at least one epigraph. Now I've got nothing against epigraphs, but it frustrates me when they're misquotations. The most bizarre example was for a set of song lyrics, which I put into Google because I was trying to make up my mind about how to format them for display, only to discover that the lyrics were all pretty much wrong. No idea how that could've happened, but as usual, I silently emended everything that I regarded as being necessary, including some poor usage of commas that were impeding clarity. Anyway, with the latest batch of acceptances, the journal now has entries lined up to be posted pretty much through till its sixth month of existence!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Episode 852: Student Weekend Away Day 2

After this afternoon's walk, I think I may have seen more of Uttoxeter Rural than I care to for the rest of my life. Not that it was a bad walk or anything, despite the pub Google Maps promised turning out to be an illusion. I'm just a thoroughbred urbanite. I quite like the countryside, it must be said, seeing as how there's not actually a lot of it in Singapore! (Let's not even get started on categories like beautiful/picturesque/sublime.) I just get bored quite quickly by scenery sometimes. Took my camera out on the walk, but didn't end up snapping a single picture. Oh well. Now kind of wish I'd stayed inside and read a book instead. Still, the evening talk afterwards was great, a good chance to just take in God's presence. Played a game of The Settlers Of Catan after that, which was really funny because I won completely by stealth. Definitely my favourite strategy, keeping quiet. That's twice I've done it now to Phil and Sam in a game, I think. Of course, to be perfectly honest, this way of winning relies more on dumb luck than actual skill, so I wouldn't recommend counting on it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Episode 851: Student Weekend Away Day 1

Am in the middle of the civil parish of Uttoxeter Rural for the student weekend away. We're actually staying at Smallwood Manor, which used to be a boarding school. There are plaques and stuff going back to 1945. The place is now a day school, and the accommodation is let out on the weekends to groups coming here on retreat or planning a visit to Alton Towers. The most extraordinary thing about the place is how maze-like its system of staircases and rooms is. It's crazy, but kind of fun too, bumbling about and not knowing where you're meant to be headed. Anyway, I made it halfway through the ride to Smallwood Manor from church before realising that the one thing I'd forgotten to pack was my towel. Looks like I'll have to use my t-shirt instead. Or not shower at all, but that's a bit too disgusting. That said, I didn't shower on the last weekend away. That was because we had like one shower and it was in a different building! We'll see, I guess. I hope the shower's heating works though. It would be quite painful to have to shower in cold water, which incidentally, has been happening for the past couple of days at home. For me, anyway. Maybe I'm just hopping into the shower after all the hot water's been used up?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Episode 850: tapfactory Issue 8 Launch

Another launch this evening, this time for Issue 8 of tapfactory. Read out a couple of my poems ('Ekphrasis' and 'Adequacy'), and this was after Sam Mackley-Ward told me he liked my poems, which I think was a very nice thing for him to say. This issue, incidentally, is printed on very good (i.e. heavy) paper. It's got a really lovely cover too, so everyone who can should go onto campus and buy one. Stocks are very limited! I've also finally begun reading Kevin Cook's biography of Titanic Thompson, which I'm reviewing for The Cadaverine. My editor's right about it being an easier read than the last book I was assigned, which was the Raban anthology. Not that that was bad, just very thick! Review's due in less than two weeks, but it's 500 words, so I should be fine. Have also pretty much completed my background research for my Shakespeare creative project. By which I mean that I've trawled Google Scholar, but haven't actually read all the articles yet. I'm starting to feel more optimistic about my project, although it would really help if I could get access to a copy of Philip C. McGuire's Speechless Dialect: Shakespeare's Open Silences. It's the only book that Tom Cornford's recommended that the Library doesn't have a copy of. Unfortunately, it also seems to be the most germane to the central problem of stage interpretation that I'm interested in!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Episode 849: LL251 Really Isn't That Tough!

I'm starting to feel like I should look up and view productions of Measure For Measure, just to see how the endings have been put on. I still haven't got more than the vaguest ideas of what to put in my own play, although I'm fairly certain I'm opening and closing with tableaux of the final moments of the play, but with distinct differences that should ideally indicate some sort of development in the characters, particularly the ones rehearsing the parts of the Duke and Isabella. It is striking, isn't it, how the women tend to get silenced at the end of Shakespeare's plays? Even in The Taming Of The Shrew, Katherine's long speech is never acknowledged by the women she's meant to be reprimanding. What you get instead are the men, vying to get a word in. I like to think those final lines should be played as them trying to shout the women down, even though there's no suggestion of that in stage directions. Randomly, can I just say that some of the people in my LL251 class complain too much about how difficult and beyond them the class supposedly is? Maybe 'A' Level French in the UK is ridiculously easy or something, because anyone coming out of Singapore with decent 'AO' Level French like I did would have no trouble with LL251. The business vocabulary might be a bit of a stumbling block, but nothing that a good dictionary wouldn't help with. The thing is, half the group clearly has problems with grammatical points that I actually find kind of tedious to have to go over during seminars. Like today, with the pronouns. In three years of French language lessons at Warwick, the one thing I've never liked is how much grammar I have to sit through in seminars despite already knowing it. (Big thanks due here to Mme Pang, Mme Faussat and M. Quenot, obviously.) Anyway, stayed back on campus to help at the launch of David Morley's new collection. Got a free signed copy and a bottle of wine, so that was nice. Loved David's reading as well!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Episode 848: Six Hours Of TV!

Watched about six hours of TV today. Would've gone to the library in Warwick (the town, not the university) to borrow Justin Cronin's The Passage, but someone's already taken it out. So instead, a marathon TV session. First up was the premiere of the American remake of Skins, which slavishly copies its British predecessor, while throwing in a weak jibe or two at Gossip Girl. If MTV wants to create a new cultural phenomenon though, one that's somewhere just above Jersey Shore in its trash value, it needs to diverge from the British storylines, and fast. This premiere episode felt way too contrived, and James Newman's Tony came off as a caricature rather than someone believably superior to the rabble he moves among. Speaking of superiority, House is back with new episodes, but sadly, the punchlines are getting a bit flat after seven seasons. Look, Jesse Spencer is reasonably attractive, but the repeated mentions of his pretty mug are getting really tedious. I liked Amber Tamblyn's character when she first showed up, but the writers aren't doing anything with her, and now she's just boring because she isn't adding anything new to the dynamic of the team. (Olivia Wilde was bland, but at least she was very attractive.) Brilliant moment for Lisa Edelstein in this episode though: 'Yes, you will be in hell, but I will feel better having you there. That is what a relationship is. We average our misery.'

Followed that with back-to-back episodes of Hawaii Five-0, since I completely missed its return last week. I started out feeling quite indifferent about this, but it's grown to become one of my favourite new shows from the 2010-11 season. It's another remake, but I'm too young to have seen the original, so I don't really care about that. Masi Oka's recurring coroner character is awesome, by the way. Hearing Alex O'Loughlin mangle Mandarin, not so much. I will say, the overall plot development in each episode is pretty standard, and the larger story arc regarding Steve McGarrett's father is developing quite slowly, but the banter being Steve and Danny is great fun. (Randomly, Scott Caan looks a lot like his father.) Moving on, I watched the pilot for Harry's Law. It's been ages since I've seen anything by David E. Kelley, famous for legal dramas The Practice, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, so I've been looking forward to this. The pilot apparently did great in the ratings, despite being savaged by critics. I'm ambivalent myself. I think it's trying too hard and at some points was a tad preachy, like Harry's closing argument scene. I'll give it one more week, and if nothing grabs me, I'm striking this one off my list.

To round things off, new episodes of Lie To Me, Pretty Little Liars, and the American remake of Being Human. I maintain that Lightman is basically House-lite. I mean, their shows even share a network, this fact in itself a bit of an oddity, given that Fox's other hot properties are American Idol and Glee. (I don't know if Fringe can be considered in the same league, even if it's from J. J. Abrams.) Then again, Fox has always seemed to be the most bizarre of the broadcast networks. As for Pretty Little Liars, it's my other favourite new show, but can I just say, it's funny how Ian Harding plays a teacher on the show, when in real life, he's younger than one of his students (Brant Daugherty). American television and its penchant for casting people in their twenties as teenagers! (Case in point: Gossip Girl.) I'm really curious to see how the whole first season pans out because this was a 13-episode summer series that then got picked up for a full 22-episode order, as well as being 'promoted' to the autumn/winter schedule. If that's not success in TV terms, I don't know what is. I don't know if the show has a life beyond the revelation of the identity of 'A', so I'm betting that's not going to happen this season. As for the remake of Being Human, it's okay, but same caveat. It needs to get away from the British storylines, and with the ending of the premiere, it's already heading in that direction.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Episode 847: Measure For Measure It Is Then...

Paul Prescott's lecture today has pretty much convinced me that my creative project needs to be about the ending of Measure For Measure. Out of all the plays that I know in some capacity, the only other serious contender has always been The Merchant Of Venice, but I suppose in terms of working out alternative interpretations of the final scene, Measure For Measure feels to me like it offers more possibilities. Ellie mentioned this essay to me that interprets the play in light of the New Testament, which is an intriguing notion in itself, but also suggests a potential character for my own short play. Not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist (because they scare me), but just someone who approaches the ending in terms of a redemptive framework. He/She doesn't even necessarily have to be a Christian, since I suppose given the length that I'm meant to be aiming for, too much character background is just going to bog things down, I suspect. Anyway, I'm still going to try and read through all the comedies, just because I do think it's interesting to note what patterns emerge, and I can always say something about that in the accompanying commentary. Deciding on a play feels good though, so now I can really settle down to start researching and writing. Eight weeks to go!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Episode 846: Poetry Is The Opposite Of Money (Or Is It?)

So a couple of days ago, I found out that Poetry Quarterly accepted one of my poems out of a batch of five that I sent in. It's only the second time I've tried, and Duotrope's Digest suggests that for a change I'm getting an acceptance from a market that rejects a greater proportion than it accepts. Not that I'm snobbish about things like that, but I am rather competitive at times. Anyway, the editor just sent an e-mail to the contributors informing us that we have the choice of a $2 PayPal payment or a $4 coupon for buying the print edition of the issue we'll be appearing in. I'd say it's a no-brainer really! The Fall issue will be available for viewing online anyway, so maybe I'll get a screenshot of my poem or something, since I don't think you can download the electronic edition. It's just exciting, getting paid for a poem, even if it's just a token sum. I will say that I'm quite surprised by the choice of poem though. Out of the batch of five, 'Subject: Love' definitely wasn't the one I thought would make the cut. Then again, this was the poem that Quarterly Literary Review Singapore considered for publication, together with 'Vignettes', and although they were ultimately rejected, both poems have found a home elsewhere. (The Cadaverine took 'Vignettes'.) All in all, this $2 was a pleasant way to start the week!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Episode 845: Baby Faces & Body Horror

Forgot to mention that last night, I was asked for ID by a bartender at The Jug & Jester whom I swear was almost certainly younger than me. Oh, the irony. I know I look younger than 23, but this was ridiculous. I suppose I'll be singing a completely different tune when I turn 30. By then, if my face hasn't caught up with my age, I'll probably be extremely pleased with my genetics. Then again, looking baby-faced probably isn't a good thing in my future profession. My older colleagues won't take me seriously in school, will they? Might have to grow a beard or something. Anyway, I've basically been bumming the entire day, watching the first of eight episodes of Happy Town and eXistenZ. (This was after waking up past noon, which is okay, since I only went to bed at like 4 am.) I can totally see just from that first episode why Happy Town was such a short-lived series. Not that it's bad. It's just not the kind of non-threatening fare that would appeal to advertisers' dream demographic, which is what seems more important these days than the show itself. eXistenZ was kind of like that as well. David Cronenberg's well-known for his work in the body horror genre, and yeah, the game pods make for some pretty gross scenes. I thought the execution of the whole game-within-game-within-reality construct was a bit clumsy and too transparent. By which I mean, to some extent, that admittedly I'd prefer a slick Hollywood product like The Matrix or Inception.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Episode 844: An Unbirthday Bar Crawl

It's an indication of how predictable the bar crawl circuit along the Parade is that I kept spotting the same strangers as the night progressed. Incidentally, as someone who doesn't tend to take his drinks neat, can I just say that one of the things I'm going to miss about the UK is the abundance of cheap cocktails, relative to Singapore. I had a cocktail for £2.50, so at the current exchange rate, that's about $5. You can't buy anything to drink with $5 in a Singaporean bar/club, I don't think. Maybe bottled water, but anything alcoholic, almost certainly not. So anyway, Lucy's unbirthday bar crawl was pretty fun, and making it through four separate venues, was probably one of the more extensive ones I've been on. Had an idea earlier in the day for another story for my EN236 portfolio, but after thinking about it, realised that the central conceit wasn't actually logical. Oh well. So much for that. I haven't actually tried rewriting the story I had workshopped last term, and I was intending to expand that to twice its length, which would be enough for the portfolio. Don't know for sure if I can double it though, so I was thinking it might be good to have another shorter piece to put in as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Episode 843: On The Right Track!

Had two seminars in a day where I'd gladly have listened to the seminar tutors talk far longer than they already did. First was China Miéville in the morning, and there's nothing much more to say about that than that he was incredible as always. (I suppose Dambudzo Marechera was as well.) Insert minor fanboy moment here. That tattoo he's got on his right bicep freaks me out though. I'm pretty sure it wasn't there before Kraken came out. (Randomly, Wikipedia has informed me that novel was published on my birthday last year.) Then it was Graeme Macdonald in the afternoon, whom I'd listen to (and this is a really shallow reason) just for his accent. Wasn't really that keen on Scottish poetry per se, apart from Edwin Morgan. The Australian stuff we're looking at next week is more my kind of thing, to be honest. In between these seminars, Michael Hulse pretty much made my day by letting me know that he thought my poems so far are on the right track. He had some pointers for revising them further if I was thinking of sending them off for publication and such, but if I didn't have the time for that, what I've got so far is fine for the purposes of my PWP. (Now I just need to turn out 23 pages more!) It's good, since my biggest worry so far has been not being able to get away from the stilted cadences that in retrospect I can see were plaguing the first drafts from before the Christmas vacation, so it seems I've finally managed to escape that sufficiently now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Episode 842: Thank You, Len Kuntz!

So much for my wanting to write the next big vampire hit. Apparently, Justin Cronin's already beaten me to it with The Passage. It sounds like the kind of thing I would read, so I'm waiting for the 'B Format' paperback to come out from Orion. Might just end up ordering the 'C Format' and returning it in mint condition once I've read it, if I can't wait till May. I've read about half of Mindblast, and have decided that much as I find it interesting, I'm not going to let it prevent me from getting a third consecutive night of more than eight hours of sleep. I've read enough of it to say something in tomorrow's seminar anyway, I think. Incidentally, Eunoia Review hit 100 published pieces the day before I flew back, and the site has been averaging more than 50 visits daily for more than a week now. This is definitely because Len Kuntz's flash fictions are immensely popular. Am hoping that some of the readers will stick around even after the run of his pieces is over, but I'm realistic enough to expect that there will be an appreciable drop in visitors nevertheless. On the other hand, the journal's profile should get boosted in April, once Duotrope's Digest takes it off the list of 'Fledgling' markets, as it should then qualify for both the 25 Swiftest Poetry Markets and the 25 Most Approachable Poetry Markets. Seeing as I've already got pieces scheduled for publication until mid-March, I'd say I don't have to worry about not getting enough submissions to last Duotrope's required six months.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Episode 841: Settling Back Into Routines...

Had the entire afternoon free after my seminar, so I've been hard at work catching up with my TV shows. The premiere of Showtime's Episodes felt a bit flat to me, despite the stellar pedigree of its writers. The premise is novel enough, tracking the obstacles a couple faces in getting their show adapted in America, but the execution feels awkward. Speaking of adaptations, the American remake of Shameless has also premiered on Showtime, and I think that's actually pretty interesting. American remakes can be disastrous (see MTV's upcoming remake of Skins), but this one of Shameless is saved largely by Emmy Rossum. In the pilot, anyway. The show reunites her with Dragonball Evolution co-star Justin Chatwin, and hopefully, Shameless proves to be less of a disaster than that film was. Showtime has a history of success with character-driven shows (Californication, Dexter, United States Of Tara, Weeds), so I'm willing to give the Shameless remake the benefit of the doubt for a couple of weeks more. You'd think that my brain had turned to mulch by now, but I finally read the whole of A Chaste Maid In Cheapside too. This was after a moment of mild embarrassment earlier during the seminar when I had to plead jet lag for not knowing a plot point involving Touchwood Senior. Now reading Mindblast for Thursday, and quite enjoying it too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Episode 840: Need To Catch Up On My Reading (As Always)

Heathrow immigration was surprisingly efficient this morning, so I paid £10.55 to amend my National Express coach ticket to an earlier timing. Otherwise, I'd have had to wait for over two hours at the Central Bus Station! This way, I made it home, unpacked everything, and still had time to get ready for the EN301 lecture that I was initially going to skip. Glad I didn't though, since Carol Rutter's lectures are always interesting. Tom Cornford's suggested a couple of books for me to take a look at to give my Shakespeare creative project more theoretical underpinning, so I'm going to check that out tomorrow in the Library after the seminar. Really want to get a move on with it! Have just finished Love's Labour's Lost and started on A Chaste Maid In Cheapside, but I'm too sleepy to finish the latter. Got through 20 pages so far out of 72, which is pretty decent, and I'm enjoying Middleton's bawdiness. I won't be prepared for the seminar tomorrow morning at all, but I'm going to plead jet lag, and I'll finish reading the play in the afternoon. Still have to read Dambudzo Marechera's Mindblast for Thursday, so I might do well to attempt to get through all of that tomorrow as well, seeing as Tuesday is the day when I'm entirely unoccupied from noon onwards.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Episode 839: Happy Birthday, Mum!

Flew back to the UK on my Mum's birthday. There were more interesting films available this time. Watched Never Let Me Go, which I've been dying to see since the film adaptation was announced. Don't really see why Qantas classified it as arthouse though. It's not mainstream, I suppose, but it's not that niche a film either. Best scene was when Andrew Garfield is screaming after he and Carey Mulligan find out the truth about Hailsham, and she just holds him. Heartbreaking moment. Then I saw Life As We Know It, starring Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl. It was a pretty standard romantic comedy, except it really wasn't that funny! Interesting plot decision having the baby girl as the romance's catalyst though. Also finally saw The Social Network. My (belated) verdict? I think it was a fascinating film, although the attempt to balance the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg at the end came across as too little, too late. The last thing I watched during the flight was six straight episodes of The Delicious Miss Dahl. Sophie Dahl does a great job in this series, and the food looks delicious. All that quoting of poetry felt a tad pretentious occasionally, although I loved the ones from Dorothy Parker.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Episode 838: Last-minute Industry!

Met Claudia for lunch and discovered that my monthly starting pay is potentially up to $500 more than what I'd expected it to be. I'm going to be one well-dressed teacher in a couple of years! (Definitely should get that Ted Baker shirt then.) The NIE timetable sounds way more taxing than what I've got at university right now, and NIE is rather far away from where I live. Sigh. Some things just can't be helped, I guess. Incidentally, I've never realised just how touristy some parts of Chinatown are! It actually feels a bit weird, being a local and walking through those couple of streets, knowing that a stone's throw away, Singaporeans are bustling through places like People's Park Complex, doing practical things like shopping for fabric. Anyway, in a burst of effort intended to avoid having to actually write during my flight as opposed to watching movies I would otherwise never pay for on the ground, I've finished the draft for another poem. Had to change the ending from what I'd planned for, but it was really just one line that didn't have to be written that way in the first place, apart from my being obsessed with patterns in the whole sequence I'm creating. Too fixated on that for my own good, in all likelihood. Next up: four poems for the four wives Jacob had!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Episode 837: Finished My French Homework!

Louise just sent me a PDF for the book we're meant to read for our first EN236 seminar with China Miéville, so that's probably what I'm going to be reading on the flight back now. The Ballard books I bought before leaving the UK have been trickling in over the holidays, with two large batches arriving in the past couple of days. Amazingly though, there are still some that have yet to arrive, and I'm heading back in just over 48 hours. Yeah, I know, the snow and all. Still, it's atrocious. Randomly, I've been listening to the new Take That album, Progress, i.e. the one with Robbie Williams in it again after 15 years. I actually really like it. The electronic sounds aren't quite as shamelessly used for the sake of sounding up-to-date as they were on Backstreet Boys' most recent album, This Is Us. (See the single 'Straight Through My Heart' for a catchy example of what I mean. RedOne's production is fun to listen to, but it's become ubiquitous. It's like Timbaland all over again.) So I suppose even boy bands can change their stripes. Sort of. Robbie Williams also put out another greatest hits album, and I didn't even notice. It's pretty massive, 59 tracks if you get the deluxe edition from iTunes. Should be enough to cover the whole journey from Heathrow back to Leamington on Monday, yeah? Right, now for about 40 pages of Love's Labour's Lost before bed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Episode 836: Differing Rates Of Progress

Haven't written the draft yet that I mentioned yesterday, but I'm aiming to have it done before I get back to the UK, even if I have to write it during my flight! I feel like my PWP is progressing at an acceptable pace, but my Shakespeare creative project has kind of stalled. I finished re-reading The Taming Of The Shrew, and I've also read The Comedy Of Errors, so now I've moved on to Love's Labour's Lost. I'm definitely starting to notice patterns emerging, like how women get silenced in the final scene, or how the endings resolve themselves with promises of impending oral explanations, so really, I could probably write a really solid essay instead of doing a creative project, which everyone seems to be saying won't do as well as an essay. I've calculated, and I can afford to get a mixture of Firsts and high 2:1s in my modules this year, and still maintain a First overall, so I'm still not too bothered. Frankly, if I just put in more effort for LL252, I'd probably be more than fine in the end. What I really need to do now is start writing lines for the play!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Episode 835: And She Moved Like Ice...

Just finished another draft for my PWP. I think it's actually a bit weak, so I might end up completely reworking it in a couple of weeks. The tone of the 'I' in this one sounds okay to me, but the content feels too slavishly derivative of the original Biblical story. It's based on Judges 19, where the Levite's concubine gets raped because her husband offers her up to the men of Gibeah, in a moment that echoes the story of Lot before the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. In any case, whatever its quality, it's given me an idea for what the next poem in the sequence can be about, spoken by the virgin of Gibeah whose father offers up together with the concubine, but who ultimately is not stated to have been raped. I'm going to assume she lives with a heavy dose of survivor's guilt, so much that she runs away from home. Might write that one tomorrow. Anyway, I've been listening to the new Conjure One album, Exilarch, which has already been out for a couple of months, but I only realised last night. The first track alone, 'Like Ice', is gorgeous enough that Conjure One may have surpassed Delerium in my esteem, despite usually being labelled as the latter's poorer cousin. The musical style has generally skewed towards more Middle Eastern influences though, so I don't think the comparison is necessarily helpful. The track features vocals from Jaren Cerf, who has one of the most delectable female voices I've heard outside of a Sleepthief album. She's on a couple of tracks in the rest of the album as well. Apparently, she also sings for dance music tracks. A bit random, but hey, I suppose even trance music needs a good vocal track now and again.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Episode 834: Hong Kong Dramas Are Just Better

One of my aunts recently lent my mother the DVDs for a Hong Kong costume drama, Beyond The Realm Of Conscience, so pretty much our whole family's been watching it. I can't pin down the reason why, but no matter how unbelievable the drama in Hong Kong programmes ( and there's an insane amount when imperial concubines are involved), it still feels more authentic than what we're getting from Mediacorp in general. Our English dramas sound jarring because the casts always appear to be uncomfortable with speaking English. Our Mandarin dramas used to be good. In the 1980s and 1990s! So the reason I haven't done as much work as I should have over the past week or so is because I've been trying to finish all 33 episodes of this drama before heading back to the UK! In a way, Hong Kong dramas of this sort are essentially like Gossip Girl, except morality is a lot more straightforward and the storylines much more contained. I suppose one would have to say the acting is generally heaps better as well. Now that I'm done with it, I can get on with my work in the remaining couple of days...

Monday, January 03, 2011

Episode 833: First Prize!

Received a pleasant surprise this morning when I checked my e-mail. I sent in some pantoums for a competition organised by Indigo Rising Magazine sometime before Christmas. I've just been informed that one of them has won the first prize of $10 and a free copy of the upcoming Issue VII, in which 'Consequences' will be published on the first page. No word as yet in the e-mail on how either is going to get to me, though it's still a bit exciting because it's the first time I've ever got money for a poem. The closest was placing second in that NUS competition, for which I got vouchers, if I remember correctly. I'm actually slightly surprised that out of 'Caged', 'Higher Education' and 'Consequences', it was the last that won, especially when the editor said that it was an easy choice for the winner. I've always thought 'Caged' is by far the best pantoum I've written so far. Oh well. Maybe I'll bring the magazine to show Michael Hulse when it arrives. Anyway, I made a bit of an effort and finished half of my French homework this afternoon. I could probably finish it all in one night next week, so by doing it now, in a way I'm just avoiding working on my PWP, aren't I? Must start drafting a new poem tomorrow!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Episode 832: Next Bulk Purchase - Ted Dekker?

Went to Mel's house for tea and to get Vaish's belated Christmas present from her brother. It's a 2011 calendar with cartoons from The New Yorker, which I'm probably going to bring back with me to the UK next Sunday. (That said, I never even used that 2009 calendar full of bridge problems.) Ended up missing service because I couldn't get back in time, so I went to the library at Bishan to wait for my family. Despite having plays to read, I still couldn't resist borrowing a couple of Ted Dekker books when I came across them. I've read some of his novels in the past, namely the first three volumes of The Circle Series, and I'm thinking of buying all of novels eventually, so this is really just to see if I like his other work. Will be reading Adam and The BoneMan's Daughter, am thinking of staying up all night to finish the former because after just a couple of chapters, I'm hooked. It's a real page-turner, as publisher's blurbs are fond of boasting in their lavish praise. I will make it a point to finish re-reading The Taming Of The Shrew tomorrow though. Have been dragging my feet on reading through the comedies for far too long, even if I have a vague idea about how I want my short play to open and could probably lay down some dialogue right now. Then there's still all that unfinished French homework. Urgh...

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Episode 831: Winter Drei/Winters Three/Hivers Trois

Finished reading Kevin Keane's trilingual debut, Winter Drei/Winters Three/Hivers Trois. The use of rhyme throughout is impressive, and it doesn't sound clunky or gimmicky. Each poem is subdivided into three sections, and the order is switched depending on whether one is reading the German, English or French version. As far as I can tell from reading the English and French poems (since I don't understand German at all), the poems are direct translations, although it's interesting to ponder exactly which language they're being translated from and into as a result of that fact. This is exactly the sort of linguistic game that I find incredibly fascinating, and the shuffling of the sections reminds me of the work of Raymond Queneau and the members of Oulipo, in particular, Queneau's Cent Mille Milliards De Poèmes. The permutations contained within that work are truly mind-boggling, and here's an English translation to give you a taste. One day, in the distant future, after I've brushed up on my Chinese, I might attempt something along the lines of what Keane has done. The greatest stumbling block would be the paucity of my vocabulary in Chinese and French, including a dismal grasp of the sort of idiomatic expressions that allow me to express myself more fluently in English. Still, this would be something truly ambitious to work towards, wouldn't it?