Sunday, July 31, 2011

Episode 1042: QC For Cabbies!

I might've said it before, but there seriously needs to be some form of quality control for cabbies in Singapore. Last night, it was a driver who ridiculously couldn't remember where Lentor Avenue was, which is by no means some random little road in a forgotten corner of the island. When asked to bring us to Yio Chu Kang, he went to Yio Chu Kang Road, but starting from the end not actually in the Yio Chu Kang area because he didn't know where Lentor Avenue was and therefore couldn't bring us to the right end of Yio Chu Kang Road, obviously. Tonight, it was a cabbie who was changing shift in Sembawang, and therefore drove me and my sisters to Yishun recklessly. Maybe, as Shirley said, I just have bad luck with taxis, but my experiences aren't unique. As much as I appreciate driving a taxi is a tough job in Singapore, I don't think I should have to suffer for it as a passenger. Anyway, I had a nice lunch today at Inagiku, right next to Shahi Maharani. Crazily expensive sashimi! Still think that the only sashimi I actually like is salmon. We actually wouldn't have eaten at the restaurant if my parents weren't Feed At Raffles members and could get discounts at this Japanese restaurant, so it was just a novel experience, I guess.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Episode 1041: A Couple Of Firsts

Cyril Wong's debut collection, squatting quietly, is one I've been trying to track down since I started buying local poetry. So imagine my surprise on spotting copies in BooksActually today. Seven copies to be exact, although their sale has been interdicted by the poet because he regards the collection as juvenilia. Too bad for me then! I did pick up a bunch of other local writing though, raking up a tab of nearly $90. The only non-local book was Christiania Whitehead's The Garden Of Slender Trust, which I've been aware of since she lectured us for EN121 in first year. Curious to see what sort of poetry she writes. Headed to the National Library to pick up some books and then it was back to Raffles City for dinner at Shahi Maharani with Claudia, Derrick and Thong. As Claudia pointed out later when we were having drinks in Brotzeit, the conversation we were having (mostly merciless ribbing) could just as well have been had in our JC days, with the obvious addition now of alcohol. I suppose that's a good thing actually, right? It's nice that some things don't change, even half a decade on. Before that, we were in Loof, so I've finally visited the rooftop bar at Odeon Towers. Not terribly impressed though. Overpriced, tiny drinks, and we had to ask for our change back after paying! Another first was paying a visit to CHIJMES after Brotzeit closed, in search of dessert. Thank goodness we found gelato at Lippolis, after a lot of semi-aimless wandering!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Episode 1040: Faith Enough To Doubt?

Managed to get the review done before heading to cell. It was close to 700 words, yet I was still left with the feeling that I hadn't done the collection justice. I guess I just feel uncomfortable with making general statements that due to space constraints, I can't always back up with rigorous close readings of the poems themselves. I usually try to include at least one fairly substantial instance of said textual analysis in a review, and it's a technique that seems to work pretty well. Cell was more interesting than I expected it to be. We started working on Lee Strobel's The Case For Christ while I was away, and this week's topic was about doubt. In my personal experience, doubt has never been a serious issue for me. I think it's because I'm predominantly an intellectual believer, and correspondingly, an intellectual doubter. Yet things like the problem of evil, which do bother other people, don't trouble me at a personal, day-to-day level, and therefore to me, they don't seem a justifiable cause to lose faith. I realise this could change as my life and circumstances change as well, but at this point, that's my position on the matter. Ultimately, I suspect that what we all need is faith enough to doubt.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Episode 1039: Unconditional Offer, Finally

Trying to get my unconditional offer from Warwick threatened to devolve into a paperwork fiasco. At least until I reminded the Postgraduate Admissions staff member that I'm in fact a brand new Warwick graduate, so there ought to be records openly accessible to prove that, Honours classification and all. That cleared things up pretty quickly, although it did indicate to me that she never even took a look at the photocopy of my degree scroll that I attached and just automatically disregarded it because it came via e-mail. No issues with MOE when I sent it in, although I still need to provide my final transcript, which is so far still MIA. What's up with that anyway? Going to try and bang out a bit of the review tonight before bed, but I suspect the most I'll achieve is re-reading the collection. 500-750 words can't take that long to write, right? Plus I think I've got my angle for the review, and it's definitely to do with the Christian-themed poems in the collection. Might be able to incorporate some of the ideas from my PWP reflective essay, especially Elizabeth Jennings's comments on Christianity and poetry.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Episode 1038: Successful Procrastination!

So I've managed to put off writing the review for yet another day. Am definitely going to finish Metro 2033 before I sleep though, so that's something at least. Not sure what I'm going to read after that though. Really want to start on those Ted Dekker novels because that's the reason I shipped all of them back, but there's poetry I'd like to read as well. I suppose I'll figure something out. TV backlog has been trimmed to a manageable size at least, with just the latest episodes of Covert Affairs, Falling Skies and The Nine Lives Of Chloe King remaining. Randomly, today I discovered that TNT's Rizzoli & Isles is based on Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli/Isles crime thriller series. I was a big fan of her earlier medical thrillers, back when I was in secondary school, and I've read a couple of the books in this Rizzoli/Isles series, so I'm adding the show to my list to follow. Or catch up on at some point anyway, since I'm probably already following too many shows as it is, and that's even before the new fall schedule shows I want to add to the list have premiered. I estimate it's basically going to double the number of shows I follow on a weekly basis, come September/October.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Episode 1037: ...And Getting Into The Swing Of Things

Just read the two submissions forwarded to me for The Cadaverine in the past weeks. Should have done it sooner really, as they turned out to be quite straightforward rejections. Didn't really have much concrete advice for the writers this time though, as there wasn't anything specific that could be tweaked for improvement. What was needed in both stories was more like a complete overhaul, which I tried to phrase as delicately as I could, particularly since one submission was from a 10-year-old via his mother. (That was an unusual one.) Tomorrow, I'm going to get on with my review of Sidereal hopefully, but I'll need to re-read it first. Or I could procrastinate by trying to finish Metro 2033! Really want to see how it ends, as this is a rare occasion that I haven't flicked through the last couple of pages to find out how everything ends. Need to get the review done by Monday though, in time for the magazine's launch. Then it's on to the review of Brittle Star that I've been sitting on for ages, before I'll finally have time to turn my thoughts to my 500-word dissertation proposal that I need to return together with my module choices to the department by 1 September.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Episode 1036: Catching Up...

Not suffering too badly from jet lag, although there were a few minutes in the afternoon, formatting submissions, when I felt somewhat sleepy. Otherwise though, I expect to slip back into a normal sleep cycle fairly quickly this time around. Had more than a month's worth of pieces to put into the queue, so that took up my late morning till early afternoon. All caught up on that front though, so there's now work lined up till late March. Many thanks to all the contributors so far! Bizarrely, someone's just e-mailed to ask if he can withdraw two out of the three poems I accepted so that he can try his luck with them elsewhere, seeing as I have a publication queue that stretches several months ahead at this point. (Yes, that was actually the full reason given.) Probably should have said no, the poems stay with me, but I suppose something like this was bound to happen sooner or later in any case. I mean, without meaning to put down my own editorial judgement (confidence in which David Tait has been instrumental in developing over the past couple of months), I'm under no illusions that a young online publication like mine is unlikely to command the same sort of cache among some writers as a more established publication. So while I thought the request was a tad on the crass side, I do have 236 pieces scheduled and can well afford to allow him to retract the two poems. (I draw the line at taking them back if March rolls around and no one else has accepted them.) Anyway, on the TV side of things, as of today I have 15 episodes of TV shows to catch up on, and I'm actually making good headway. Should have cleared them all by the middle of the week, along with the new episodes that'll be accumulating meanwhile too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Episode 1035: WiFi, How I Have Missed Thee!

Originally, I didn't think I'd watch all that many films on the return flight, having exhausted the options that appealed on the flight to London. In the end though, I still made it through four. Toast is based on Nigel Slater's autobiographical novel of the same name, and while there was less food in it than I'd been led to believe, I still enjoyed the film very much. (Coincidentally, Issue 1 - Ramen of Lucky Peach, McSweeney's new magazine, was waiting for me on the table when I got home from the airport!) Then I saw The Joy Luck Club, another book-to-film adaptation, and it was a dreary two hours. I feel like I've seen this film before, or at least parts of it. It is also horribly racist in the way it perpetrates stereotypes about Chinese American families. I'm sure there's truth to be found in it (one of the plot strands reflects Amy Tan's own experience of discovering she has half-sisters her mother left behind in mainland China), except there's no subtlety to be found here and things get really saccharine by the end of the film. The next film I saw, Battle For Terra was entertaining enough. Visually pleasing, but failed to break new ground in storytelling (it's basically a low-budget Avatar that came out a couple of years before Avatar), except for when one of the chief protagonists was allowed to die in a blaze of sacrificial glory. Lastly, I saw Confession Of Pain, which had both Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro looking suitably brooding. I did think it was a little weird for the identity of the killer to be given away so early in the film though, as then the only outstanding question was why did he do it, and the audience is strung along until almost the very end before everything's properly revealed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Episode 1034: Bye UK (For Now)!

Woke up to good news! 'Homecoming', my three-part poem about Singapore, has been accepted by Quarterly Literary Review Singapore for the upcoming issue, following significant rewriting. Really quite pleased, and it's a nice note on which to end my brief return to the UK. Also means QLRS is one of the few publications where I've successfully placed work more than once, the others being Calliope Nerve and Six Sentences. Stopped by an Oxfam store one last time, and walked away with a small stack of poetry books from Bloodaxe and Picador. That's me, heroically rescuing donated poetry books from not being read. Speaking of reading, I've done a fair bit during this week. Finished Rachel Boast's Sidereal on the flight from Singapore to London, the issue of Brittle Star I'm meant to be reviewing on the train from London to Leamington, and now I'm making considerable headway through Dmitry Glukhovsky's Metro 2033. It's mildly irritating how inconsistent spellings and grammatical errors keep cropping up in this novel though. I'll say this much though, it's enjoyably gritty, and I'm glad there's already a sequel of sorts, straightforwardly (or unimaginatively) titled Metro 2034. Parents have gone off to board their BA flight, so I'm just waiting for my gate to open...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Episode 1033: Warwick Castle

So I've finally been to Warwick Castle and I found it a little tacky, to be honest. It's like the historical aspect of it has been tarted up for popular consumption. As an example, the new Merlin Tower is basically trying to ride the popularity of the current BBC adaptation. The whole experience lasts about 15 minutes, and not a lot actually takes place. The Castle Dungeon is slightly better, although it's hard not to laugh at the costumed actors. This applies generally to the rest of the castle. I think Warwick Castle is like Disneyland, a place best enjoyed by young kids. Once you get to adolescence, it gets harder to achieve that suspension of disbelief that allows you not to find the costumed reenactments silly. I suppose it's okay to visit once, maybe even twice, but as far as castles go, give me the ruins at Kenilworth any day. Thought of bringing parents to Stratford, but as it began raining not long after we got back to the hotel, it's just as well that we didn't go. Actually took the 68 back from Warwick to Leamington, so that was a nice touch for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Episode 1032: Graduated!

So, we've all gone from graduands to graduates. The actual ceremony was a bit tiresome after the first few rows had gone up. By the end, my clapping was getting perfunctory. Hearing the MB ChB students affirm the Geneva Convention was pretty cool though, so I'm glad my course was in the morning ceremony. Made my parents trek to Millburn House so that I could take a picture there, more for sentimental reasons than anything else, but otherwise, the whole idea of capturing memories in photographs seemed to function on this occasion more for my dad's benefit than mine. Ah well. Just got back from a nice dinner at Le Bistrot Pierre. I'm not normally a fan of things like animal blood or internal organs as food, but there's just something about Stornoway black pudding I can't resist! Have also started looking at MA modules, as choices need to be submitted by 1 September. I've managed to pick out enough modules to satisfy the Poetry and Poetics Pathway requirements, so even if I don't get all my first choices, or my dissertation proposal is rejected, I should still be fine. Tempted by the Open Pathway though, just a little. Think my problem is that quite a few modules I'd have chosen aren't running this year, mostly because of staff members being on leave, I'm guessing. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Episode 1031: Poems And Interview Posted!

Journey from London Marylebone to Leamington Spa went off without a hitch. Got an earlier train than expected, since our tickets were valid on it too. That meant being able to get to my boxes in storage earlier, whereupon I opened more than half the boxes before finding my ATM card and IC, but at least that's settled now. Then headed to Kenilworth Castle with my parents. Totally turning into a fan of English Heritage, particularly how they produce mock newspapers for sale in their gift shops. (Look! Something new for me to collect. Three and counting...) Back in our hotel now, which is pretty swanky and run by a Cantonese family. It's cheaper than the Royal National Hotel that we stayed at in London, but it's so much nicer! Definitely considering this place again, if for whatever reason I have to stay in Leamington for leisure in future. (It's the Victoria Park Hotel on Adelaide Road, if anyone's curious.) Incidentally, a handful of my poems have been posted in the past couple of days, four at Calliope Nerve and two at Ink Sweat & Tears. The interview I did with The Review Review is also online here now. Really excited to see that go up, and especial thanks go to Priyatam for conducting the interview. Check it out!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Episode 1030: Stonehenge, Salisbury, Bath

Did a day tour with my parents. Really brought home how commodified the tourist experience can become. We literally spent at most 90 minutes at one stop, with only an hour for Stonehenge. I didn't mind too much, since I've been to Stonehenge and Bath before. It was nice to walk about and not have my hands freezing off though! Impulsively bought Edward Rutherfurd's epic historical novel Sarum from the gift shop at Stonehenge. If I like it when I finally read it, I might hunt down his other novels, all subjecting different locales to the same epic historical treatment. Seeing a copy of the Magna Carta in the cathedral at Salisbury was pretty cool, even if the writing was inked on vellum in minuscule Latin. The weather was freakishly erratic though. Was sunny at Stonehenge until towards the end of our allotted hour, when it began pelting, and then it sporadically drizzled at Salisbury and Bath too. Went into the Roman baths at the latter, which I don't think I did the last time I was there, or at least I don't remember doing so. Managed to read most of Daren Shiau's Heartland going out of London and coming back, though I have a nagging feeling that I've actually read it before. Didn't really like how rushed and contrived the ending felt, but otherwise, I can see why it was praised. It does feel dated in some respects though, with things like pagers and characters bemoaning the lack of boutique shops in Singapore. Time for a 2011 update, even though the novel was only written in 1999?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Episode 1029: Wicked

Today, I actually managed to drag my parents to both Oxfam Bloomsbury and Marylebone, with lunch in between at Tas, a Turkish restaurant along Bloomsbury Street. Highlight of the meal was having cinnamon ice-cream at dessert. The ice-cream had a thicker, stickier consistency than what I normally encounter, as though it'd been made using condensed milk. The grilled salmon I had as my main course wasn't shabby either. Then we walked around for a bit, taking in major landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Would have gone on to the London Eye across the Thames, but it'd started to rain by then, so we headed back to Victoria via the Underground to pick up tickets for Wicked. So yeah, I've finally seen the musical, and I love it! Especially how it rehabilitates Elphaba's character and accounts for the central characters of the traditional Oz story. Also approved of how the relationship between Elphaba and Glinda was organically made more and more complex, and their duets were wonderful. Like Avenue Q, this is one musical I would definitely watch again, and I really want to get into reading Gregory Maguire's stuff now. Anyway, so I've finally heard 'Defying Gravity'. No, I've never heard the Glee cover, although both my parents turned to me at the start of the intermission and commented that the song was familiar and wasn't it from that show both my sisters watch? So congratulations, Ryan Murphy.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Episode 1028: Productive Flight...

In a manner of speaking. Caught six films, finished Rachel Boast's Sidereal, which I really, really enjoyed, and started on Dmitry Glukhovsky's Metro 2033. Why didn't I think of writing a post-apocalyptic novel set in the London Underground/Singapore's MRT system? Damn it. Saw Did You Hear About The Morgans?, which I actually enjoyed even though it was fairly standard romantic comedy fare. Even managed to find Sarah Jessica Parker's freakishly girlish voice not irritating. Hugh Grant was brilliant as the stereotypical wry Englishman, which is all he ever seems to play, but hey, if the glove fits etc. Then I saw Planet Of The Apes, the original 1968 version that struck me as being not much more than an excuse for Charlton Heston to be shirtless practically throughout the whole film. I mean, the philosophical points it makes are hammered home so indelicately, you'd have to be a really thick viewer not to get them. I also realised halfway through that I'd seen the film before, but figured I'd stick it out since I want to watch the reboot prequel Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes when it comes out. Then I watched Surrogates, which was interesting, but I'm glad I didn't pay to see it in the cinema when it was out. Plus talk about deus ex machina endings! Sort of in reverse since it involves destroying the machines?

Followed this up with Lao Wai, a feel-good Chinese film starring Gauthier Roubichou and Han Dan Tong as an adorable interracial couple in Shanghai. That Frenchman's Chinese is impressive! Definitely better than some Singaporeans my age. Also really impressed to learn that the band he fronts in the film is real. They're called Swing Dynasty, based in Shanghai. Fifth film I saw was Gnomeo & Juliet. Now I'll admit I came to this with very low expectations, but it turned out way funnier than I expected! Loved that the Shakespearean references weren't confined to one play (there's already a sly Hamlet nod in the opening scene) and that the people writing the film didn't shy away from stuff like Tybalt the gnome getting smashed to bits (even if he does reappear glued back together in the closing dance montage). All in all, I loved this film, so Audrey was right about it. Finally, I saw Shutter Island. I like post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio, but doesn't he play basically the same character again in Inception?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Episode 1027: Packed For Graduation!

Am feeling a bit stupid now. The NLB literally has a copy of every single book of Singaporean poetry that I brought back from the UK a couple of weeks ago, so I'm carting them all back, since that's where I'll need my own copies, not here. Thankfully, everything fits into the suitcases, and I'm not exceeding the luggage allowance for SIA. I'm sure eventually, I'll only require a fraction of the books I'm bringing over, but without a dissertation proposal drafted, there's no way I can make up my mind on something like which books to leave behind in Singapore. So packing's essentially done, and I don't think I've left anything out. Also finished reading the Machine Of Death anthology last night, and I must say, placing that particular story at the end was brilliant. Now aiming to finish Anne Carson's Decreation by tomorrow. Bringing along the two remaining things I need to review, and maybe Paul Glennon's The Dodecahedron: Or A Frame For Frames. Incidentally, I really, really hope I find my ATM card and IC in one of my boxes that are in storage. Going to spend the day before graduation hunting for them, maybe have dinner with my parents at Noodle Bar after that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Episode 1026: What's The Big Deal About 3D Anyway?

Went to see the final Harry Potter movie with my sisters. In 3D, no less. This is the second 3D movie I've seen (the first being Avatar), and I'm still not impressed by the technology. It just looks like certain things pop up from the screen, and instead of creating a more realistic viewing experience, to me it just looks weird. I mean, even in real life, depth perception is more complex than that. I'm not quite sure how to explain it beyond saying that the gradient is more subtle than what you get in 3D movies. I guess I just don't see it as doing much by way of adding value to the experience of watching a film. So I don't think I'm going to watch the 3D version of a film in the cinema again in the near future. Also started packing this afternoon for my flight back to the UK on Sunday, only to realise that there really isn't a lot to pack. Am going to try and bring some books back, as I think I've once again overestimated the number that I need to have here with me in Singapore over the summer holidays. Hardly surprising, I suppose! Especially think it was a mistake to bring all the Singaporean poets' collections back without checking to see which ones were in the NLB system (probably all of them, to be honest), so I'm going to spend tomorrow determining this and packing accordingly. No sense in keeping my own copies here if ultimately I need them to be in the UK. Besides, it's not like I'd be depriving anyone by holding on to the library copies. I mean, I don't imagine too many Singaporeans are busy reading Singaporean poetry these days...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Episode 1025: Story Written And Submitted!

So I finally wrote the damn thing. Don't think it's entirely what I'd had in mind to begin with, but there you go, sometimes stories just work out differently. All I really wanted to do was take a chance and submit something anyway. If I make it into this second Machine Of Death anthology, that would be pretty cool though. Not even talking about the USD 200 they pay to contributors. Just the fact of being in the anthology would be enough. Almost done reading the original anthology as well. Also finished off the second round of questions from The Review Review, so the full interview might be up in a couple of days. Will definitely post a link here when it is. Incidentally, for some reason visitor traffic to the journal has spiked the past two days, after having dipped over the weekend. I think on the whole, we've stabilised at around 50-75 viewers daily, although not all of these are landing on the main page. Quite a few are being directed to specific posts, probably by referral from the contributors themselves. Whatever the case, I don't really mind. Like I said in one of my interview replies, I want Eunoia Review to be the sort of publication people can return to as and when they have the time, without having to feel pressured to catch up on an entire issue's worth of material.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Episode 1024: Still No Story...

Was intending to get started on my Machine of Death story today, but that plan got derailed by a bunch of submissions that suddenly landed in my inbox. What was particularly frustrating was that the most time-consuming submission, clocking in at the maximum word limit I've set for prose, was also the least palatable. The novelette had a somewhat interesting premise that was poorly executed, and ended up being quite distasteful actually, while the novel extracts felt like they were treading territory that had already been covered in films like Let The Right One In. Hopefully, I can bang out a story tomorrow. I'm only aiming for about 1500-2000 words anyway, and since I'm setting the story in Singapore, I'm hoping the story will somewhat write itself. I mean, if you know Singapore, I'm sure you can imagine all the ways a machine that infallibly predicts people's deaths based on a drop of blood could screw things up here if it were really in existence, right? Answered a couple of questions for the first part of my interview with The Review Review before heading to the Conrad Centennial for some free food at the Warwick event. (It was yummy!) I think what The Review Review does is really interesting, and in some way, complementary to the reviewing work that Sabotage Reviews does, due to its focus on more established (print) magazines. Naturally, I'm also hoping that the interview will help to raise the profile of my own online magazine just a little when it comes out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Episode 1023: A Mixed Bag

Today's been a mixed bag. Boxes arrived after all, despite UPS somehow thinking that the delivery address was incomplete and therefore not completing the delivery yesterday. One brusque e-mail to UPS later, and the boxes arrived in the middle of the afternoon. Score! Unfortunately, neither my IC nor my ATM card were inside any of the boxes, which were actually almost 100% filled with books. Hadn't remembered packing so little else into them. Now, I need to get another bookshelf! Dad's already agreed, but it's simply a question of where to buy it from and how to fit it into my room. Still, the relief of finally receiving the boxes pales in comparison to the e-mail I got earlier from MOE PED, making me an in-principle offer of sponsorship for my MA! That's right, another fully funded year of university. That's a load off my mind, at least. Supposedly have to post my acceptance letter back by 18 July, but as I don't yet have a transcript as confirmation of my Honours classification, I'm waiting for them to get back to me on how I should proceed. With a bit of luck, the transcript will arrive from the university within the next couple of days, and then everything'll be sorted.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Episode 1022: C'est Incroyable!

Just got back from having dinner with Hui Juan and Shirley at tcc, and I can't believe my Seven Seas boxes, which have been dispatched for delivery since the early afternoon, still haven't arrived! Given that the stated delivery timeframe on the tracking website is between 9 am and 7 pm (although of course a caveat is inserted to say it might be even later), I'd say that this second experience with Seven Seas isn't going swimmingly either. Singapore's not a huge island, so I don't get how the boxes couldn't be delivered in a timely fashion today, like they were supposed to be. Frankly, it's going to sound harsh, but the only excuse I'd accept is if I woke up tomorrow and read in the papers that a UPS driver was involved in a fatal accident. Even then though, I should still have been kept informed, right? Anyway, I had a really chatty barber today when I went to get my hair cut. New guy, looks like he's the one manning the place now. Carried on the conversation entirely in Chinese, which I was quite pleased I managed to do, although I think inquiring about the state of my love life on a first haircut is rather too forward.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Episode 1021: Hitler's Rant Parodies Are Hilarious!

Am back from dinner at MeatWorks in ION with my cell after service, and now I've just finished reading Trilogy, a collection of three plays (Fundamentally Happy, Good People, and Gemuk Girls) by feted local playright Haresh Sharma, who is perhaps currently better known as the guy who composed the lyrics to the Fun Pack Song, Singapore's laughable attempt at modifying Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance'. (The obligatory parody using Hitler's rant from Downfall has emerged on YouTube here. Not quite as funny as the one about the Poetry Society controversy though, which you can find here.) Even though Lady Gaga herself has diplomatically said she likes it, anyone with half an ounce of sense can see that Sharma completely lost the plot with this one. It's a shame, as he's actually an interesting playwright. A bit didactic for my tastes in the way he addresses issues, although he's praised for precisely this deliberate engagement with thorny subjects like mental illness and paedophilia. Anyway, the issue of Bewildering Stories that has my story 'The Uninvited' in it went live a while ago, but I forgot to post the link up, so it's here. It's very different from my usual stuff, but that's because the story grew out of a writing exercise we did with the Swadesh list.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Episode 1020: John Barrowman Is Back!

Just dashed off the review of Cameron Vale's The Tradesman's Entrance for Sabotage Reviews that was due today. Really shouldn't have left it so late, especially since I finished reading the novelette weeks ago. Breezy read, incidentally, humour writing meets gay erotica, bundled up in a package that verges on being metafictional. Am now rewarding myself by watching the premiere of Torchwood: Miracle Day, hence the title of this post. It's actually a bit boring, as far as a premiere goes, even though it ends with an action sequence. It does, however, set up a premise for the season that if handled well, could make for a series as solid as Torchwood: Children Of Earth. (At least there isn't anyone left to kill this time, I guess? I do miss Ianto.) Was at MOE HQ again earlier in the day, for a tea session aimed at recruiting the next batch of MOE scholars. Gone are the days when it was held in a function room! Instead, the Edutorium was filled to a respectable extent. Not many people came up to talk to me during the subject-specific interaction segment (I was there as a current English Literature scholar), at least not as much as for say, Economics. I did, however, pick up a name card. Who knows? It might lead to an opportunity in the future, insofar as my eventual school posting is concerned.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Episode 1019: Catching Up With Cell...

Completely forgot that cell meetings are on Fridays, until I saw Myrtle's e-mail about this evening's meeting being replaced by dinner. Parents are on holiday at the moment, so there wasn't any reason to pass up on having dinner outside, and besides, I haven't actually seen my cell in about half a year. Dinner was at Mad for Garlic, which is an Italian restaurant with Korean origins. (Yeah, it sounds incredible to me too.) The food was pretty good, but you probably have to be a garlic person to enjoy it, I suppose. Then we took a walk to Marina Bay Sands, so I can now say I've been there. Had a look at the casino itself from the entrance, and it looked, well, like a pretty average place to me. The rest of MBS though, rivals Orchard Road or VivoCity in terms of its being an unabashed celebration of consumption. It's very glitzy, even without all the outlets being open yet. Basically, not the sort of place someone like me should be given free reign in, once I start drawing a salary. Am now waiting for the last northbound train, and hopefully I'll be able to get a seat for the journey home!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Episode 1018: Appointment Formalities

Went down to MOE at 9 am for a briefing on appointment formalities, most of which will hopefully be moot in a few weeks if I get sponsorship for my MA. Technically, only e-matriculation for NIE needs to be done by the end of July. I guess making the PS Card as well, although the documents we received didn't make it exactly clear. I've got the last week of the month anyway! Had brunch with MOE people in Holland Village and dawdled a couple of hours, before reemerging into the tropical heat and humidity. Rejected a handful of submissions on the pleasantly uncrowded MRT ride home, and finished reading that collection of short stories by the Malaysian teenage girl. My verdict? Publisher hype. Most of the stories employ standard tropes, and the endings all seem driven by the need for tidy closure or the opposing desire to keep things vague. I'm sure if I'd been into writing fiction at that age, my stories would have been as tedious, but at least I wouldn't have had a glowing introduction from my publisher pretending otherwise. Thought of re-reading Urban Animals by Mireille Silcoff, then changed my mind and carried on with the new issue of Ceriph instead. The best piece in it is a Chinese poem by Yeng Pway Ngon, which feels so contemporary even though it was written more than four decades ago. Truly astounding, and it's piqued my interest in Yeng Pway Ngon, whose chapbooks I might now seek out. Imagine that. Me reading Chinese poetry. Willingly.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Episode 1017: A Spot Of Industry...

Finished reading The Complete Excuses Handbook by Lou Harry and Julia Spalding this afternoon. Wasn't as funny as I thought it would be though. Also slightly disappointing was the submission to The Cadaverine that I finally got around to reading this evening. The New York agent really hyped it up, but I think the story still needs more work, so I've written back to say so. Didn't get as much sleep as I could have last night because a batch of simultaneous submissions came in and I wanted to deal with them as quickly as possible. Ended up taking almost all of them, and spent my time before lunch formatting the pieces. Now to hope my effort doesn't go to waste because the submissions get withdrawn. (I replied about an hour after receipt, so I guess that's not going to be likely, right?) The suitcase I shipped back from Heathrow arrived today as well, so I've unpacked stacks of poetry that are now precariously perched around my room. Might actually end up bringing some back and chucking them into storage, provided I finish reading them first.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Episode 1016: One Review Down, Three To Go!

Almost didn't get the review of The Day Of Small Things done today, but I sat myself down at my laptop and got it written before dinner. It's a charity publication, so I had to approach the review from a different angle, which has turned to be exactly what my editor was hoping for. Three pending reviews to clear by the end of the month (though I'm free to pick more Vagabondage Press titles to review as and when I'm able), and I'm technically done for the summer, unless something online comes up for review or I manage to snag something off the Drunken Boat list when it comes out this time. (Yeah, I might've forgotten to mention that I did get this new reviewing gig. Also probably forgot to mention I've taken up the one at Rum & Reviews Magazine, which is officially launching August 1, so keep a look out for that!) Either way, I'm happy. I like having more free time, but I like getting things to read for free even more. On a more personal note, Eunoia Review has begun publishing a series of fiction pieces by Darragh McManus, who also writes for The Guardian. I think they're really good, and they've been in the publication queue for quite a while now, so I'm glad they're finally seeing the light of day.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Episode 1015: Fresh Tunes For My iPod!

Ended up not writing the review today, although I did read and reply to a submission for The Cadaverine. Still have another to clear, but it's 24 pages long, so I'm saving it till I'm over my jet lag. The accompanying cover letter written by an agent really hyped it up though, so I hope I won't be disappointed. The weird thing is that I don't have a direct contact e-mail for the author, so it's going to be a weirdly worded e-mail, regardless of whether I ultimately issue an acceptance or a rejection. Anyway, I've just had a listen today to Henry Seeley's new EP, Find My Way. I actually like it, much more than I like the usual Planetshakers stuff, which has a tendency to become either too noisy or too floaty for my liking. Seeley's voice still kind of annoys me, but less so on this EP. The new version of 'Open Up The Gates' is a bit weird though, as the lyrical delivery is now synchronised to the underlying beat. Also had a listen to the new David Cook single, 'The Last Goodbye'. Supremely radio-friendly stuff. I've always preferred songs by the other David (Archuleta) from that season of American Idol, but I might give Cook's albums another listen now.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Episode 1014: Read A Book Or Watch A Film?

No books finished today, I'm afraid, although I may get on with some reading after I get off my laptop. Am planning to watch the last Harry Potter movie the day after it premieres in Singapore, which is an unusual thing for me to do. I usually wait until a week at least, if I even see it in the cinema at all. Realised that I haven't actually seen all seven movies that came before though, so I'm going to rectify that over the next week or so. On the other hand, I have finally managed to find all the films in the Hellraiser series. I'm sort of a fan of Clive Barker's work, although his involvement in the film franchise ceased after the third one, and while I own almost all his books, I haven't read enough of them to claim full membership in his fandom. Oh well, just one more stack of books going into that queue of things I need to read this summer. Sometimes, I honestly think it would be better if my taste in fiction were less omnivorous. Tomorrow, I'm going to bang out a short review for Sabotage Reviews, maybe two if I'm not too sleepy. I've already read the stuff, it just needs putting into words, how I feel about it. Have relatively unambivalent/uncomplicated thoughts on the material this time around, so the reviews should practically write themselves. Goodness knows I've thought enough about the first one, at the very least.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Episode 1013: Asian Civilisations Museum Visit

Went with my family to see the new exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor & His Legacy. It's the first time the actual terracotta warriors have been exhibited here. Kind of thought there would be more specimens of the terracotta warriors, like a miniature version of the rows and rows of the Terracotta Army that you always see in pictures of them, but I suppose it would hardly be practical to have so many loaned to the museum. There wouldn't have been room to house them anyway! Also finished reading another two library books, both humour stuff with self-explanatory titles: Passive Aggressive Notes by Kerry Miller and The Art Of Overeating by Leslie Landis. The former is inspired by Frank Warren's PostSecret phenomenon, whose books are on my list of things to get at some point in the future. Some of the notes are hilarious, although most feel more like the sort of housemate bitching and sniping that you get when people are thrown together in an apartment/hall. Landis's book, on the other hand, shamelessly celebrates the joys of overeating, tongue firmly in cheek (or dessert, as it were). I might actually buy this book when I head back to the UK, if the one remaining copy on Amazon UK is still available, that's how fun it is. Great visual work too!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Episode 1012: 25% Off At BooksActually!

As expected, I'm getting through the plays fairly quickly. Finished Haresh Sharma's Those Who Can't, Teach, an updated version of the 1990 play, which I thought was interesting, but felt somewhat disjointed when simply read off the page. Also mildly frustrated by his deployment of the scholar stereotype. We're not all like that, honestly! Still, it wasn't like one of those cheerfully optimistic videos they broadcast to try and recruit teachers, so that was a relief. Also finished Jean Tay's Everything But The Brain and Boom, both of which I'd heard of when they were premiered, but which for some reason or other, I never went to see. The former seemed like it'd have been particularly interesting to watch, with its use of a chorus. The latter drew parallels between the Singaporean passion for en bloc sales and the government's decision to exhume graves after 15 years. Have now been reading Adeline Lee Zhia Ern's Lethal Lesson And Other Stories, the Malaysian teenager's first collection. There's definitely potential here, although I'm not entirely convinced by the effusive praise that the publisher Silverfish Books lavishes on her. Will finish off the book tomorrow and make up my mind about her then. I'm trying to go back to the one-book-per-day routine I had a couple of vacations ago. Should be entirely possible, since I plan to be reading a lot of poetry, really. There's tonnes of fiction I want to sink my teeth into, but realistically speaking, that's largely going to have to wait, simply because of the sheer number of unread series I have.

Not that this has stopped me acquiring more books! Today happened to be the last day of the BooksActually sale, so I met up with Claudia and Shirley to take full advantage of it. (Read this hilarious book, by the way, on the MRT to Tiong Bahru. It's titled Addictionary, compiled by Jim Banister from the user-driven website, The Addictionaries. Hilarious stuff! Website itself seems to be on hiatus though, which is a shame.) Blew more than $300 on books, mostly anthologies of Singaporean writing and criticism that I'm hoping will prove useful in some way for my MA dissertation. My friends were convinced that's why Kenny recognises me, as I'm such a big spender, but I think that's ridiculous, since it's not like I spend that kind of money every time I visit BooksActually! Also picked up the new issue of Ceriph, and while it might be premature to say this, especially given what I personally felt was an uneven quality of work in the earlier issues, I think the publication has a chance of slowly morphing into Singapore's answer to Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Dinner after our book spree, and then drinks along the Singapore River at The Merry Men, just one of those really interchangeable watering holes lining the river. Very reasonable prices, however, and they serve an intriguing Black Forest Mojito (mixed berries replacing lime) that is absolutely delicious. Definitely sticking it on my list of places to revisit in future, maybe before seeing a play at the DBS Art Centre or something.