Thursday, March 31, 2011

Episode 920: What Shall I Start Reading?

So I woke up before noon today, which was incredible. Might try it again sometime. Am feeling quite ambivalent about work at the moment, which is a bit of a shame because I really thought I was getting back into the swing of things, what with banging out that poem recently and that review yesterday. Still have another one to do, and if I get that in before the very end of April, who knows, I might get another review to write. The trouble with me is really that I dither too much. If I didn't, I think I would have accomplished (a lot?) more by my age, being just a month shy of 24. Then again, part of me thinks there's a fair chance I still wouldn't have bothered. Too much ambition to do nothing, too little to do something. (Other than putting together syntactically parallel clauses, apparently.) Certainly nothing like the hunger for success that Natch has in David Louis Edelman's Infoquake, which I finished reading a few hours ago. It's a good book, and the corporate setting gives it a twist that makes it stand out from more generic science fiction fare. The closest comparisons I can reach for are Nick Sagan's Idlewild trilogy and Tony Ballantyne's Watcher trilogy. Now I can't quite decide which new book to start on. The next book in the Jump 225 trilogy, MultiReal? Paul Glennon's The Dodecahedron: Or A Frame For Frames? Christopher Nosnibor's The Plagiarist? Ashley Stokes's Touching The Starfish? David Wong's John Dies At The End? There are worse problems a person could have, definitely, but at the moment, this one's pretty pressing to me. Maybe I should use that annoying new Questions feature on Facebook?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Episode 919: That's One Review Down...

After a third consecutive day of waking up after noon, I told myself that I needed to get my act together and start going to bed at more sensible hours. So that means 2 am instead of 3. Was explaining to David Tait that I blame my shift in sleeping patterns entirely on my iPhone, since it's made it impossible to disconnect from social networking, and I have way too many fun games on it. It's a fact that once I'm in bed, I usually spend at least half an hour going back on Facebook, checking my e-mail, or playing some totally inconsequential game. Jury's still out on whether I'm going to go to bed any earlier tonight, although even if I don't, it's okay because I've finally finished reading and reviewing Unthology No. 1! Sat down in the conservatory (because it was warm) and made myself finish it, and then came to my laptop and spent a few hours dithering over the review. It's done though, and I discovered a new writer who excited me enough on the basis of a short story (told House Of Leaves-style) that I went and bought his debut novel. Also ordered a couple of books by Christopher Nosnibor, postmodernist stuff that I may or may not enjoy, although the blurbs suggest that I will. If I don't, I'll just send them back to Amazon UK like I always do. I really do need to stop buying books online, don't I?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Episode 918: The Curious Case Of Jacqueline Howett

I think the Internet just made my day. Recently, we had Rebecca Black's annoying 'Friday' going viral. (In all fairness, she didn't write the song and she's only 13, so she really doesn't deserve to be crucified by total strangers.) Now a contender for a literary counterpart has emerged in the comments thread of a book review blog. I should note that her self-published novel doesn't sound like the sort of thing I would want to read anyway (and she is also a terribly bad poet), but the review seemed forgiving enough. I mean, I've been reviewing for a while now, and I suspect if I had had to review this book, I would've been a lot harsher, given its flaws. Case in point: I'm baffled as to how Jacqueline Howett is unable to see that the two sentences cited are clunky constructions. Her attempt to use her 'style and being English' as a defence is just plain ridiculous, and honestly, I find it rather insulting both as a writer and a reader. Her reaction as the thread developed was hilariously unprofessional, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy the train wreck immensely. The poor woman was probably having a meltdown, since no one in their right mind would have carried on like that if they wanted to have any sort of future career in writing. As the Internet has pointed out though, she could always write under a pseudonym. Until the next bad review comes her way anyway. Winter 2011, since that's when Howett plans on offering up the worthy tome of literary genius that will be her second novel.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Episode 917: Resisted An Online Sale!

To yesterday's anonymous commenter, thanks for pointing that out, but fact still remains that I have a queued reading list that literally stretches from one end of my bookshelf to the other, so The Angel's Cut is going to have to wait. Woke up an hour earlier today than I did yesterday, which all things considered, is an improvement, I guess. Baby steps. Resisted the temptation to buy two pairs of £85 Dolce & Gabbana shorts, even though this was a steeply discounted price from This means that my £8 voucher is probably going to go to waste, unless I see something I want in the upcoming shoe sale. Don't think I'm trying to save that £170 though. I'm just squirrelling it away to buy more books. Or some back issues of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Part of me wishes all the issues could be converted for the McSweeney's iPhone application, but then again, I think part of the literary journal's appeal is how each issue comes in a different format. Wikipedia says that there are only going to be 56 issues of the journal, and we're already up to Issue 36 at present. Probably not the best idea to buy them this year though. Partly because I think some of the older issues are being republished later this year so I can hopefully get them for less money, partly because I am quickly running out of floor space in my room.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Episode 916: Somewhere

Missed church today because I'm still too tired from Friday night's lack of sleep. I did stay up last night to finish Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck though, which was heartachingly beautiful in a way that reminded me of Joanne Harris's Chocolat, incidentally also a book set in France that revolves around something we consume. Knox has written a sequel, The Angel's Cut, but as that's at least twice as long, I don't think I'm going to start on it until I've cleared the other books that I've already been trying to read for the past couple of weeks. A shame that the film adaptation of The Vintner's Luck is apparently really, really bad though. Speaking of films, I've just seen Sophia Ford Coppola's Somewhere, and I'm not sure if I like it. The dynamic between Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning was interesting to watch, but I didn't feel like there was ultimately enough emotional payoff at the end of the film. I mean, it's beautifully shot, I suppose, and you do feel a bit sorry for Dorff's character, but at the same time, he's a bit alienating because of how clearly privileged his existence is as a member of the Hollywood glitterati. I get that the film is trying to show how vacuous that existence can be, but I don't think it quite works on the whole. Since the film clocks in at 98 minutes, I'm also torn between thinking that a longer running time would have allowed for more development and thinking that it would have been unnecessarily prolonging the dullness. I've been reading things Coppola's said about the film and its style, and I see her point. I'm just not sure if I want to get it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Episode 915: Too Little Sleep, Too Much Sugar

Ended up sleeping at the foot of the bed after the party, which wasn't the most comfortable of places, but I still managed to nap for a couple of hours. Have stayed awake the rest of the day mostly through sheer willpower and sugar. One good thing's come out of it though: I've finally written another page of my PWP! It's the first of a four-part sequence called 'The Wives Of Jacob', so you can imagine which women I'm writing about. (I considered 'The Merry Wives Of Jacob', but felt certain that while Michael Hulse would note the punning reference, he would probably consider it gratuitous, and he would be right.) I think it's going to be an interesting long poem, as I'm trying to realise ideas about the relationships between the four wives that have never occurred to me when reading the Bible previously, but which are entirely plausible, just unsubstantiated in the Biblical text as we have it. Didn't get to eat my customary meal of KFC before I left London because I started a 30-minute sprawling conversation with Eugene just as I was about to leave for Victoria Coach Station. Topics covered included my excitement that Abercrombie & Fitch is finally opening a store in Singapore and how I think it's okay that I like the brand because I'm being ironic about it. Totally. Also, Dolce & Gabbana online sale on Monday! I'm actually tempted. This is bad news...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Episode 914: LSE's Guys & Dolls

Went to London to see the LSE production of Guys & Dolls because Eugene is one of the directors. Got to London earlier than I expected, so I had time to hit both Oxfam Marylebone and Bloomsbury. Disappointingly small haul this time though, although I did chance upon another Laura Wade play in the Bloomsbury shop. Managed to read a fair amount of Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck, which only arrived this morning before I left the house. Its central structuring conceit is interesting, and it's set in France, so what's not to love about the book? Also bought the sequel, The Angel's Cut, which is considerably thicker. Anyway, I randomly bumped into Diego when I went to collect my ticket, so I ended up sitting with him and his friends, and we had dinner after the musical at Fire & Stone, which has one of the most impressive pizza menus I've ever seen. I really liked the musical, especially the Nathan/Adelaide pair. I thought some of the singing could have been better, but that's me being picky purely because I've had some training from being in the choir for four years! Now we're off to the cast party at Eugene's...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Episode 913: Provisional Examination Timetable's Out!

Didn't make any money from the DR@W experiment, but it was still 17°C today, so I would say the day wasn't a total bust. Provisional examination timetable's out, and I finish on 26 May. Have two papers on 25 May, which does not make me happy, but at least the DFP Affaires B2 written paper is a lot easier than our internal LL251 one. Plus we get to use the dictionary and they include a page of useful vocabulary for writing a business letter, even though that basically consists of stock phrases that anybody can memorise and regurgitate. Final paper is once again going to be a creative writing one, EN236, which means we can all go and get soused straight after the paper's done. Doesn't that sound absolutely wonderful? Then there'll be just over a month of, well, sun and fun, I suppose. Currently rewatching The Matrix trilogy (finally), am smack in the middle of The Matrix Reloaded. Just got to the scene where the Merovingian appears, with his brilliant little speech: 'I love French wine, like I love the French language. I have sampled every language, French is my favorite. Fantastic language. Especially to curse with. Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère. It's like wiping your arse with silk. I love it.' You got that right, Lambert Wilson. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Episode 912: 17°C Today!

Mild progress on that to-do list. Have read a bit more of Unthology No. 1 and will at least finish the second story before going to bed. Haven't rewatched The Matrix trilogy, although I have rewatched the companion collection of short films, The Animatrix. Ah, the things I do to procrastinate! Was in the Library this afternoon to swap some books out, and I nearly finished the Barry MacSweeney volume. Would have read the last poem, but that might have made me miss the U1 home, and there wasn't going to be another for at least half an hour. Have to go back to campus tomorrow anyway, as I've signed up for a DR@W experiment and I managed to take out two identical Geoffrey Hill titles without realising. For some reason, one copy was shelved with the other books but another was boxed with the pamphlets, and I grabbed the pamphlet copy thinking it was something else. Oh well. Plenty of time to swap the right one out tomorrow. Randomly, I bought Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy And Other Stories from Oxfam before heading to campus. It was £2.99, £5 off the RRP, so I figured, why not? The book was in decent condition, and I like the quirkiness of the stories. Some of them are rather adult though, I must say. I think the last time I read it was actually in Kinokuniya. Just stood there and read it because it's such a short book. Also somewhat randomly, I had an idea on how to rework my insomniac story for the portfolio. It's now going to have a (quite literally) killer ending, and the main protagonist has become a twin whose brother, unlike him, stayed behind in Singapore to do NS. Haven't actually written anything, but I think the idea's pretty solid now, and all it needs is to be written down and fine-tuned.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Episode 911: Pseudo-efficiency?

Made a to-do list on Twitter last night, none of which has actually been done. I did, however, manage to send off all four books that need to be returned to Amazon UK. Turns out that the Leamington library has a copy of The Secret History Of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, and since I doubt any of my friends actually have a local library card, I don't think anyone's realised this fact. There's a few more copies scattered throughout Warwickshire, the nearest being in Kenilworth. Was going to pick up something from the Library from the EN236, you know, just part of reading for revision, but ended up taking out Barry MacSweeney's The Book Of Demons for no particular reason. It's a slim volume, so I should be done with it soon, and then I'll get something off the EN236 reading list. I suppose I wouldn't have got much done today anyway. Completely slipped my mind that it'd be Tuesday, and that means lots and lots of television to catch up on. Seven episodes this week, and only because some shows are on hiatus. The season finale of MTV's Skins is really boring, by the way. It's weak compared to the UK original's first series finale, and Eura isn't mysterious like Effy was, she's just annoyingly opaque (and not as pretty).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Episode 910: Eventful Day!

It's been an eventful day. Stayed up till past 1 am to finish Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, which I really enjoyed (the book, not staying up), although I did think the ending was too precipitous and would've liked more closure for some of the characters. If Bacigalupi ever writes a sequel though, or another novel set in the same biopunk universe (as some of his short stories apparently are), I'm so there. Was woken up by a text from Sarah Adamson, asking if I'd be in to do administrative work for Kidz Klub. Completely slipped my mind to check on Sunday, but since it's the holidays, I manned up and got out of bed. Didn't realise there was no one in the building when I got to church though, so I triggered the alarm and had no idea how to turn it off. Worst possible timing ever, as it was lunchtime and people weren't picking up when I called. In the end, Anne came over from the vicarage and deactivated it. While I wasn't massively terrified during those five or so minutes, I was wondering if police were going to show up and I'd have to explain that I was not in fact breaking into a church. That would have been awkward, wouldn't it? Got all the stuff done though, so that was okay at least.

Also found out this morning that Poetry Quarterly have launched a journal exclusively for haiku, called (what else, really?) Haiku Journal. Not sure I agree entirely with the layout of the online issue, which is a tad too spartan for my liking, but it gives a lot of white space that is admittedly rather appropriate for this particular form. I am quite pleased, however, that they insist on a strict 5/7/5 syllabic count for submissions. I'm not one of those people who uphold the argument that haiku written in English need to be condensed into even less syllables to achieve the economy of expression you get in Japanese. In some things, I am an unashamed formalist. So I sent off a couple of haiku, including that one with the word 'anthocyanin' in it, which I wrote for David Morley's session where he told us to print off the poem and display it somewhere on campus. That's the one the editor(s) accepted, which I'm very happy about. Publication is on a rolling basis, with a new issue being started once 50 poems have been published. Last time I checked, there were only a dozen in Issue 1, so it's worth submitting if haiku are your thing. Go here to do that.

Finally, I just want to say that as a company, Amazon might be behaving terribly and abusing its market position, but it sure knows how to treat its consumers right, which is why I guess you don't hear consumers making much noise about it. To illustrate, consider my latest battle to find the 5th Anniversary Edition of Ted Dekker's White. I bought this together with a bunch of other Dekker books, including the 5th Anniversary Editions of Black and Red, which come with the graphic novel versions of the story attached at the end. Amazon UK currently advertises the same edition for White as being in stock, but today, my replacement copy for the book I originally received that was not this edition also turned out to be just an ordinary paperback edition. I sent a politely-worded e-mail to Amazon UK, suggesting that if they didn't actually have it in stock, it was somewhat disingenuous to have it listed in their catalogue. To which I received an apologetic e-mail, informing me that I should send the book back, for a full refund this time, since the problem was likely to be at the fulfilment centre and posting another replacement to me wasn't going to address the issue, which was going to be investigated. Loads of companies could learn a thing or two from Amazon's customer service, I think. Am still a bit annoyed that I can't get the right edition of White to complete my Dekker collection though, so I might have to get it from a third-party seller. Or just buy the full-colour omnibus edition?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Episode 909: I Didn't Oversleep!

Actually made it to the morning service for the AGM. Would've been late because I missed the bus I should've taken, but Mike and the Matts pulled up at the bus stop literally minutes before the next bus was due, so I made it to church with time to spare. Had to go to the Library after the service to return Laura Wade's Posh, as for some reason, someone else wants to read the play and the remaining two copies are out on loan as well. Is it on the reading list for a theatre module or something? That's the only explanation I can think of. It's a good play, though as one reviewer put it, I can't tell if the dialogue of the posh kids is authentic since I don't move in those circles, but it does sound well-observed. Reading it though, I did feel like it was a lot of build-up to a denouement that was a bit too pat. Even the final scene, which portrayed how cliques like the Riot Club and the social connections they foster can have political implications, felt too convenient, more like it was there to deliberately frame the play with Guy's godfather's appearance. Would have liked to have seen it in performance though! Now I'm watching Fallen, an ABC mini-series from years ago, which shows that long before Paul Wesley was playing a brooding vampire, he was playing a brooding nephil. I think the acting throughout is a shade on the wrong side of wooden and contrived, but the talking dog is just awesome. Going to finish up the third and final part, before I continue reading The Windup Girl. Aiming to get through that by tonight!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Episode 908: Holidays Are Here At Last...

So my Easter holidays have officially begun! Bought some more Ted Dekker books, and even managed to redeem a voucher to get £10 off the one I bought off Amazon UK. (Turns out Valued Opinions is one of the rare survey websites that you can realistically expect to redeem rewards from in your lifetime.) I'm going to get started on reading them once I've finished the book I'm meant to be reviewing, at the very least. Probably should get through the two library books I've taken out, but since I can buy those in a couple of months, I guess it's not as urgent. I'm thinking that I'll take the first week of the holidays off, completely focused on relaxing and not attempting to write anything for my fiction portfolio or PWP. I'm not saying I wouldn't write a poem if an idea came to me, since I've had a couple bubbling under the level of conscious thought for a while now. I just won't sit down deliberately to do it like I did for my Shakespeare creative project. Incidentally, it is literally ridiculous how much warmer the conservatory is in the day than my room. Or anywhere else in the house for that matter. Now please excuse me as I go and shiver while watching the series finale of Better Off Ted...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Episode 907: Last Day Of Term!

House party at David's was a bit sedate initially because there was hardly anyone there, even though Sophie and I turned up nearly two hours late. When it picked up though, it really went all the way. There was even a portable strobe light, which would have been really fun for any epileptics in the room. Anyway, Tony Barnstone had some helpful things to say about the poem I sent in for the workshop, which kind of fed into some of the points raised by Toh Hsien Min when he asked if I would consider rewriting it and resubmitting for the next issue of QLRS instead. Guess it's back to the drawing board with this one! It was great though, hearing a poet talk about writing in form, seeing as I'm someone who's generally unwilling to commit to free verse and yet isn't necessarily always comfortable with form either. Syllabics are a compromise, but I think my writing would benefit if I could push further in the direction of form. I mean, there's definitely more than enough free verse out there already. Definitely going to Google that manifesto Tony mentioned during the Q&A, and I'll put a link up to it once I've found it. Was very intrigued by the tarot card project he's been working on because things like double sonnets really appeal to the part of me that is somewhat obsessed by patterns in things.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Episode 906: Get Writers At Warwick On Your Apple Device!

Just got told that as far as being an editor is concerned, I'm 'one of the good guys out there'. Even if you chalk it up to exaggerated flattery, it's still a nice thing to be told by a contributor, isn't it? It's encouraging to know the time I spend reading submissions is appreciated, even if I do occasionally get a submission that makes me wonder if the sender doesn't care about the journal so much as s/he cares about getting published. I'm specifically thinking of a particularly crass e-mail, which didn't even contain a biographical note and was simply forwarded from an e-mail sent to another magazine. I mean, I send out standard rejections all the time, so I'm not expecting some long, personalised cover letter, but I think it's basic decency to at least send a fresh e-mail for each magazine you send something off to. Right? Anyway, as you can see from the title of this post, I found out this evening that the Writers at Warwick archive is now accessible through my iPhone, thanks to the new Writers application. It's only 4.3 MB because the audio files are streamed rather than being stored in the application itself, but it's still pretty awesome. I think the current reading featured on the homepage is from 1979, and it's Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky at the Warwick Arts Centre. Tell me that isn't cool!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Episode 905: Submissions Sent!

Meeting with Michael Hulse about the poems I'm thinking of sending off went well. He liked almost all of them, and the ones he thought weren't as strong, I can see why. Am going to post the competition poems tomorrow, and I've just sent another selection off to Todd Swift for consideration. I swear the hardest part of that was trying to write a new biographical note. I'm really good at flippant ones, but I wanted something a bit more proper for this submission. With these two submissions done, that takes care of the last outstanding thing I needed to get done before the holidays. (The fiction review I'm doing for Sabotage Reviews doesn't count because it's due in just over two weeks!) Still haven't read Tony Barnstone's collection for tomorrow, which I'm going to do once I switch off my laptop. I did manage to get through the first section at least, before the Singapore Society Graduation Tea in Curiositea (where else?). It was nice seeing people I hadn't seen pretty much all year, but then again, I was already prepared for that to happen when I chose to move to Leamington rather than back to campus. Can't believe how it feels almost like yesterday that we were still freshers, meeting each other for the first time at a picnic in the Botanic Gardens...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Episode 904: Amazon, Why Do You Hate Me?

Oh, Amazon UK, how you mock me! The books I ordered arrived today instead of Thursday, which meant it was completely unnecessary to buy a copy of Tony Barnstone's collection from the university Bookshop. It was only about 10p more expensive though, so I'm just going to return the Amazon copy, unless someone in my seminar group hasn't got it yet and would like to take it off my hands. I also bought a couple of French books, part of my ambitious plans to take my French to the next level. I think an important part of knowing a language is being able to read its literature, and while I will almost certainly never attain the same facility at literary analysis in French as I have in English, I can at least start reading more French stuff. Since, you know, it's not like I don't have loads to read already, right? Now that the Shakespeare creative project's done with, I need to crack on with my fiction portfolio and PWP. The former's 75% done, so it just needs rewriting based on the feedback I've received so far. The latter has seven pages done, so that's 23 more to go! All this after I catch up on my television, of course.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Episode 903: Ted Dekker Buying Spree!

Just blew more than £120 on acquiring all of the books in Ted Dekker's The Books of History Chronicles series. It's 16 books in total, so if you work out the average cost, it's pretty much the standard retail price of a paperback published in the UK, although these are all from Thomas Nelson in the USA. He's got plenty of other books, but they're mostly thrillers, which I'm not as keen to get my hands on. I mean, I enjoyed Adam, and Dekker seems to be really good at marrying the conventions of thriller novels with Christian themes, but I don't think anything in his work quite approaches the epic scope of the series I just bought. It was hard work though, tracking all of them down. Had to order from both Amazon UK and The Book Depository. I'm usually quite reluctant to get books from the latter, even though I've only had one bad experience where my return was never received and e-mails on the matter were never answered, simply because their returns policy isn't as forgiving as Amazon's. Didn't have a choice though, since the alternative was getting secondhand books whose conditions are self-declared by the sellers, and I hate it when the description doesn't match up to my admittedly exacting standards. I thought about getting everything through the American site, but after factoring in shipping costs and import duties, it just didn't make sense. Any money I was saving by buying from the USA would basically go towards paying the import duties! Pretty excited to have made the purchase though. It's been something I've wanted to do ever since I first read the original Circle trilogy years ago, and it's impossible to find his stuff in Singaporean bookstores, I think, or at least not the whole set of 16.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Episode 902: Reflective Essay's Done!

So the reflective essay's finished, and I've even made very minor additions to the play itself. It's all done now, and I really couldn't care about changing it anymore! All that's left is to print it off tomorrow and submit it. Can't believe I finished this before midnight, which is a whole 36 hours before the deadline. This is like an amazing personal record. It'd almost be worth it even if I did terribly now, since I could pretend like the additional 36 hours would have turned it into something worthy of a First, which is usually how I roll when it comes to assessed work. Almost, but not quite. I really, really want the play to get a good grade, mainly because no one's ever graded my playwriting before. Apart from that radio play that Peter Blegvad positively skewered in Year 1. All the other plays I've written over the past couple of years have never been subjected to anything other than the cushioned arena of my friends' opinions as viewers. Bella tells me that I have talent and I should continue writing plays anyway. I'm not so self-effacing that I don't believe her, but at the same time, I'm well-aware that given a choice between becoming a better poet and a better playwright, I'd pick the former. The latter is surely more economically sensible if I wanted to work in the arts, since I can't really see myself as a novelist, despite my ready, ardent professions of wanting to write a monumentally successful science fiction series. Even in Singapore though, it's more viable to work in theatre than traffic in poetry. Sigh...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Episode 901: Reflective Essay's Half-done...

I've written nearly half of the reflective essay so far. I think it's coming along well, and I could definitely get the rest of it done in the Library tomorrow between the morning and evening services. Then I'll be done for the term! I'm really quite pleased that I'm not leaving everything until 12 hours before the deadline for a change. Go me, yeah? Anyway, I've got a random story about Words with Friends. I've been playing this Scrabble-clone on my iPhone on and off for ages now, and I've even played a couple of games with Coury Palermo, who is hands down my favourite male singer at the moment. Pretty much has been ever since I heard him on Sleepthief's 'World Gone Crazy'. I even got a tweet reply from him when I said that 'Reason Why' was the most beautiful duet I'd ever heard. (Totally true, by the way, wasn't just fishing for a shout-out.) So I guess (semi-)famous people do play games on their iPhone as well, just like us ordinary mortals. A couple of nights ago though, someone started a game with me and introduced himself as Bill Dorfman. Yeah, I had to Google him too, but apparently, Dr. Bill Dorfman is some famous dentist in Los Angeles. You know the type. So if this guy is really who he says he is, it's just, well, rather random. I expect there will be further developments, so will keep everyone updated.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Episode 900: Play's Done!

Was on campus today for a workshop with Tony Barnstone, which was interesting. Definitely liked some of the poems better than others, although I pretty much agreed with everything he said by way of feedback to people. Anyway, for better or worse, the play is finished. Still have time to revise it, of course, and I'm waiting to get feedback from a couple of friends who've been reading through the work-in-progress, but I don't think I'm going to do anything major. Just need to write the reflective essay, which I'm going to do tomorrow evening, I suppose. It's a relief to have finished, that much I'll say. I suspect the final third of the play isn't as good, although it's composition hasn't been any more rushed than the other sections really. For now though, I think I deserve to unwind with a book. There are way too many options for this, by the way, especially now that the Jump 225 trilogy arrived today! Can't wait to get stuck into that, although I should really finish reading The Windup Girl first, right? Annoyingly, Amazon UK hasn't shipped the book I ordered yesterday, so there's a good chance I will not have read The Secret History Of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vásquez before next week's EN236 seminar. Then again, since that's when the UCU strike is scheduled to happen, I suppose it isn't technically massively important.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Episode 899: The More I Write, The More Unsure I Get...

Seems like the UCU has called for strike action next Thursday to protest cuts to staff pensions, so there's a good chance I won't have any classes. If this had happened earlier in the term, do you think we might've had a shot at getting blanket extensions for our assessed work? Haha! Anyway, in a sudden fit of industry, spurred largely by the awareness that it's definitely a better idea to finish this play before Monday evening, I've written about another two pages, spread across the three incomplete/missing scenes. I think I've definitely pushed Scene 4 to a point where I could bring it to the final line that's been set in place for a week or so now, and not have the dialogue feel forced. Scene 5 is really just there to tie up lingering objections from Scene 4, and Scene 6 will basically write itself because half of it is going to be a mock review of a production. Then it's 2000 words for the reflective essay, and I'm definitely going to focus a lot more on the process of writing this play, now that I've made so many changes and adjustments along the way. Usually, I feel a lot more secure the more I've written, but with this play, it's like I just keep uncovering more stuff that feels like it has to be included in order to validate the creative project as a whole. It's disconcerting and exciting, but I would really rather just be certain and bored.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Episode 898: MA Writing Soirée

Got onto campus early for the colloquium with Tony Barnstone, which was really interesting. Looking forward to the poetry workshop on Friday now! Also got my French results back today, which were more than satisfactory. My concerns about my linguistic expression proved completely unfounded since I got 89% for that component of the written comprehension. I quote the marker's comments: 'Très bien exprimé. Très agréable à lire.' Quite pleased by that actually. Hung about in the Library after the seminar, reading The Invention Of Morel for tomorrow morning. I hope I'm not the only one who found it mildly horrifying. Very good, but creepy. Anyway, the soirée was a fundraiser, but I didn't want any of the books enough to get raffle tickets. The readings were fantastically 'eclectic', to borrow Peter Blegvad's word. I really warmed to Luke Kennard's brand of humour, in particular. I know loads of my friends love him, but I wasn't as keen before, at least not until this evening. (I also wonder how much of the awkwardness is really just showmanship. A fair bit, I'm guessing.) Was also great to hear Maureen Freely and Jeremy Treglown read from their work, don't think I've heard them do it before. Plus Peter's songs were just brilliant! All in all, a good way to avoid dealing with writing the missing scenes of my play. Can't put it off forever though...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Episode 897: LOL (Lots Of Love)

I'm mildly obsessed by shapes and patterns, so it would make sense if I'm really into dance. I'm not though, so attending this evening's performance of LOL (Lots Of Love), alone no less, was highly uncharacteristic of me. I decided to check it out because I wanted to see how the themes of technology and human connection would be explored. I thought the performance was well-executed, although the dancing itself was perhaps 'freer' than I was expecting. Sort of a chaotic precision, to attempt to coin an oxymoron. The characters created were sympathetic, and it felt less like stereotypes were being made fun of than viewed with the compassion of fellow humans, caught up in the same matrices of technology that offer the illusion of ever-greater intimacy in the guise of whirlwinds of minutiae. The backing soundscapes were also good, and I loved all the bleeps and other electronic bits that came from social networking tools. I'm now also very jealous of Kip Johnson's floppy hair. Make that floppy hair in general. Eugene tells me it would not suit me anyway, but still, one can dream. Also made the easiest £5 ever from a DR@W experiment today! Didn't make up for a lousy start to the day when the bus driver saw me but decided not to stop his not-full bus. Wasn't impressed by that at all. Welcome to a day in the life of a student at a top three British university. Now to whip that book review into shape in record time...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Episode 896: Still On Ice, Sadly...

Have about 150 pages more to go before I finish with the book. I reckon that a bit more tonight, plus a couple of hours in the afternoon while I'm on campus tomorrow, and I can write the review before I go to see the dance performance in the Arts Centre in the evening. Have a letter to write for French homework too, but if I'm desperate, I could whip that up in an hour or so at night, right? Anyway, I'm pleased to report that the 150th piece of writing published by Eunoia Review was featured on FictionDaily today. Congratulations, Emily Grekin! In their own words, at FictionDaily, 'we select and aggregate content from the "independent" publishing world—the magazines, the websites, the small houses, the self-publishers—and put it into one place. Use this site to find stories to read, and to explore the myriad places that publish them (see our growing Literature list). Use it as a gateway to the vast sea of literature that's being produced now in ways that the old industry can't keep up with.' Sounds like an admirable amount of legwork is involved, and it's nice to have my editorial judgement confirmed by a complete stranger. Also have work lined up for publication on the site all the way till the end of April, so that's fantastic as well. I'm thinking submissions will start growing once Duotrope's Digest removes the 'Fledgling' label (less than a month!), since the journal will then be on the lists for 25 Swiftest and 25 Most Approachable Poetry Markets. (Haven't had enough reported submissions for fiction to make it onto the corresponding lists.) That's when the real test comes, juggling reading of submissions with the rest of the things I have to do.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Episode 895: Play's On Ice!

Play is temporarily on hold while I get on with The Difference Engine. It's actually starting to get quite exciting, although I think a build-up of about 100 pages is pushing things, since that's more than a quarter of the novel. No idea what I'm going to say in the review yet, beyond the obvious stuff about steampunk and the use of historical figures. (I like the idea of Byron as Prime Minister!) Bought a couple of books (the Jump 225 trilogy that I've been eyeing only since forever) and the back issues of Popshot Magazine (because they were going as a bundle for £10), although I've since cancelled the Amazon UK order because The Book Depository is offering them for a few pounds less. It does annoy me slightly that when Prometheus Books reissued the first book in the trilogy, Infoquake, they changed the cover art so that it no longer matches the subsequent two books. (Yes, I know. I'm nuts.) Am feeling a bit frivolous now though, since I've pretty much spent all the money I made from doing DR@W experiments! Have another one coming up on Tuesday, and there's one in Week 10, so might get a bit of petty cash out of those, I guess. I've actually been really good with my money this year, comparatively speaking. As long as I stop walking into Oxfam and coming out with a ridiculous number of poetry books that I have no time to read, I should be fine. Right?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Episode 894: A Trickle Of Writing (And Reading)

Managed to push a bit further through the scene that I'm writing. I'd say I have two-and-a-half scenes to go, and them I'm done. It might need further editing, although I've been doing that on the go as usual anyway. Then there's the reflective essay to get through. I'm taking a break from it though, at least until tomorrow, to read William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine. I've got to write a review of it by Tuesday for The Cadaverine, and I've totally been procrastinating. (Ditto for my PWP, although I'm hoping to get at least one new poem out before the end of term so that I can see Michael Hulse. Want to talk to him about submitting for a competition and an anthology.) Said procrastination also involves finishing the first season of Better Off Ted, which is hilarious. It's so funny, I can't believe it's American, though I suppose that's precisely why it got cancelled. I'm being disciplined and not starting on Season 2 though! Really have to get through a chunk of that novel before I go to bed, which is possible, since it's not even 9.30 pm yet.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Episode 893: Some Further Thoughts On The Tempest

So thanks to Elaine, I got my wish! Saw The Tempest again tonight, for free. It was clearly a more fun way of spending time than trying to work out dialogue for my play, although one of Elaine's housemates may have provided me a helpful way to get through this section I'm currently having difficulty with. (I can write the dialogue, but it just doesn't sound right for something that has to be performed. It sounds either too boring or too pretentious, and I can't even decide which it is!) Anyway, there were a couple of minor but significant differences from last night's performance. When Antonio came out, instead of standing stage left, he came and sat down centre stage. Likewise, when the King of Naples came out, he took over the seat, and the two characters interacted more, rather than standing passively at opposite sides of the stage. The other difference I noticed was when Ariel repeatedly says 'Thou liest', and Stephano thinks it's Trinculo speaking. Rather than speaking the words from above, Ariel walked around the platform in which the action was taking place. I thought this made the whole situation a lot more plausible.

There's also a couple of things I forgot to mention last night. Firstly, the massive age disparity between the King/Prospero and Sebastian/Antonio. In a way, it kind of suggested that what the younger characters were doing was seizing power from an older, tottering generation. That said, I also had a more sympathetic view of Prospero tonight. I wouldn't now go so far as to say that his declarations to Ariel were false, but rather that they existed alongside an almost feral anger that he had cultivated on the island. For me, the line that resonated most across both nights was Ariel's haunting 'Mine would, sir, were I human.' It seemed to capture an unspoken wish, for which the desire to be freed from Prospero's service was merely a substitute. Interestingly, Ariel is left at the end with no one to show tenderness to except the 'monster' Caliban. I also found it peculiar that in the scene where Prospero reveals all to the Duke and his companions, Ariel is seated centre stage and observes the proceedings, turning his head to track movements across the stage. I'm not sure what to make of this detail though. See Pete Kirwan's entry for stuff on the communist/capitalist aspect of the production. Oh yeah, should probably also mention that I got the MA offer from Warwick. Just need 65% overall and another reference from a full-time staff member.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Episode 892: Cheek By Jowl's The Tempest

Just got a reminder that I'm totally meant to have written two film reviews for the Student Cinema and e-mailed them yesterday! Fortunately, one of the reviews has already been written, it just never got used last term because the schedule changed. Anyway, I've just come back from Cheek By Jowl's fantastic production of The Tempest. It's the fourth production by their Russian company. The text they used was definitely edited, but the way it was used definitely made me want to re-read the play, which was the first of Shakespeare's I ever read. I'm just going to point out a couple of things I really liked about the production. Firstly, how sheerly physical it was, right from the get-go. While the cast generally excelled at incorporating their bodies into the performance, for me the most impressive example of this came from Andrey Kuzichev's Ariel. Even in the way he walked onstage, he had the kind of control I usually associate with dancers. I can't remember if he's meant to be onstage as much as he is (will keep an eye out for that when I re-read), but he was a joy to watch, as were the other actors playing spirits, who also doubled with him as musicians. It was brilliant, whenever they came on.

Related to this aspect of physical control was the scene where Yan Ilves's Ferdinand had to pick up Kuzichev as a log and repeatedly carry him across the stage. Not only was it hilarious as Kuzichev kept getting up and returning to his original position, it was amazing how he landed so gracefully each time Ilves rolled him off his back. This sequence segued into a mildly gratuitous bit where Ilves stripped naked and was cleaned up by Igor Yasulovich's Prospero. I say 'mildly' because it made sense within the narrative at that point, but it's still not the sort of thing you usually get, even in theatre. I swear that if you'd been sitting far enough along the sides of the Arts Centre Theatre, and Ilves haven't been using his hands, you could've seen everything. There was also a moment in the first scene when Anya Khalilulina's Miranda had her breasts out, although the comparative level of exposure suggests there's still some sexism here when it comes to baring skin. So a man's butt and complete nudity are acceptable, but the same doesn't go for the only woman in the play?

Anyway, as a corollary I should also say here that the costume choices were really clever. They were in modern dress, but the state of the characters' costumes also indicated what I saw as their position on the savage/civilised continuum. Notably, the state of everyone's clothes changes throughout, except for Caliban, Prospero's 'thing of darkness', who symbolised for me the untameable wildness of the island that resisted Prospero's full mastery. There was also a funny moment when Stephano and Trinculo showed up at Prospero's dwelling, which was promptly transformed by the spirits into a sort of high-end boutique. This allowed for a moment of meta-theatre when they were talking to each other on their mobiles, and Trinculo (finally) notices the Duke and everyone standing around him, so when he breaks off, Stephano asks if he can't talk because he's in a theatre. There was an earlier moment of meta-theatre when Prospero yelled 'Stop!', the house lights came on and a technician came out from backstage, whereupon Prospero delivered a speech ('Our revels now are ended') that in this context, deliberately called attention to the fictitious nature of what was being played out for our pleasure onstage.

The production also emphasised how unsavoury his desire for control was. So when Ariel entreats Prospero to take pity on the Duke and his companions who are at his mercy on the island, and Prospero says that if a spirit like Ariel can feel such emotion, then so could he, I found it a bit hard to believe he was being sincere. Ditto at the very end when Ariel asks if Prospero, his master, loves him, and receives an affirmative answer. The match between Ferdinand and Miranda is also problematic. Ferdinand starts out essentially looking like he's happy to have sex with the first 'maid' he meets on the island, despite, you know, just having been shipwrecked. Miranda subsequently seems happy with marriage, but at the very end, after she has been packed off to Italy with everyone else, she runs back in and leaps on Caliban, whom we've already been informed at the start has once tried to violate her. Ferdinand dashes back in and forcibly pries her from Caliban, dragging her out screaming in anguish. It's profoundly unsettling, and jars with the comic resolution that has just happened.

The ending of the play was also handled interestingly. Prospero is shown as leaving the island, having freed Ariel, and what looked to me like having removed Caliban's capacity for speech. So that leaves Ariel and Caliban onstage, the former sitting down and laying a hand on Caliban's head. This gesture of tenderness mirrors an earlier one where he lays a hand on the Duke's back, who is lamenting the supposed death of Ferdinand to Prospero. (This in turn echoes Ariel's almost laying a hand to comfort Ferdinand much earlier on, having been prevented by a glare from Prospero. It also has a parallel in his almost touching Miranda, as she is dragged out by Ferdinand.) Prospero came back out to deliver his epilogue, resting a hand on Ariel's shoulder, so that master and servants are connected in a chain. Surrounding them, the rest of the cast emerges from backstage, as Prospero declares the loss of his magic and calls for the audience's applause to set him free. Naturally, that's exactly what we did, and not a few people even gave the cast a standing ovation. This is one of those productions that I would totally watch again if I could, and I'm actually quite jealous that Eugene is seeing it in London in April. For free.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Episode 891: TV & Stories

The French examination today was pretty easy. A bit too easy, I think. Hope I didn't screw it up without realising! Am now spending the rest of the night catching up on all that television I couldn't watch yesterday because I was in the Library. Also need to do reading for tomorrow's seminar though, but I don't mind because I really like Rachel Seiffert's short stories. There's more than a hint of melancholy in them that I find very appealing. Then there's still that steampunk novel I need to review. Tempted to ask my editor to push the deadline back, which he did initially offer to do. Except that was weeks ago, and it's kind of irresponsible to ask now. I can probably get through the novel over the weekend, and then write the review on Monday. Not sure where writing my play fits in with all this, but hey, I'll figure something out. I always seem to do, right? If this were a movie, this is the point from which it all goes downhill. Clearly though, real life is a lot less cooperative than art. Don't worry though. If I ever had a meltdown, rest assured this is where you'd find out about it. Or on Facebook. (Yeah, probably Facebook.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Episode 890: Blue Valentine

So my day got off to a really lousy start, courtesy of Stagecoach. It was so bad, I would have sworn out loud if there had been anyone around me that I knew. Instead, I had to content myself with posting angry stuff on Facebook. The best, explaining to Eugene what the U1 was, for which six people saw fit to click 'Like': 'Eugene, it's the f***ed up bus I get to my world-class university.' That really sums up the situation at Warwick, doesn't it? Anyway, I don't want to dwell on it anymore, even though I was so annoyed that even earning £37 from my DR@W experiment only somewhat mollified me. I guess it also helped that the seminar, despite my turning up half an hour late, was a lot of fun. Got a couple of experiments to go before the end of term, so that's a few more chances to earn some petty cash! Then I met up with Bella in the Library to do some work. I wrote less of my play than I'd hoped to, although I did manage to mentally flesh out more of the specifics for the unwritten scenes. I've decided to make the Dramaturg a more selfish character because in my current formulation, he's a bit too noble to be true. I mean, it's a nice sentiment, proclaiming that your loyalty is to the production and all, but even as I wrote it, I was thinking in the back of mind that I had to complicate that aspect of his character somehow. Finally, to reward myself, I saw Blue Valentine with Annabella and Dan at the Arts Centre. I liked it, although I think the marriage-falling-apart trope is a bit too obvious, even if this film did manage to rise beyond clichés. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were brilliant! My personal opinion is that of the two, she was the more selfish and I'm not sure if I buy that they were really at the end of their relationship. Randomly, this film was way more explicit than I expected from a production featuring American actors. It was very, uh, continental, in its approach to nudity.