Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Episode 1226: Is Gossip Girl Being Meta Or Not?

One of my hallmates took my food out of the oven to cook his own. I'd have excused him, except not only did he not put my food back when he was done, he left my tray out and turned off the oven! Like, what the heck? Anyway, Gossip Girl aired its 100th episode yesterday, the first of the shows that originated on The CW network to do so. After five seasons of the show though, it is honestly quite hard not to interpret all the dialogue at this point as being some sort of metacommentary on the show's writing. The question only remains whether this is a conscious act on the part of the writers, or have they been unwittingly brilliant in spite of increasingly lazy and loopy storytelling. Anyway, I'm in the middle of writing my next review that I owe Lindsey for Sabotage Reviews because I decided that just because Tuesdays are what I call 'TV Tuesdays', there's no reason that I shouldn't get on with work once all the shows are finished. That and I just found out today that I have to do a lot more for my dissertation plan than I'd expected, which I only realised because I read the handbook. Was actually looking to see if there were any deadlines that I had to be around for in May, before confirming to my mum if I'm flying back to Singapore for a couple of weeks around my birthday. Turns out it's just an essay title for one of this term's modules that needs to be submitted by 27 April, so I'm free to pop off for a few weeks in the middle of Summer Term because there aren't any seminars anyway. Will still need to be getting work done though, even while I'm back in Singapore...

Monday, January 30, 2012

Episode 1225: Thanks, Duckworth Publishers!

So while battling insomnia last night (guess I'm not 100% immune to the caffeine in Coke after all), I decided that I'm going to send one of the flashes I wrote last year and read out to my writing group. Everyone seemed to enjoy it then, so why not use it, right? So that takes care of the Biscuit Publishing competition. On a separate note, I also won some books and a DVD from Duckworth Publishers, courtesy of a competition they ran on Facebook over the weekend. One of the things I've won is a copy of Max Brooks's World War Z, which I'm really pleased about because I've been wanting to buy his books for some time now, I just haven't got around to it yet. Also, it turns out that my review on Sabotage Reviews of Neil Campbell's chapbook has indirectly led to his submitting a story to Eunoia Review, which I'm honoured to accept for publication in mid-May. Sort of a multiplier effect, if you will. Currently considering whether I really want to go and see We Need To Talk About Kevin at the Student Cinema for free. I definitely want to see Contagion on Friday, and possibly Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon tomorrow and A Separation on Thursday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Episode 1224: Party Costume Sorted

So I still haven't written the flash fiction, unless you count the ridiculous rehash of the beginning of the Gospel of John as some Matrix-type opener that I did yesterday. (It actually kind of works, in a weird way, but since all I've done is substitute nouns and pronouns here and there, I highly doubt it'll be accepted by the competition.) On a completely unrelated note, while in Varsity after church, I decided what I'll be going as to Kat's board game-themed birthday party, and it's going to be Reverend Green from Cluedo. I just need to make a clerical collar and decide which weapon to bring as a prop. I could do a knife, I suppose, since I actually have all those Ikea kitchen knives that I never actually use because I don't cook, but it'd be such a hassle to carry around. I was thinking of just substituting rope with one of the many cables snaking around my table instead. Sort of a modern update on the whole strangulation thing. Plus it'd be way safer to carry around too! Anyway, I started reading Noughties last night, and I had to force myself to put it down and go to bed. It was that readable. I can definitely see this novel becoming a hit among people in their mid-20s to early 30s, if it's marketed well. I suppose it will be, Hamish Hamilton being an imprint of Penguin and all.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Episode 1223: I Should Write A Story About Procrastination

Requested an interview with Jim Harrington's blog Six Questions For..., and I've just sent in my responses, so hopefully that will bring in submissions from an even wider pool of people once the interview's gone up. I was also supposed to write a flash fiction or a review today, obviously what I ended up doing was starting on some TV show instead. I've watched the first series of Miranda, and I'm now two episodes into the second, so by the time the third airs at some point this year, I'll be caught up. It was either this or Becker, and I'm not even halfway into Season 1 of that. Was going to do two submissions for this Biscuit Publishing competition, which is a combo contest, so one submission consists of a short story of 1000-5000 words and a flash of up to 750. I've decided I'm too lazy to write two new flashes by the end of this month though, so I've sent one of the short stories off to a magazine instead. Speaking of which, earlier today I impulsively decided to help The Conium Review reach their IndieGoGo target and donated US$30, in exchange for a copy of the magazine when it comes out and various 'thank you' mentions. Wasn't going to donate that much initially, since there was an option for a smaller amount that would still get me a copy of the magazine, but I figured, what the heck, I like what James Gapinski and his team are doing by bring out a print magazine, and I can still spare the money to bring them up to their target. Still on the subject of new magazines, Jane Holland is starting up a new one online. So any writers reading this, you should definitely consider submitting to Epicentre Magazine.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Episode 1222: Hamish Hamilton's New Wunderkind?

Just got back from the annual SingSoc CNY Dinner, which was actually held in the same restaurant in Birmingham as last year's dinner. Sat in front of this really bitchy guy on the way back, which made for quite an amusing coach ride, I guess. Anyway, my review copy of Noughties, Ben Masters's debut from Hamish Hamilton, has arrived. The guy's 25, a good-looking chap, educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and his signing by Hamish Hamilton seems like it was quite a big thing. It's practically like he was designed in some laboratory to induce literary envy. (Come on, even his name feels perfectly suited for the job. Sort of like how I think regardless of how you feel about Lana Del Rey and whether or not she's 'authentic', you have to admit whoever coined her new moniker was a marketing genius.) Kind of reminds me of the buzz about Adam O'Riordan, who'd be the equivalent in the world of poetry, I suppose. The thing is though, I really like the excerpt his publicist has put on the press release accompanying the review copy, and if the rest of the novel reads like that, I'm completely sold on the novel. I do wonder if it might be the sort of novel that only really appeals to fellow English graduates, so it's definitely something I'll address one way or another in my review for The Cadaverine.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Episode 1221: Campus Encounter

So on my way to yet another experiment (for which I made £7 and a packet of crisps), I was accosted by two people whom I thought were about to ask for directions, but whom I subsequently realised were Jehovah's Witnesses, after glancing at the leaflet they took out to give to me. Thing is, while I was talking to them, nothing gave them away. Nothing theologically controversial came up in the discussion, although reflecting on their comments about the fulfilment of the kingdom of God on this current Earth and how it will 'crush' all other kingdoms/governments, I realise now that the phrasing is quite particular to Jehovah's Witnesses. They initially tried to engage me in conversation in Chinese, but within a few sentences, I told them to switch to English. There was something vaguely condescending/racist in their surprise at how good my English was, considering that the first thing they asked me in English was whether I spoke Chinese, and of course, they assumed that I was from China based on my skin colour, which is one of the things that seriously ticks me off. (Not to mention that when he was taking out the flyer at the end of our conversation, the older man still took out one that was written in Chinese.) Surprised they were actively recruiting people on campus itself though, as I was walking along Scarman Road at the time. Is that actually allowed?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Episode 1220: Progress?

So I think my meeting with Ross Forman went well. Seems like my research might potentially be going in unanticipated directions, like a comparison of the literary representation of urban icons, and a consideration of the ramifications of the divergence and interaction of the Merlion's aspects as national versus tourist icon. I've got rough ideas for my three chapters, but more reading is needed before I can really pin down the details. I guess that's progress, right? Ross is pushing me to interview the poets in the Merlion anthology, since they're all living poets, even Edwin Thumboo, whose 'Ulysses By The Merlion' started it all. I think it's a good idea, but how many do I approach? Should I just ask the younger poets, the ones who've had virtually no secondary criticism written about them yet? Or do I want a mix of views from established and emerging poets? What about only asking the people whose poems I really, really like? Is this making my research unnecessarily complicated? Sigh. Anyway, here's my review, by the way, of the first of four chapbooks from The Knives Forks and Spoons Press.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Episode 1219: Foiled Again!

While reading in preparation for meeting with my dissertation supervisor tomorrow, I've come to realise that once again, what I was thinking of writing about has already been done before. The first iteration of my plan for the dissertation was more concerned with straightforward literary analysis, Bloom's 'anxiety of influence' type of stuff. Had to change that because some undergraduate at NUS published a paper about exactly that. Her analysis wasn't perfect, but it wasn't sufficiently flawed that picking holes in it would take up the whole of my dissertation. So I switched to thinking about the Merlion in terms of the concept of liminality as a springboard for discussing its problematic reception as a cultural icon that is also profoundly implicated in the economics of Singapore. Turns out a pair of academics have sort of done that second half already, so it looks like in order to actually say anything new, I'm going to have to postulate that as a liminal figure, the Merlion is actually fundamentally necessary for Singapore in terms of cultural development, regardless of how it makes Singaporeans feel because of its economic significance as a tourist symbol. I've read one article so far that comes close to suggesting this, although it's phrased in terms of a dialectic that self-critiques à la Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic Of Enlightenment, so my take on it is still sufficiently different to justify being written about.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Episode 1218: Win Some, Lose Some

So Blue & Yellow Dog rejected the lot, mais c'est la vie. I'm starting to notice this weird trend where a lot of the places that I think I might want to submit to have also published people that I've published in my capacity as an editor. In some cases, it's the editors themselves whom I've published. It all seems a bit incestuous, doesn't it? For a change, I sent some poems to Popshot today, which is a print-only publication, and a very well-designed one it is too! I may have interpreted the next issue's theme of 'Power' too liberally, but hey, you never know if something might just click with an editor. Speaking of which, just as I was typing that, an acceptance came in from Quantum Poetry, a publication I discovered via one of today's acceptances for Eunoia Review, whose poem currently appears right below mine on the site's homepage. Link here. (Didn't realise that Quantum Poetry is edited by Jill Chan, who's a contributor to Eunoia Review, until I got the acceptance e-mail.) It's one of my oldest poems, from way back in 2005, so it's nice to know that someone liked it enough to publish it. Don't really have a lot of poems from that period that I'd consider publishable today!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Episode 1217: Four Consecutive Months Of Viewership Growth!

So it looks like my pamphlet didn't make the cut for Iota Shots, so I'll probably send it off to the Flarestack competition later this week. Dusted off a couple of older, slightly weirder poems, and sent them off to Blue & Yellow Dog because they seem like they might be a fit for that journal. We'll see. Also finished my vaguely dystopian story for tomorrow's EN911 seminar. I think it has potential to be developed into something longer, so we'll see. I might trim it down instead and pair it with a longer piece to submit for another competition though, haven't really decided. Anyway, on the editing side of things, Eunoia Review is having a good month. With more than a week to go before the month's over, the journal's already hit a new monthly record for site views, for the fourth consecutive month no less. There's also work lined up for publication until 1 May, assuming none of the simultaneous submissions I accepted are subsequently withdrawn. It's unlikely that'll happen, given my rapid response times. One of the recent submitters did commit the gaffe of forgetting to delete his cover letter to the other journal, but I didn't hold it against him. Didn't even mention it when I sent the acceptance e-mail.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Episode 1216: Finally Back To Reviewing Again...

Yeah, so I'm finally getting back into the swing of things, as far as reviewing is concerned. Writing the review for Neil Campbell's Bugsworth Diary now, which I'll hopefully be able to send off to Lindsey before going to bed. Might get around to doing the next chapbook tomorrow, or within the week anyway. I've already read three out of the four chapbooks I was given to review, so I'm quite happy to be cracking on at last, with the EN973 essay out of the way. With the EN978 portfolio due in mid-February and other material for review still coming in (including what sounds like an exciting debut novel from Ben Masters), I just really want to clear this backlog as quickly as possible. It's taking longer than I expected for this current one, but that's mainly because I keep checking Facebook every time I get stuck. I even started watching Becker as a form of procrastination, and was left wondering if the titular character in any way influenced the creation of that other show with a crotchety doctor, House. I've found the show somewhat entertaining so far, although the humour is a bit too straightforward for my tastes. I mean, most of the time it really is just Dr Becker being grumpy at everything and everyone, and I can see that getting old pretty quickly. I only really started watching it because there was nothing I currently follow to procrastinate with anyway, having watched Fringe and Grimm earlier in the day, and there being no new episode of Nikita this week.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Episode 1215: You Can Never Have Enough China...

Heard China Miéville read/speak for the third day in a row, this time at another This Is Horror event. He was joined by Joseph D'Lacey and Mark Morris. I loved China's story, 'The Ninth Technique' (which I don't think has been published yet), but then again, I feel that way about everything he's written anyway. Morris's story about objects returning to haunt the protagonist was also interesting, kind of put me in mind of Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry crossed with Adam L. G. Nevill's Apartment 16. Wasn't as keen on D'Lacey's story, which I thought was entertaining and played very well for laughs, but at the same time a bit lightweight. I didn't buy any books, although I'd thought about it beforehand, but it's just as well, since I've spent so much on books lately anyway. Speaking of which, that first Tucker Max book I ordered finally arrived, so I'm going to read I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell first, before continuing with Assholes Finish First, which I'd started on the flight back to the UK. Am now getting my weekly dose of The Secret Circle and The Vampire Diaries, and yeah, I think the former is finally starting to match up to its lead-in in terms of awesomeness.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Episode 1214: Salvagepunk Redux

Someone who knows someone I know has posted this summary of what went on yesterday during all the salvagepunk stuff. Can't believe I forgot to mention that Evan Calder Williams threw a golden rat that was supposed to splat into a pile of goo and reform, but instead got stuck to the ceiling of the Conference Room. I've also bought his book that I mentioned yesterday, which I will hopefully get around to reading within a month, so that if I don't enjoy it, I can still send it back for a refund. (I know, I'm terrible, but it's not my fault that the UK has this wonderful system of returning things you've bought.) Anyway, during today's LitBiz event, China Miéville mentioned this link about the state of the publishing industry, which I'd shared on Facebook yesterday so I now feel sort of cool by proxy. (Yeah, it's a bit sad, I'll admit that.) Am now trying to read Dialectic Of Enlightenment for a seminar tomorrow morning, but it's not very enjoyable. I mean, I don't actually like reading theory that much. I just really like the way Thomas Docherty talks about it, hence the reason for auditing his module again this term.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Episode 1213: Salvagepunk

Whole day of salvagepunk, symposium in the afternoon, reading in the evening. Not sure what to make of it all yet (if I ever will), although I really enjoyed the readings in the evening from Evan Calder Williams, China Miéville and Joyelle McSweeney. I'm really tempted to check out Evan's book, Combined And Uneven Apocalypse: Luciferian Marxism, even though the mention of Marxism is usually immediate cause for me to stop paying attention. I suppose I could always order first and then return it, if I didn't find it interesting. Randomly, my face is currently appearing on the university homepage, in connection with the announcement that Winter Graduation Ceremonies are happening. I'm in the corner of the picture, but you can still totally tell it's me. Gaby's in the shot too, but it's Dan who's right smack in the centre of the frame. Anyway, after watching the second episode of Canadian show The L.A. Complex, I don't understand why The CW bought this show. It just looks like The Beautiful Life but about actors instead of models, i.e. it's probably going to bomb in the ratings department. I would've said the surprise ending of this episode would generate lots of controversy (and desperately needed publicity) for The CW when it airs, but in the Internet age, viewers who would be interested in the show are probably illegally downloading episodes as they air in Canada anyway, which is also why this show is almost certain to crash in the ratings, obviously. (Unless Americans really are so indifferent to the world that they aren't even aware it's airing across the border right now.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Episode 1212: 10-Show Tuesday!

So J. J. Abrams's new show Alcatraz has premiered. Think of it as Fringe-meets-Haven-meetsLost, with a dash of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Prison Break. In other words, it's such a crazy mishmash that I'm not entirely sure even having Sam Neill as one of the stars can save it. I do like that most of the show's leads so far have been decisively unpretty, which is quite radical for American fare, although that's probably going to hurt the show eventually. Also saw the pilot for Smash, ahead of the actual series premiere in February. I loved it! The Glee comparisons are inevitable, but I think this Steven Spielberg drama is a very different creature from the hijinks of the McKinley crew. For one thing, the stakes already feel a lot higher, this being Broadway and all. Never been a huge fan of anyone coming out of the American Idol machine (except maybe Kris Allen), but I found myself really warming to Katharine McPhee's character in the pilot. (Also, am I the only one who thinks she kind of looks like Jill Flint on Royal Pains?) Now that the US version of Being Human has started airing its second season, I'll be following up to 10 shows on Tuesdays for the next couple of months. It's insane, but hey, at least it's my free day of the week!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Episode 1211: Nose, Grind, Yes?

Dissertation supervisor has come (virtually) knocking, so I have like a week to come up with something to discuss with him. Need to have a detailed outline by Week 7, which is definitely achievable, once I start regularly reading all the stuff I've accumulated and can figure out how I want to divide the chapters. I'm realising that my ideas up to this point regarding the dissertation have been (dis)comfortingly vague, in that they don't really focus the topic enough in a particular direction. Or to put it more charitably to myself, the way I've been thinking about the Merlion and Singaporean poetry so far isn't going to fit very well within the scope of 16000 words, which is exactly what it needs to do. What I have to do is set aside some time to see how all my thoughts about the Merlion relate to each other, in poetry, as a liminal figure, and as a commodified cultural symbol. Probably should read the anthology I'm looking at all over again too. At this rate, I need to read and review faster, if I'm going to juggle everything. It's either that or cut back on my non-academic writing altogether, which I'm reluctant to do because it's totally overkill, considering I really do have to be more organised about my work in general. That means starting to rewrite the children's story for my EN978 portfolio very soon, probably even this weekend.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Episode 1210: 100%!

Essay is done, printed and submitted. Finished it 21 hours before the deadline, which has to be a new personal record. Now here's hoping that it's even half as good as I think it is! Can't really take a break though, as I'm behind on readings and reviews. Went back to the Library after handing in the essay and revised the flash fiction I wrote in last week's EN911 seminar. I don't think I'm going to do anything more with it though. It's rather different from how I normally write, so in that sense, it's pretty exciting to write it, but at the same time, I question how long I can sustain it before I lapse into being boring again. (I know, I have great self-esteem as far as my writing is concerned.) I also really want to go on Amazon UK and The Book Depository right now and buy a lot of books, but given that I'm so behind in terms of reading the ones I've got, I'm going to restrain myself. For at least a month anyway. On a side note, pretty sure I haven't made the cut for one of the pamphlet competitions I entered at the end of last year. Ah well. Guess it's time to go and do some reading, wait around until the new episode of Sherlock is online...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Episode 1209: New Girl(/Low?)

In an effort to procrastinate in this final stretch of the essay, I finally caved and watched the first three episodes of New Girl. I found myself liking it more than I thought I would, but I still found myself unable to laugh with the show, as opposed to at it. It's definitely Zooey Deschanel's fault. Or at least that of the writers writing for her character on the show. I've decided that if they dialled her back a few notches, she would be okay and the whole show would be a perfectly okay comedy. Sort of like the twee opposite to the crudity of 2 Broke Girls, which I really enjoy even though it trades in racist stereotypes a lot. Frustratingly, the guys playing her roommates are entertaining to watch in and of themselves. Except for Lamorne Morris, who replaced the much funnier Damon Wayans Jr. from the pilot when the latter's Happy Endings got picked up for a second season, which is so good right now, by the way. Now Morris just seems like the stereotypical 'token black guy'. Max Greenfield's Schmidt, on the other hand, is clearly becoming New Girl's Barney Stinson. (You know, because that character isn't terribly groundbreaking anymore, not after seven seasons.) As TV critics have repeatedly pointed out, never has a douchebag been played so sympathetically.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Episode 1208: >75%

Writing this essay has made me realise just how reliant I am on conjunctions (but aren't we all?) to express clarifications and subtle shadings of meaning, and just how quickly you start repeating conjunctions in the space of a few thousand words. Anyway, it seems that The Secret Circle might finally be starting to redeem itself and climb towards the TV greatness that is its sister show, The Vampire Diaries. That Bones spinoff series The Finder has also finally had its proper premiere, after the backdoor pilot in Season 6 of Bones. I think it's okay, with Geoff Stults playing the sort of oddball, slightly alienating lead character that Fox keeps producing (and usually, cancelling). It feels like a USA Network production though, especially because of the setting. (That network's shows are pretty much all cut from the same cloth, and it's just a question of how long before the ideas start scraping the bottom of the barrel, successful as most of the series have been.) Wasn't that impressed by the new episode of The Firm, premiering in its actual timeslot. The flashback storytelling isn't working too well, as all it's doing is postponing a proper explanation of what the heck is happening in the present time to Mitch McDeere, however intriguing that seems from the glimpses we get at the beginning and end of the episode. You know what? I think this is Terra Nova syndrome all over again. They really should have just remade the film, instead of dragging it out as a TV series. NBC, you will make us watch this, but continue to deny us Community? What gives? I know it's John Grisham and all, but really, isn't Grisham a bit passé anyway? I say this as someone who loved Grisham novels when I was a kid.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Episode 1207: >50%

So the essay's more than half-finished now, and in fact, it's kind of heading into the home stretch, even though there's just under 2500 words to go. I've hit a slight snag because I'm trying to work out how much philosophy I can work into this current section I'm writing about how the ability to listen is what makes us receptive as readers to a piece of writing like Eunoia. Trouble is, I'm not very familiar with the philosophical thought in this area, so at the risk of taking things slightly out of context, I'm just quoting bits from Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Nancy that seem to me to fit with the general point I'm trying to make. Once I get through this, I'm pretty much done because the rest of the essay is all about making the argument that everything I've written so far about Bök demonstrates that Eunoia is more than just a language game and is instead a very serious attempt at making his avant-garde poetics relevant to what we would label a 'mainstream audience', which will directly answer the most damning criticism I've encountered (in the limited amount available) concerning Bök's poetics. The only misgiving I really have about the essay at this point is that there might not have been enough close reading of the poem, but then again, how much is enough when you've got 6000 words to fill?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Episode 1206: The Write Stuff

Got the essay up to 2600+ words before deciding to take a nap, and now that I've woken up, I've decided that I'm probably going to go right back to bed. I figure just one night more, and I'll be free of the jet lag. Probably should have carried on with the essay after dinner, instead of watching the remainder of Priest that I started on yesterday. Have realised that Legion and Priest are basically the same movie. Same lead actor (Paul Bettany), same director (Scott Stewart), same religious/supernatural themes. (Interestingly, the next film Stewart is set to direct also happens to deal with those themes, being the film adaptation of Cassandra Clare's City Of Bones from The Mortal Instruments series.) I could force myself to stay up and push on to the next paragraph, but I'd probably just rewrite it all tomorrow morning anyway, even if the basic content of it doesn't change much. Just about 850 words each day until the deadline now. Seems perfectly manageable, right? After which, I'm going to have to plunge right into catching up on reviews. Had half a dozen at last count, and that was before The Conium Review accepted me as a guest writer, so I've got to start contributing reviews for that too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Episode 1205: The Library Caves (Well, Sort Of)

Got an e-mail from the Library's Customer Service Manager, so it seems that all that grousing has finally been acknowledged by someone. For a change, here was someone actually acknowledging that there was a problem with how the recall system currently functions approaching vacation periods, as well as noting that obtaining another copy of the book for the Library is being considered, although I don't know why she assumed that my fine had been waived. I actually paid it the same day that I returned the overdue book, though I wouldn't mind if the Library decided to reimburse me. (I'm sure if anyone can make that happen even after I've paid it, it'll be the Customer Service Manager!) Have made progress with the essay, although I thought I wasn't going to get anything done after my decision to have a late afternoon nap. Am now a third of the way through, and the biggest challenge right now is holding the big picture in my mind. It's like every time I open one of the books or articles I've found in the course of my research, I find a piece that adds to the puzzle that I'd forgotten about, and so it all just keeps expanding in scope. I worry that too much of my discussion is going to end up wandering away from my original thesis statement, although I definitely have a core train of thought already that ties together a fair bit of my research. It's just a matter of whether more stuff can be added to it that further develops what I'm already going to be saying anyway.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Episode 1204: Take A Break?

Haven't touched my essay today, but I'm citing jet lag as an excuse. Hasn't stopped me from finishing a poem that emerged out of a workshop exercise during this morning's EN911 seminar (where I also happened to be the only guy in a class of women). Might try to finish the riddle we're meant to write as 'homework', and then see if I can't take a crack at finishing another paragraph of the essay at least. Even if I don't though, I can afford to take today off entirely and still will only need to write 700+ words every day till Sunday, which seems perfectly reasonable, even with TV as a distraction. Case in point: I watched six shows today and yet I've managed to write a poem, haven't I? One of the shows was the double-episode premiere of The Firm, set a decade after the Tom Cruise movie adaptation of John Grisham's novel. Ah, the days of primary school when I'd first started reading novels and was really into Grisham (and Robin Cook)! Haven't kept up with his more recent output (i.e. since secondary school, pretty much), but I really did love the early novels, and The Firm was among my favourites. Anyway, the premiere was a bit slow-moving, although the ending was enough to keep me tuning in, so I guess I'll add this to my list of shows to follow as they air. Also saw House Of Lies, which didn't really grab me, so I'll give it one or two more episodes to improve, and if it doesn't, I'll get the episodes but save them for that day (which will never come) when I completely run out of TV shows to watch.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Episode 1203: >25%

Despite being jetlagged and not having slept properly for nearly two days by this point (the price of taking night flights from Singapore that last half a day and landing in the early morning in London), I've managed to push my essay past 25% of the word count. The argument feels like it's beginning to propel itself forward, so with any luck, the writing will continue to proceed at this steady pace, if not faster. I feel like my style in this essay is a lot more self-assured and assertive, partly because I've quoted sparingly so far from critical literature (and that's partly because there's not a lot of it on Eunoia), so a lot of what I've written so far (and probably will be writing) is close reading (so obviously mostly in my own words anyway) and conclusions I'm drawing from that (so specific points are in my words, backed up by more general quotes dealing with sound poetry). It's pretty amazing that I'm still excited and motivated to write this essay, whereas in my undergraduate days, by now I'd be just looking for quotes to stitch together to fit a conclusion that I probably derived from modifying another quote, assuming I'd even bothered spending this many days on the essay. Looking back, I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I was a pretty lax undergraduate, who was happy to play the system to his benefit (i.e. taking Language Centre modules for credit). In hindsight, going to a small liberal arts college in the USA, or even one of the Ivy League universities, would probably have been a massive wakeup call.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Episode 1202: Four Films

Saw four films during this flight, all starring actors about which there have been considerable buzz in Tinseltown in recent years. Started off with The Change-Up, which was funny enough, although ultimately quite forgettable. Ryan Reynolds has never struck me as being a fantastic actor, although I think it's hilarious that his first big break was actually his TV role on Two Guys And A Girl and now he's a movie star. Jason Bateman's character was more interesting, but overall, this film felt like the sort of heartwarming narrative with a neatly packaged moral that Hollywood has churned out many times before. What's Your Number?, starring Chris Evans's six-pack opposite Anna Faris, was more entertaining, but again, pretty formulaic. The twist in the last minute of the show was the sort of thing that's bound to leave cinemagoers grinning in approval or smirking at its inanity. Now Crazy, Stupid, Love, with Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, and Emma Stone, that I enjoyed very much. Still has a clear ready-made moral in its tale, and I really think Carrell's totally being typecast, but Gosling and Stone? Love them. Loved her performance in Easy A, and she's quirkily attractive, rather than being your typical blonde beauty. As for Gosling, I now genuinely think he's one of the best actors of his generation. Never paid much attention to his work before, but he's had a string of films out in 2011, so it's been hard not to notice him now. Same goes for Olivia Wilde, appearing with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in Cowboys & Aliens. I think Craig's a solid actor, although I still don't buy him as James Bond, and who doesn't love Ford (even if his dating and marrying Calista Flockhart was really random)? Wilde, on the other hand, keeps getting shoved down our throats in a series of performances (Tron: Legacy, The Change-Up) where she doesn't really have to do much acting, does she? Pretty sure her role in In Time isn't that important either, since Amanda Seyfried's the female star of that vehicle. Wilde never feels like she's one of the leads, even when she must be because she shares top billing. I get that she's this luminous, big-eyed beauty. Everyone must have noticed that when she first appeared on House. Like Stone, not one cast from the usual blonde mould. Unlike Gosling though, whose performances justify being watched, Wilde just seems like she's in danger of being overexposed as a starlet, in a string of insignificant parts in blockbuster films.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Episode 1201: New Day, New Discovery

The more I work on this essay, the more I discover things to write about that I hadn't thought about before. Specifically, while writing out the close reading portion I mentioned yesterday, I started looking into the origins of the character of Ubu. Turns out someone's written an article about Alfred Jarry's cycle of plays from which the character originates, advancing an interpretation that can be adapted to address a niggling gap in my own essay. It does mean having to rejiggle the bit that I'm currently writing, although I think it's for the better this way. The broader picture the essay is trying to paint should eventually be more coherent, emerging naturally from this initial close reading of the opening pages of Eunoia's five chapters. What I've got to do now is figure out exactly what I'm going to say at this point, as I have various ideas that I want to put in and that I know can be made to fit together, just better in some ways than others. It's a question of moving from tiny details in the text to a wider theoretical perspective, but not losing sight of the need to constantly return to those details in order to back up all the theorising. There's so much going on in Eunoia that it's hopeless to try and cover all of it in a 6000-word essay. I mean, Bök took seven years to write it, so I really doubt seven days is going to cover it for an analysis. What I need to do is pick and choose examples that prove my thesis, which shouldn't be that hard. You could literally pick a page at random, and something in that paragraph could be used as an argument in support of my thesis statement.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Episode 1200: More Essay Progress...

I think I've figured out how to proceed after the introductory paragraph, in the sense of what the flow of my argument needs to be in order to cover all the ground that I want to by the end of the essay. I've had to tweak the introduction a little, although it's still quite jargon-free when it comes to the actual thesis statement. I've made peace with that though. Now it's how to fit in this huge chunk of quotes from the poem itself. I was going to just dump them in one chunk and then proceed with the close reading for this portion of the essay from there, but it's been pointed out to me that that's quite inelegant. I'm going to leave it for now and write out the close reading bits tomorrow, and then see if I can splice the quotes in more naturally. I'm sure it's possible, just that it's more expedient to go about it the way I'm doing. Would stay up tonight to write more, since I find it a lot easier to just do straightforward close reading as opposed to trying to situate stuff within a wider theoretical framework (although I have one in mind for the essay too), but I've got a bit of a headache. Probably, ironically, from staring at the laptop screen for so long.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Episode 1199: Are You Kidding?

Dear Library of the University of Warwick, you have to be joking. How can you have a staff member reply to my e-mail one day, incidentally not acknowledging the issue I've consistently raised in my repeated correspondence, which is that I'm not even in the country so it's logistically impossible to return the overdue book, and then allow an automated notice to be sent the next threatening to send me an invoice for a replacement copy? An appropriately snarky e-mail has been sent in reply, in which I politely request acknowledgement of this reply and state in advance that I will dispute any attempt to charge me for a replacement. It would be pretty remarkable if they tried to do that, since the notice says that they will do so if I don't contact the Library within seven days of the notice's date, but the book will have been returned before a week has gone by. I wouldn't put it past them though, to somehow fail to stop the invoice from going out. After all, apparently e-mails to and from multiple staff members aren't enough to qualify as having been in contact with the Library in order to prevent the pre-invoice from being sent out, so why would a little thing like the book in question already having been returned stop them from extracting money from me to buy another copy? The ultimate irony, of course, is that this copy of the book is only in the Library system because I requested it to be bought, thinking it curious that the Library had failed to stock a copy of a book written by a member of staff that had already been out for a couple of months.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Episode 1198: Christian Bö(o)k

The most interesting bit of trivia I've discovered in the course of reading for my essay is that Christian Bök was actually born Christian Book! Understandably, he changed the spelling to avoid the inevitable ribbing, although seeing as the pronunciation has presumably been kept the same, I don't see that much has been gained. (I'll concede that Bök does look more striking on a book spine and in general though.) The introductory paragraph is starting to take shape in my head, and I think I'm not going to begin with that excellent quote I was set on a few days ago. In fact, it's probably going to pop up either in the middle of the essay, or right at the very end. I continue to feel optimistic about my progress, especially having read a few more essays by and interviews of Bök himself, whose own critical comments are surprisingly helpful in interpreting his creative output, which isn't always the case with poets. On a tangential note, I've been getting a steady stream of submissions for Eunoia Review lately, and the buffer of scheduled submissions is now extending into a fourth month. The geographic distribution of the writers submitting also seems to be widening, so hopefully this will have a domino effect in terms of broadening the readership of the journal.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Episode 1197: So This Is What It Feels Like...

Okay, I think now I'm ready to write this essay on Eunoia. I've got ideas that I didn't even have when I first picked Bök's long poem as my subject for discussion, so I'd say that's a good sign. Plus it seems likely that they can be integrated into a coherent, reasonably sophisticated argument concerning the poem that I haven't seen advanced so far in any of the secondary reading that I've done. (Probably because nobody's really writing about this kind of poems, other than the people who write them in the first place.) So this is what it feels like to have an original thought, academically speaking, as opposed to my undergraduate technique of cobbling together quotes from various critics in the service of a thesis that wasn't necessarily novel. Or as novel as one can be when writing about canonical works that have been discussed for decades/centuries. Not that it can't be done, clearly. My fellow students who did pull it off were getting the better Firsts like 89 and 96, whilst my technique of bricolage usually netted a safe but boring low First 74. While it remains to be seen if this essay I'm going to write (eventually) is going to be as great as I think it ought to be, at least I'd be messing up something that I thought up fairly independently this time.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Episode 1196: ...Welcome 2012

Might have read more today for my essay that's due in Week 2 of Spring Term than during the rest of the holidays put together. Wise decision though, as I've got more ideas in my head for it than I had before, and I don't feel as restricted by my self-created essay title as I did previously. I might even go so far as to say that I could stop reading and start writing at this point, although I might give myself till Wednesday before actually trying to get that all-important (for me) first sentence down onto the page. Want to read Eunoia for a third time, to see if an idea that came to me yesterday about sounds in the poem actually bears out. If it does, it'll be a step in the right direction in terms of the central argument I want to advance in this essay. I'm actually quite proud of myself that I'm preparing to knuckle down a fortnight before the essay's due. 6000 words is twice the length of what I normally wrote during my undergraduate days, and back then, I barely even read most of the articles and books I was quoting from. I also wrote most of the essays in the 24-48 hours before they were due, so getting ready two weeks in advance is a pretty major achievement. Hopefully, I should be able to have at least 1500 words done before I fly back. (To expect myself to have written half of it is, quite frankly, insanity.)