Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Episode 1408: Okay, Teen Wolf, You've Won Me Over

So I think Teen Wolf has finally replaced The Vampire Diaries as my favourite TV drama, and I've persuaded Claire to give it another try, since she's a fellow fan of the latter series. I just think Teen Wolf is really tightly plotted, especially the current season, and this was a quality that I used to praise The Vampire Diaries for, but honestly, I can't say that Season 3 of that show demonstrated this. Sure, there were still cool plot twists, but there were also plenty of filler elements and what seemed to me like lazy writing, e.g. sending Jeremy away for a couple of episodes after wiping his mind again (because that worked out so well the first time!), or the sideshow that was Bonnie's mother's storyline (Bonnie is basically the most boring female character right now, who exists only to provide convenient magical solutions). Basically, I'm saying that Season 4 is going to have to work really hard to win me over. I can definitely see the show going the way of Gossip Girl though, i.e. devolving into a mess of random storylines. I hope it doesn't happen, but at this point, I think The CW probably assumes that its most successful show (by the network's really low standards, compared to the rest of the Big 5) can function on creative autopilot. (Oh yeah, I did start on that first chapter after all.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Episode 1407: Cards Against Humanity!

So I didn't start on the first chapter, but I did tack on a new paragraph at the start of the introduction, which hopefully addresses the only significant issue my supervisor raised when we last spoke. Definitely going to write something tomorrow for the first chapter though. I was actually working in the Library because I'd gone there to pick up a book (but I couldn't find a second one that was supposed to be on the shelves, which isn't the first time this has happened at my world-class university), and then Phil asked me if I wanted to play Cards Against Humanity. It's the most inappropriately hilarious game I've ever encountered, and the best thing is that it's released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license, so there's actually a free PDF of the original game that you can print out to make your own set, as the sets keep selling out on Amazon. (You can still buy one, but at extortionate prices because the scalpers are truly out in force. It's going for twice what the people behind the game actually sell it for. On Amazon UK, you can get a set for £99.99, which is just mental.) So that's why I didn't do more work today. (That and I spent the afternoon playing Granado Espada.)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Episode 1406: Recovering...

So what started out as birthday drinks in Varsity, led to a night in The Copper Rooms, which lasted till 3 am. I think that's only my second time being in there, and the first for an actual union event. Everyone adjourned to Cryfield afterwards, although Appy and I took some time getting there because we were talking to a Teach First guy. We didn't actually drink anymore once in Cryfield, although pretty much everyone stuck around until the sun came up. Wound up at Emma's flat with the other Heronbank people for pasta and noodles, so it was past 7 am by the time I got back to my own flat. Went to bed to recover, but woke up after about five hours. Figured that wasn't enough sleep, so I rolled over and was out for another three hours or so. Obviously, I've got nothing done today, although I'm hoping to finish reading the new issue of The Conium Review. Definitely going to start writing the chapter tomorrow, even if it's just to bash out a bunch of pointless sentences to make a provisional opening paragraph! Forcing myself to start writing usually works out pretty well in the end.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Episode 1405: Sleepyhead

Woke up in time to trek to the Post Room to pick up my parcel, full of books bought with my £50 Amazon UK voucher. Was going to get started on my dissertation's first chapter before Toby's birthday drinks, but that didn't happen because I was feeling so sleepy that I took a two-hour nap instead. I mean, I was barely paying attention to the episode of Common Law that I was watching, which is saying a lot since I'm usually glued to all the USA Network shows that I follow on a weekly basis. That's how sleepy I was. Anyway, I've been having a listen to Joshua Hyslop's tracks since discovering him yesterday, and I have to say, I'm really enjoying them. It's a bit weird because I'm not normally into folk stuff, but there's something about the Christian phrasings that run through Hyslop's lyrics that I find really interesting. (Come to think of it, that's one of the things that I love about Opaque Nature, whose music is also has folk influences.) I even like his use of the banjo. So here's hoping that with the backing of a label like Nettwerk, he'll be putting out albums for years to come!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Episode 1404: Trip To The Other Side Of Coventry...

Only finished reading Sea Of Trees tonight because Emma and Toby came to my kitchen for drinks at 1 am. At least that bottle of Malibu from last year is now finally gone, even if I ended up drinking more of it last night than I preferred. The novella, by the way, is beautifully wrought and well worth checking out. Robert James Russell's definitely one writer to keep an eye on. I spent the afternoon helping out with some children's games in Stoke Heath (incidentally, a part of Coventry that I've never been to), which I have to say was quite uncharacteristic of me. I don't regret it though. Got a bit of sunshine, and the kids looked like they really had fun. I mean, it definitely beat sleeping till noon and then frittering away the rest of the afternoon procrastinating. So now it's night, and I'm checking out new music online instead of writing. There's a new Delerium track coming out called 'Monarch', and I'm glad that the sound is more in the vein of the Nuages Du Monde album than the 'Dust In Gravity' single. Not that I hated that single or anything. I actually found Kreesha Turner's vocals on that interesting, and Poem and Chimera were pretty poppy albums. It's just that Nuages Du Monde is probably my favourite album, so if the rest of Music Box Opera sounds like 'Monarch', I'll be really happy. On a related note, thanks to the magic of YouTube, I've discovered the folk-pop sounds of Joshua Hyslop, a labelmate of Delerium's. It's completely the wrong time of year for it, but I really like his version of 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas', which is one of my favourite Christmas songs. His new album might make for good dissertation-writing music tomorrow...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Episode 1403: (Sort Of) Procrastinating!

Iain Britton's tusitala of white lies arrived in the post today, and again, it's a beautifully executed pamphlet, writing and presentation alike. Spent the morning helping to tidy the Kidz Klub cupboard at Elim, and then came home and frittered away the afternoon. I did get around to skimming through some articles that I think I'll be referencing at the start of my first chapter, which I'm planning to start writing either tomorrow or on Saturday, before Toby's birthday drinks. I think as long as I can get it started, it'll just zip along like the introduction. I'm giving myself the whole of next week to write it as well though, in anticipation of this being the hardest part of the dissertation to sort out. To put off work for a bit longer though, I've finally got around to reading Robert James Russell's Sea Of Trees. I've heard of Aokigahara before, and if I'm ever in Japan, it'll be one of the places that I want to visit. I mean, it's at the base of Mount Fuji, so it's not exactly like I'd have to go out of my way to be in the vicinity, right? It's more a question of when I'll find the time to actually make a trip to Japan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Episode 1402: You Should Like This Press

Just finished reading the four pamphlets that make up David R. Morgan's New Man Newman, and they form a really enjoyable set. If you haven't checked out the work that Like This Press has been doing, I highly recommend that you do. So far, they've also published J.T. Welsch's Waterloo and Ian Seed's Threadbare Fables, and Iain Britton's tusitala of white lies has just become available for ordering. I have to say, I'm really looking forward to the next LTP publication, which is another book-in-a-box, this time from David Berridge. Hope it'll be available to ship before I have to fly back to Singapore, as I don't mind paying the extra couple of pounds for international shipping, but if I can save that, it means having enough money to buy another pamphlet or chapbook from somewhere else. I've been thinking that when I die, maybe I should stipulate in my will that my personal library be donated. Not sure to what organisation yet. The obvious choice is the National Library, but I'm not convinced that Singaporeans in general would appreciate it. Maybe I'll donate it to the Warwick Writing Programme, would be like coming full circle, right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Episode 1401: Voucher Spent!

Have spent the past two days just chilling, and I'm now reading the David R. Morgan pamphlets. It's probably back to work tomorrow afternoon though, once I've had a chat with my supervisor about my dissertation. The first chapter's the one that I've struggled with the most so far, in terms of what I want to cover in it, and I'm going to need to be really disciplined about my reading here, to avoid the eventual writing spiralling into a confused mess of ideas pulling in different directions. Also, I've spent my Amazon UK voucher! On Laura Wade plays, Salt Publishing anthologies, and some poetry collections, including Tomas Tranströmer's New Collected Poems from Bloodaxe. (Don't worry, Tom, I'll definitely be getting more Penned in the Margins stuff in the near future!) I've enjoyed Tranströmer's work ever since I randomly came across The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems on the shelves in the National Library back in Singapore, so I'm glad I'll finally own a copy of his work. More stuff arrived for me back home as well from BooksActually, so many thanks, Kenny!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Episode 1400: £50 Amazon Voucher!

Almost finished reading Russell Barker's Disc-0, which I need to review. I don't think it's fantastic, but there are the seeds of a decent heist novel here. I suppose part of the problem is that it started off as a NaNoWriMo project, and it just hadn't been polished and edited enough before it was self-published recently. Will dash off the review once I've reached the end, although I pretty much already know what I'm going to say already. Anyway, I had a lovely surprise today. An e-mail came from the International Office to let me know that after filling in those Student Barometer surveys for years, it's finally paid off for me in the form of a £50 Amazon voucher! Very pleased by this, as it means I can finally order a whole bunch of books that have been in my basket, but which I've been holding off on purchasing until nearer the end of my stay in the UK, so as to make sure that my allowance lasts until then. Shame that most of the Penned in the Margins books I want aren't in stock on Amazon UK though, so I'm still waiting for a sale to happen on The Book Depository before getting those.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Episode 1399: The Dark Knight Rises

Went to see The Dark Knight Rises with Phil. Let me start off by saying that I think this is an excellent film to cap off the trilogy with, and as we've seen from previous film trilogies, it's not always easy to finish well. I've enjoyed Christopher Nolan's darker take on the Batman franchise, and it's definitely a bleak vision of humanity that is being presented here. I think it's fair to say that superhero films always tend to be some form of moral allegory. If that scene in The Amazing Spider-Man of the cranes swinging into alignment across the city showed human behaviour at its best and noblest, The Dark Knight Rises repeatedly shows us the opposite. When Bane incites the citizens of Gotham to take back their city, now that the police are trapped underground, they react by seizing the rich and privileged. (Personally, I don't concur with critics who read this story arc as Nolan indicting the Occupy Wall Street movement. That's too reductive for a film of such complexity.) I'm oversimplifying things a little, but the fact remains that given the opportunity to behave badly without fear of reprisal, that's exactly what they did. Towards the end, there's a scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character pleads with a fellow cop (hello, Desmond Harrington!) to let a bus-load of orphans cross the bridge out of Gotham, and the other cop simply refuses to budge, going so far as to blow up the bridge. It's a moment that's heartbreakingly ugly in what it says about humanity. On the other hand, all the protagonists are designed to show us that true heroism comes from choosing to stand in the gap, even when no one else will, and I think it's incredibly important that for all his gizmos, Bruce Wayne is still just a human being, not some superpowered guy. (Ditto for Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle, who steals every scene she is in, and Gordon-Levitt's John Blake, who turns out to be Robin.) My only complaints have to do with some plot twists, especially the one involving Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate, which I didn't think were strictly necessary. (This one was actually brilliant, but I felt its inclusion was a sign of the film overplaying its hand, given that the storytelling up to that point had already been densely layered.) Also, some of Christian Bale's dialogue was just awful. I don't come to a superhero film expecting Shakespeare, but there were some real clunkers that Bale had to deliver.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Episode 1398: Introduction Done!

So the introduction's finally done! It's a smidge longer than I'd planned for, but still not as long as I thought it would end up, while working on it in the Library this afternoon. Have sent it off to my supervisor, and here's hoping that he doesn't savage it. I mean, he never does, but if he finds a lot of it problematic at this stage, I'm not sure I'd know how to fix the whole dissertation, without a significant amount of intervention. As it stands, the structure for it is more or less mapped out in my head, right down to how much I can afford to leave out that I know is in some way relevant but not absolutely critical for my main line of argument. Anyway, it's done for the time being, and I'm not going to proceed until I've got some feedback from my supervisor. Might spend the interim period writing some of my EN954 essay instead, or at least doing some of the reading for it. (I've decided that for the dissertation, I'm not actually going to have to read any of the books I borrowed but haven't read yet, at least not cover to cover. I can go back to doing my usual thing of trawling the index to find appropriate quotes.) Of more pressing concern now, however, is this review I've got to write by Monday, as I haven't read a single page of the book in question!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Episode 1397: It's Been A Pretty Good Day...

I know book reviewers are a dime a dozen these days, thanks to the Internet, but I still find it weirdly cool that there are people out there who know my name and that I review books. Anyway, Rum & Reviews Magazine have just published my review of Ryan Frawley's Scar, and Ryan tweeted that I was the first reviewer to pick up on the House Of Leaves connection. Score! I always knew reading that brick of a book would pay off someday. They've also put up a review of Roger Real Drouin's No Other Way, which was a book offered to me in my capacity as editor of Eunoia Review that I then pitched to Craig for reviewing. I got a lovely parcel in the post today as well, David R. Morgan's New Man Newman from Like This Press. It's part of their book-in-a-box series, and I got the wooden collector's edition, which is pretty cool. If I'm not wrong, mine's also the first box of the 30 that have been made! Managed to get a bit more work done before going to the Opaque Nature gig at Kasbah with Takoiya, so I am in fact still on track to finish the introduction by tomorrow (or Sunday at the latest). The gig was great and the band have got an album out too, which you can pick up here. I love how their live performances sound pretty much like what you hear on the album, right down to all the tinkly electronic stuff that Matt does.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Episode 1396: A Bit Of Progress (Is Better Than None)

Managed to get a bit more of the introduction done this afternoon. Just about to reach the end of the literature review, but I've realised there are a couple more critics that I should include, as their comments echo some stuff that I've already put in. I've gone through what I've written so far and converted some of the quotes into paraphrasing, as relying too much on quotation has always been one of my bad habits when it comes to academic writing. Also trying to make the literature review less descriptive and more evaluative, in order to set up my own line of argument about the Merlion and liminality. I think I'm reaching the point where my dissertation writing is going to acquire its own momentum, which is great! Also great is what arrived in the post today: Alvin Pang's When The Barbarians Arrive, which I didn't manage to snag a copy of when he read at Woolfson & Tay (because I had to dash off to catch a coach), and a copy of the issue of The Conium Review that I was Guest Editor for. Not going to lie, it's pretty awesome to see my name on that first page...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Episode 1395: Why Aren't More People Watching The L.A. Complex?

So Season 2 of The L.A. Complex has premiered. As summer programming goes, it's on par with what's being served up by the cable networks, but it was absolutely hammered in the ratings last season, and looks set to suffer the same fate this time around. It's weird because the show airs on The CW (it's actually a Canadian show, on MuchMusic), and would seem a perfect fit for the network's brand. It's like the sunniness of 90210 crossed with the histrionic melodrama of Gossip Girl. It's also more slyly self-aware, which I really like, e.g. the scene in the Season 2 premiere when the most successful character on the show runs into a bunch of Scientologists while he's walking the streets of Los Angeles. The only way to improve that scene would be if the character in question were dogged by rumours that he was gay. (There is a gay storyline on the show, but it's nothing to do with him.) Critics have been quite positive about the show, which is ironic considering that it apparently had the lowest-rated debut ever. Equally perplexing then is The CW's decision to air the second season. Tie-ups between American and Canadian networks are nothing new (see Lost Girl, Saving Hope, etc.), but even by The CW's lower standards, after the non-existence of the first season's ratings, there's no way they should have greenlit this one. Maybe they got it on the (very) cheap?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Episode 1394: Monocle And I Aren't Meant To Be, It Seems

Had a surprisingly productive afternoon. Went to pick up a parcel from the Post Room, which turned out to be the book that the Library has just agreed to order too, so I can return this to Amazon UK. Have also just realised that the e-books for this whole New Writing Viewpoints series are all accessible on the Multilingual Matters website. Handy, as I'm interested to read more of the series (it's all about creative writing), but I'm not ready to fork out so much money. (Speaking of which, someone outbid me for the 32 issues of Monocle at the last minute, probably using autobid software. Ah well. Guess it wasn't meant to be.) Went from the Post Room to the Library, and managed to more than double the word count of my introduction. I'm right in the middle of the literature review now, and I'm going to continue working on it tomorrow or Thursday, with a view to finishing it all up during the weekend. Still trying to figure out how much I can cram into my first chapter, but I'll figure it out. I think the right approach is to focus on the Merlion as an icon of liminality, and allow all the tourism and nation branding stuff to unfold from there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Episode 1393: Onwards (?)

Have finished The Night Eternal and started back on the dissertation writing. Have reworked the second paragraph so that it segues into the literature review, but now I need to figure out how to go about the literature review itself. I was initially thinking of a straightforward chronological overview of major essays about Merlion poems, but then the first one I picked is also the article that ties most obviously into the ideas of liminality and transition that I want to introduce as the framework for my subsequent discussion. Might just have to do something that's a mix of chronological ordering and thematic grouping, since there's a lot written about Thumboo's poem, but it's only within the last decade that criticism has started to emerge that deals with other Merlion poems. I'm trying to steer clear of letting his poem dominate my discussion, even in the introduction, since that's definitely what I don't want to do in my subsequent chapters. If anything, I really want to talk about the poems in the second half of the anthology that nobody's really talked about yet, simply because they're so new, having only appeared for the first time in print in 2009.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Episode 1392: Almost Done With The Strain Trilogy!

Only had to stay up to 2.45 am to finish The Fall, and now I'm on the final book, The Night Eternal. It's the longest book of the trilogy, so I might actually be reading till dawn this time. I really, really want Guillermo del Toro to make a film version of the series. The writing is practically tailor-made for the leap to the silver screen anyway, and given his experience, I think we can agree that del Toro can be trusted not to screw up the film adaptation. I'm determined to finish reading this last book, as I really want to get back to working on my introduction tomorrow, now that I've figured out how to segue from paragraph two to three. (I just need to split the quote that paragraph two leads off with, and that's my segue into the literature review sorted, hopefully. Yeah, it's a really big deal to me to get something like that right.) Once the whole introduction is done, I might switch to working on my EN954 essay. Just two weeks of intense work to get all the reading and writing done. I think the preliminary reading I did last month has actually given me quite a solid idea of how to approach the poems by Gunn and Monette, so I might as well just get the essay over and done with.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Episode 1391: Should I Bid?

So someone in London is auctioning 32 issues of Monocle for £46, and to say that I'm not tempted would be a huge lie. I'll admit that I do think there's something a little pretentious about reading Monocle, but I'm inclined to give myself a free pass on this one. I've wanted to start buying up the back issues of Tyler Brûlé's magazine for some time now, but the cost of doing so is ridiculously prohibitive. Most of the back issues cost £15, except for the very first, which costs £100. (Yeah, I would still totally buy it, if I had a spare hundred pounds lying about. Admitting that makes me feel slightly douchey.) So basically, this would be a really convenient way of buying up a substantial chunk of the magazine's run at a fraction of what it would normally cost. Only thing is that I would have to go to London to pick up the magazines, but I'm assuming the seller's flexible about when this has to happen. There's just over two days left on the eBay bid, so I might sleep on it. On a completely different note, I stayed up till past 4 am, reading The Strain. Absolutely had to finish it, and I've now started on the second book in the trilogy, The Fall. I'm liking the way the story's developing, and I might just have to get through the whole trilogy before I can get back to doing any sort of work again.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Episode 1390: Two Paragraphs!

Met Maria for lunch and then did some work in the Library. By which I mean I took the whole afternoon and evening to write two paragraphs. Hey, it's a start. Probably should have stayed off Facebook and my e-mail, since I spent a good deal of time chatting to people. Anyway, now I need to figure out how to start off the third paragraph, since from this point on, the introduction really needs to move into the literature review, and talking about methodology, before ending with my thesis statement. Going to give it a rest for today and watch Suits! Then read a bit more of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain. It's a real page-turner, I got through about 150 pages in one go last night. This is how the first volume of an apocalyptic vampire trilogy should move. Justin Cronin, take note! Still haven't finished reading The Passage, but I guess there's no rush. Next volume The Twelve isn't coming out till October in hardback, and the final The City Of Mirrors not till 2014! With the film rights already acquired, I guess that means this will be the Harry Potter/Twilight/The Hunger Games of the second half of this decade.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Episode 1389: Actually Had To Buy An Academic Book

So it turns out that someone has written about Reflecting On The Merlion. Eric Tinsay Valles, who has a poem in the anthology, has a chapter in a book called The Creativity Market: Creative Writing In The 21st Century, edited by Dominique Hecq. Most of the chapter is up on Google Books, but there's a crucial four pages missing, right where he talks about the Merlion as icon/muse and when he's analysing some of the later poems about the Merlion. Have ordered the book through the Library, but I've also placed an order on Amazon UK, since we all know who's going to get the book to me sooner. The book would arrive even sooner, but for the fact that my Amazon Prime trial expired yesterday, and I can't get a refund on shipping costs. Yes, obviously I'm returning the book after I've photocopied the chapter. I'm not paying more than £20 for a paperback! Don't really understand why academic titles are always so much more expensive than other books. It's like the publishers don't actually want people to read them! Oh well...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Episode 1388: Minor (Maybe Major?) Breakthrough

First off, Internet 1, Warwick Library 0. There's this book called Hong Kong: Culture And The Politics Of Disappearance that I ordered in February through the Library because my supervisor recommended it. It's now July, and the book has yet to show up, despite there clearly being copies available on Amazon UK for £17. One Google search later, I have a PDF of the book. Have only read the introduction, as the rest of it is very Hong Kong-specific and I've got enough reading to do without getting bogged down in that, but the introduction threw up several points that could be reapplied to the Singaporean context, which is an incredible discovery for me. Together with another article or two, I might just have found a way to elegantly exclude the postcolonial from my dissertation. It was always going to be something that had to be done, if only to defend my argument from the criticism that it failed to consider this obvious paradigm, but I've been struggling to find a way to do it that goes beyond basically saying, 'I hate postcolonialism.' The other thing I've decided, which might be the major breakthrough that finally allows me to work out my introduction, is that rather than liminality coming in only at the conclusion, it really needs to be the concept (or the methodology, which my supervisor keeps telling me I need to articulate more of in my writing) that governs the whole dissertation. So no more of this faffing about in the introduction with trying to explain literary influence or how to reconcile the tourism-versus-nation problem. These concepts still matter, but they don't have to be the presiding idea, and can instead come in as and when a particular chapter needs them. I have a hunch that looking at all my thinking so far on my dissertation in this new light will really free me to start writing, instead of remaining paralysed by the thought of having to justify to myself a framework that would've been a thinly disguised patchwork anyway. This feels cleaner and more focused.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Episode 1387: The Amazing Spider-Man

Saw The Amazing Spider-Man in Leamington in 3D, although I have to say, there were fewer 3D effects than I was expecting. Not a bad thing though. I much prefer a judicious use of this new film technology to something so in-your-face like Avatar was. I also really liked Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Some people are saying that surely it's too soon to have a reboot of the franchise (the original trilogy began in 2002 and wrapped up in 2007), but in a way, it isn't really. It was Sony's decision to do the reboot, after plans to make a Spider-Man 4 with Sam Raimi fell through. Tonally, the film actually really reminded me of MTV's Teen Wolf, in that it had a dramatic central storyline that was peppered with moments of comedy. (I like how the film consistently milks Peter Parker's newfound powers for comedic effect, but it's definitely something that shouldn't happen again in the inevitable sequels.) On a different note, I found it funny how all the bit parts seemed to have been given to people I recognise from TV series. There was Chris Zylka from the (sadly) cancelled The Secret Circle, playing bully Flash Thompson, and then two from Royal Pains - Campbell Scott as Peter's father, Richard, and Jill Flint, as a receptionist at OsCorp. As for my favourite bit of the film, that was in the main chase scene, when a crane operator (whose son had been saved earlier by Spider-Man) got all his buddies to align the cranes across the city, so that the injured Spider-Man would have an easier time swinging his way to OsCorp. It was a moment of altruism that could only have occurred on TV/film, which did kind of make me a little sad inside.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Episode 1386: On A Reviewing Roll!

Continuing my spate of productivity in regard to reviews, I finished off the one for Ryan Frawley's Scar this afternoon. I ended up really liking the book, after going through a brief phase where I just wasn't feeling it. I think reading the final third of it in one burst last night helped to sway me in a positive direction. It really does remind me of House Of Leaves, but I don't mean that it's derivative. Whether deliberate or not, Frawley is clearly interested in playing with similar ideas as Mark Z. Danielewski, at least insofar as one is thinking of the novel-as-text object. Would've preferred a bit more subtlety in the footnotes, as that was the only thing I felt was somewhat weak in Scar. Not that they didn't shade the story in interesting ways, but that they sometimes felt too obvious or overplayed. Still, it's a pretty ambitious debut, and really leaves me wondering if there really is something more adventurous about Canadian fiction publishing, or if I'm just making it up based on my limited sampling pool. Or maybe it's more of an indie/small press (as opposed to Canadian) thing? I think that's more likely. As far as reviewing goes, I'm thinking I might try to complete one more this week of Lander Hawes's Captivity for The Conium Review, as I feel bad that it's been quite a while since Ashley Stokes at Unthank Books asked if I'd like to review it and I said okay.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Episode 1385: Big Day In

It's probably a good thing that my dissertation is now semi-permanently looming at the back of my mind. Seriously, it's become the default thing my mind wanders to. Currently, I'm obsessing about the order in which to put things in the introduction. Should the literature review come before the bit where I explain the theoretical background for my subsequent analyses? Where do I summarise what my chapters are going to cover? Does it even matter as long as all of it makes sense in the end? Yet will having it in a certain order help to make it flow better? These are the (somewhat) ridiculous things I worry about, before I've even written a single word of the introduction. (Not strictly true, since I am filching part of it from the opening of my conference paper.) Otherwise though, I had a good time at the Westwood Big Day In! Saw Andy Murray play Roger Federer, which was fairly enjoyable. I'm not a huge sports fan, but if I had absolutely had to watch a sport, it would almost certainly be tennis. (Still remember streaming the insanely long Isner-Mahut match in 2010, and managing to catch the moment when John Isner finally won it.) The slow-motion replays were hilarious, and occasionally, somewhat random. Hard to avoid wincing though, when they replayed the times that Murray fell, while trying to return Federer's serve. He might not have won, but you can see that he definitely tried, and at 25, he's young enough that there'll be other opportunities to come.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Episode 1384: Research Spring Cleaning

Eliminated another bunch of readings that I've deemed to be not useful. Along the way, I spotted a couple of articles that I realised I'd forgotten about, but which will actually be useful in helping to clarify the theoretical aspects of my dissertation. I may need to rethink the planned order of my chapters, as I think my original approach would have seen me writing a first chapter that would struggle to avoid being just a rehash of the debates regarding tourism versus identity in relation to the Merlion. Now I'm thinking that maybe once I've laid the theoretical groundwork in my introduction, I should launch straight into my analysis of the first half of the anthology, and work the tourism stuff in there, since that's what a couple of the earlier poems take aim at. My middle chapter would then be about the second half of the anthology, but then I'm not sure where that would leave the final chapter. I don't want to move the stuff about the Merlion and liminality out of the conclusion, since I think that's where it belongs, as a representation of an alternative mode of engagement with or way of thinking about the Merlion. Unless instead of focusing only on the tourism aspect in my first chapter, I make the chapter into something about the symbiotic relationship of icons and cities, with tourism being just one facet of that. That's kind of been the one idea that I haven't been able to incorporate properly in all my planning so far, but I think Lindsey's pointing me in the direction of Liverpool's Super Lambanana was actually more useful than I initially realised.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Episode 1383: Cosmopolis

Didn't watch The Five-Year Engagement because I agreed to keep Maria company in the Library for a couple of hours, so I read a few more chapters of Scar. (Review of Praise Of Motherhood is up, by the way! Check it out, Phil's book is great.) I did see Cosmopolis, in which I found Robert Pattinson's performance oddly compelling. I'll freely admit that I'm one of those people who are completely ready to dismiss the acting abilities of anyone associated with the Twilight franchise, but I do feel kind of sorry now for Pattinson, as an actor who has to carry the burden of having once been Edward Cullen. I've never seen him in anything other than the first Twilight film, but I thought he was really good in Cosmopolis. Seems like I'm not alone in thinking that, as however the critics feel about the film as a whole, Pattinson has tended to receive praise for his performance. Personally, I enjoyed the film itself as well, but I concede that David Cronenberg is definitely an acquired taste. It's a beautifully shot film, and the line delivery throughout is wonderfully clinical. It's rare that a book-to-film adaptation makes me want to read the material it was based on, but I'm intrigued by Don DeLillo's novel now. Apparently critics didn't really think much of it when it was published, but considering I review myself, I actually pay scant attention to what the mainstream press says about new books.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Episode 1382: I Blame The Fire Alarm

So after yesterday's spurt of productivity (I did finish that review of Richard Meier's Misadventure after all!), today has been abysmal. I blame fire alarm early in the afternoon, just as I was about to start reading (Ryan Frawley's Scar, as the review for that is long overdue), so the rest of my descended into watching new episodes of Dallas and Bedlam, and then general procrastination. I'm only just trying to sit down and read for a long stretch. The current plan is to make some headway tonight, and then finish the whole book tomorrow, before treating myself to back-to-back films in the Art Centre - The Five-Year Engagement (because I'm intrigued to see Jason Segel in something that isn't How I Met Your Mother) and Cosmopolis (because I'm intrigued to see Robert Pattinson in something that isn't the Twilight franchise [not that I've ever watched any of the films beyond the first one]). Going to aim to get the review done over the weekend, and then I'm definitely switching to academic work for the next week or so. Will probably still have to keep ploughing through my review pile, just to keep up with things.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Episode 1381: Hope For Humanity?

Actual reply I got from a self-professed Christian in an online forum, in response to my suggestion that Matthew 22:36-40 and racist comments don't go well together: 'I don't need to go read the scriptures. I live by them.' No wonder we get accused of hypocrisy. Note to self for future reference: Internet forums are full of people who wouldn't recognise logic even if it were shoved down their throats. Type at your own peril. Coupled with the breaking news that Jonathan Wong, the MOE ex-scholar previously charged for possession of child pornography, is now back before the court for having sex with a minor, it's enough to make anyone lose their faith in humanity. Fortunately, I wasn't just in the Library to agonise over how humanity seems to be on a downward spiral, but to try and get some reviewing done. Was aiming for two, which is still possible, but the one I managed to get in the bag was Phil Jourdan's Praise Of Motherhood. Read that a couple of months ago, but kept putting off getting around to writing the review. Glad I finally did though. Not sure if Phil himself thinks of it that way, but Praise Of Motherhood seems to me to reflect a great generosity of spirit, and if I may be permitted to invoke an Internet cliché, that gives me hope.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Episode 1380: Finally Working...

Watched Primer this afternoon, which Phil recommended to me after we saw A Thousand Kisses Deep last night. It basically did my head in, but in a good way. At least the time travel in Primer doesn't immediately fall apart when I try to think about it. Anyway, today I set out to reread Gunn's The Man With Night Sweats and Monette's Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies For Rog, and I've just finished rereading, so it's time for some Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough. I think I actually need the ice-cream right now, as having read the full sequence of the Monette for the first time, it's left me a little, well, upset. It's the first 10 elegies that are truly brutal, almost suffocating in their intensity of feeling. The remaining two sections of the collection are mellower and easier to cope with, I think. Am rather glad that I decided not to do the EN954 essay for last week's deadline, as having reread the collections one after the other, I have spotted connections between poems that I was completely blind to a couple of weeks ago. It's good because I've been wrestling with how to do a comparison of the two poets' elegies that goes beyond just commenting on the obvious differences in structure. John McCullough helpfully pointed out on my Facebook status something that I really should have made the connection for in my head, which is that while Monette's elegies are addressed to his dead lover, Gunn's tend to be addressed to friends and friendship is something that Gunn greatly cherished. Not sure yet if I can make anything of this, or rather if the point that needs to be made is that despite different targets, their elegies still produce similar effects, or maybe it has to be something more nuanced than that.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Episode 1379: A Thousand Kisses Deep

Having just watched A Thousand Kisses Deep at the Arts Centre, I've decided that in future, it should be mandatory for anyone producing a creative work involving time travel to also write an article explaining how time travel in their work doesn't violate the Novikov self-consistency principle (unless it involves multiple timelines/universes, but that makes things more complicated, not less). I know it's a lot to expect time travel to make sense, but when your film doesn't even make a pretence of doing so and time travel is basically the driving force of your narrative, I'd say that's a big problem. I was happy for the mechanics of a time-travelling lift to remain unexplained. (If the lift metaphor worked for Inception, I've no objections to it in A Thousand Kiss Deep either.) I was even willing to accept a building caretaker who seems to know exactly what is going on, but chooses to speak in cryptic sentences that don't seem to really help Jodie Whittaker's Mia. Where my suspension of disbelief broke down was when in the first few jumps back in time, absolutely no one noticed that Mia was, well, Mia. Apart from one mention by Dougray Scott's Ludwig, and that was more like a 'haven't I met you before' moment than a 'why the hell are there two of you' moment. So not even his delightfully louche trumpet player character could obscure the fact that this film's plot made absolutely no logical sense the moment I started thinking about it.

I suspect there may be some version of an ontological paradox going on in the film, specifically to do with the contents of the box that Mia gets after her mother dies. Since it was the box's mysterious reappearance after she'd binned it that kicked off all the time-travelling in the first place, if the end result is Mia killing Ludwig so that he never gets to remain in her mother's life (and eventually, enter her own), how did all that stuff related to him get into the box in the first place? Unless we're supposed to believe that her mother still manages to go on pining for her lost lover, despite the affair having been ended much earlier now? Plausible, but the film never actually explains anything that's necessary for making sense of its story. I suppose the film's bracketing by lines from Leonard Cohen's 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' was supposed to lend it gravitas and distract from the nonsensical nature of its plot. Well, it didn't work. The description of the film on IMDB reads, 'An unsettling drama that cinematically captures and recreates the psycho-analytic experience.' Uh, right. Psychoanalysis, really? I see how the film works within that framework, especially the lift metaphor. Except the storytelling doesn't seem to be about Mia uncovering and coming to terms with her past, but rather actively trying to change it, which she ultimately succeeds in doing, but only when she gets to the right moment in time. So...not exactly the same message as psychoanalysis anymore, is it? In a nutshell, if you want a love story with time travel that makes slightly more sense and is way more emotionally satisfying, stick with The Time Traveler's Wife.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Episode 1378: Fifty Shades Of Lunacy

So despite its being the literary sensation of 2012 (and I use the term 'literary' extremely loosely), I've managed to avoid laying eyes on the actual text of the monstrosity that is the Fifty Shades trilogy. This has all changed now, since courtesy of this blog post, I've finally had my first encounter with the lunatic prose of Fifty Shades Of Grey. It is basically unreadable, and I'm now more disgusted than ever with Vintage for reissuing the books. (Couldn't they at least have created a new imprint for them, since their phenomenal success clearly indicates that erotic fan fiction is what's going to save the publishing industry? Hey, let's be really unsubtle and just call it Literotica...'or something', to quote the stellar prose of the first book.) I also really hope that this gossip site article is just plucking figures out of the air because if those numbers for what E. L. James is earning are even remotely in the ballpark of accuracy, I might as well just drop out of university now. Academia schmacademia. I'm going to start writing BDSM fan fiction of The Hunger Games and get rich. See you later, suckers!