Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Episode 1500: Down To 30...

Number of unwatched episodes is down to 30, so in theory, I could watch them all within one day, provided I did practically nothing else, including sleeping. Problem is, I've also been feeling like I'm about to fall sick all day, and I definitely have a headache right now. Manned up though, and formatted all the submissions I accepted while I was in Hong Kong, so Eunoia Review now has work queued till late March. If the queue gets a few months longer, I might have to switch to publishing thrice daily, maybe even four times. Don't have any issues with that, although if it does get to that point, I do wonder if the journal might be moving too far from its original intention of being something people can dip into daily for a bite-sized (or sometimes rather large) chunk of reading. Maybe it'd be better to temporarily close submissions, purely to trim the publication 'backlog'. I definitely need to spend November clearing my reviews backlog though. Have to do a bit of shuffling in regards to what order I'm going to review stuff in, but November is definitely the month to start catching up. No leisure reading even, not until I've done at least two reviews.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Episode 1499: 36 Episodes (And Counting) To Catch Up On!

That's how many episode of TV I have waiting for me to get through them. Would've been more, except some of the networks aired repeats instead of originals because of Hurricane Sandy. Watched the Total Recall remake on my flight home. It manages to try too hard (heavy-handed political allegory, check; pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo, check) and to not try at all (gratuitously shirtless Colin Farrell, check; Kate Beckinsale in underwear, check). Anyway, I came back from my holiday to my contributor's copy of Unthology No. 3 and a copy of Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword. Really excited to be a part of the Unthology series, which you can pick up here, here, and here. Wish I could be at the launch during the UnLit Festival! Have also been waiting for a long time to get my hands on Danielewski's book, which had previously only been released in English twice, in limited runs of 1000 copies. Like his previous books, this one is gorgeously produced, with a textured orange cover that looks like someone stabbed it loads of times with a pen. Or the tip of a sword.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Episode 1498: Yumcha At Last!

So on our last full day in Hong Kong, we finally went to yumcha at Maxim's Palace in City Hall. (We actually ended up in Maxim's Café by mistake at first. It's part of the same company, but one floor down and serving Western instead.) I'm a big fan of dimsum, but it's not that common to find places in Singapore that serve it pushcarts anymore. I'm sure there must still be places that do, but I reckon it's a concept that's ripe for wider revival. Nostalgia, packaging a tourism experience, etc. (Get on this, someone in STB!) Also, I suspect ordering off a pushcart actually induces people to eat more than they would compared to ordering off a menu. Some sort of psychology thing, yes? On a related note, I hope I haven't put on too much weight over the past few days. I don't think I should have anyway, as I haven't exactly been indulging more than usual. Fingers crossed! Haven't got much reading done either, so there goes my good intentions about trying to make some headway with my reviewing while on holiday. Maybe if I attacked the to-do pile like I did my dissertation, i.e. with erratic meal times, I might get something done and lose some weight in the process.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Episode 1497: Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau today, which basically involved a lot of walking, in footwear that was patently unsuitable. Couldn't be helped though, as I've already got rid of almost all my shoes, meaning that the pair I wore to come to Hong Kong is the closest thing I have to walking shoes at the moment. Anyway, another place ticked off 'the list'. (I don't actually have one, I just imagine that's the sort of thing I'm supposed to say.) Now I know what those TVB shows mean when the characters go to Cheung Chau for a getaway. It's sort of like what East Coast Park or Sentosa are to Singaporeans, I guess, except on a larger scale. Anyway, I'm thinking it's time to buy lots of new stuff, especially if there are any Christmas sales. Shoes, clothes, bag, laptop, the works. All in preparation for entering NIE, of course! The laptop is a definite must, I just haven't decided what I want to get yet. Was leaning towards a MacBook for a while, but to be honest, I only want one because it's cool. Except too many people have MacBooks these days, so it's not actually all that cool anymore. Right? Might just be boring and go with a Dell again, to be honest, but on the other hand, it's kind of tempting to complete my Apple gadget set, just for the heck of it. (If you're reading this, Phil How, yes, my inner hipster wants a MacBook but I'll probably run Windows on it too.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Episode 1496: Stanley

Today, we headed to Stanley, in the Southern District, and had lunch at Saigon at Stanley, a Vietnamese restaurant. Had soft shell crab in this yellow curry, with bits of egg in it. Quite delightful. Stanley's also a really scenic area, so I managed to get some good pictures. Bought an interesting card game in a Stanley Plaza shop, Goods of Desire, which purports to teach players a bit of Cantonese, although it's only actually useful if you're ordering dimsum! Was slightly less impressed by Stanley Market, which didn't really seem all that different from other street markets that I've been to in other countries. On the other hand, I remain appreciative of how easy it is to find free WiFi in Hong Kong. I know Singapore's got Wireless@SG, but it's such a hassle logging onto that, whereas most of the free WiFi networks that I've accessed here have been one-touch login affairs. Still, even the inconvenience of Wireless@SG is superior to the comparative absence of free WiFi in the UK. What's up with that anyway? I'm pretty sure the free Virgin WiFi on the Tube is a relatively recent introduction, right? Have been making some progress with my books, by which I mean I'm reading a few pages of The Salt Book Of Younger Poets each day. It seems I was, as usual, wildly optimistic about doing my reviews.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Episode 1495: Macau

Turns out it was Yong Long I saw yesterday. Saw his pictures on Facebook Anyway, we spent today in Macau. It was a tour, so that saved the hassle of trying to work out how to get about the place. Honestly though, I'm not convinced there's all that much more to Macau than the gambling. Still, there's a certain vulgar beauty to the casinos' opulence, isn't there? Is this where Singapore is headed, now that we have our integrated resorts? Hopefully not! Added some new music to my iPod before I came over to Hong Kong, which is all I've been listening to for the past couple of days. One of the albums is Taylor Swift's Red, apparently her poppiest yet. I've never been a huge fan of hers, but I'd say that's about right as an album assessment. It's your standard radio-friendly stuff, with the occasional country inflection. More interesting are Aiden Grimshaw's Misty Eye and Jamie Woon's Mirrorwriting. Both are clearly pop music records, but musically they feel quite refreshing compared to the sounds that tend to dominate the airwaves these days. Purists of the genres they borrow from will probably disapprove though. I've also been listening to Lawson's Chapman Square, which is a solid radio-ready pop record like Swift's. Boybands definitely seem to be experiencing a resurgence this decade, but even though the four Lawson members are predictably ludicrously photogenic, musically they're actually slightly closer to the jangly guitar pop of Kris Allen, rather than One Direction, or even The Wanted.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Episode 1494: Lantau Island

Spent the day on Lantau Island, mostly at the Ngong Ping 360 tourist attraction. It's a cable car ride from Tung Chung MTR to the Ngong Ping Village, which is a pretty shamelessly touristic place. We were on a sort of package tour that also took us to the fishing village at Tai O, which has been called the Venice of Hong Kong. That was a more interesting place because it doesn't yet seem to have been completely colonised by tourism, although the signs are there. Not a lot to see though, unless you're really fascinated by fishing, I guess? Then it was back to Ngong Ping for a visit to the Po Lin Monastery, where I swear I saw Yong Long walk past me. (Think I saw him again later in Citygates Outlets, on the way back to the hotel.) Anyway, after being out nearly the whole day with my parents, I've realised that we have very different travel philosophies. I like travelling but hate tourism and how it implies that destinations can be packaged and consumed like goods, whereas my parents are quite happy to embrace their status as 'tourists', in the sense that they can be quite wide-eyed, especially when it comes to things like navigating public transport or the streets. It can get a bit trying at times, as you can imagine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Episode 1493: Hong Kong!

Only had the time to watch one movie during the flight to Hong Kong, 38 Témoins. It was okay, but I thought what it had to say about human nature was fairly trite, and I didn't actually care about the central relationship of the film, so it didn't seem that big a deal when it abruptly ended. Anyway, it turns out that the hotel we're staying at is the same hotel we stayed at the last time we were in Hong Kong, about six years ago. Biggest change? There's a WiFi hotspot right outside the hotel now, so as long as I don't mind sitting outside and occasionally breathing in cigarette smoke, my digital life can still go on, more or less. Am trying my best to be patient while travelling alone with my parents, which I've never done before, except the couple of days when they came to the UK for my graduation last year. This time it's a whole week though. We're also not travelling on any fixed itinerary, which has pros and cons, I guess. Will be nice to go to places that I've never been to though, like the outlying islands. Also, it's just struck me how odd it is that Hong Kong-style eateries are actually not as casual affairs in Singapore as they clearly are here. Had dinner in one earlier, and it was like being in one of those roadside scenes that I watch on TVB shows now and then.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Episode 1492: Holiday Packing!

Am bringing some stuff with me to Hong Kong that I need to read for reviewing purposes, but I'm also bringing some leisure reading. Have been trying to decide between Jesse Ball and Alex Preston, but since my Facebook friends have been deliberately unhelpful and none of my Twitter followers replied, I told Shirley on WhatsApp to just pick a name. So Preston it is! Taking both This Bleeding City and The Revelations along, since I expect to get through them pretty quickly, assuming they're page-turning reads like all the blurbs say. Now I'm all packed for my trip to Hong Kong with my parents! Apparently, it should be relatively easy to find free WiFi hotspots in Hong Kong, and there's one company's network that I can supposedly get onto with a 60-day free trial, so I'm hoping that I won't be entirely disconnected from digital civilisation while I'm gone. Have managed to read the chapbook that I've been asked to provide a blurb for, so all I need is to come up with a sentence or two before going to bed. Then I just need to reply to one more submission for The Cadaverine, and I'll be good to go on holiday (except for that list of pending reviews).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Episode 1491: A Tale Of Two Comedies

So Season 3 of Happy Endings has premiered and I'm so glad it's back. For me, it's the best comedy on air after Community, with the added plus that unlike NBC, ABC typically doesn't mess around when it comes to airing new episodes. Happy Endings started off as a bit of an underdog, a mid-season show that looked like it was being burnt off, two episodes at a time. Somehow, someone thought to give it another season, and it settled into its skin as a quirky relationship sitcom that was really more about a close-knit group of friends, the only one to actually survive from 2011's crop, I believe. Honestly though, I doubt the ratings will be spectacular this year, given how most shows have been performing across the board, but who knows? Maybe ABC will lower its expectations enough to renew this for yet another season, even though that still wouldn't give the show enough episodes to be sold into syndication. A syndication deal might not mean much though. Community, which has already been sold into syndication on Comedy Central, despite how it'll fall short of the conventional 88-episode threshold if NBC declines to pick up the back nine for this season, is still being treated like an unwanted stepchild. What I would like to know is whether Comedy Central could actually afford to rescue the show when NBC cancels it. (Let's be realistic, NBC is almost certainly going to kick the show to the kerb after this year, barring a ratings miracle on the scale of what Revolution has been blessed with so far.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Episode 1490: Nikita (Or Proof That Americans Prefer Asinine Reality TV)

Nikita is the best show that it seems almost everyone with a Nielsen box has never heard of, as evidenced by its being the worst premiere for The CW this season, new or returning series. At 0.3, it was below even the Gossip Girl Season 6 premiere, but we might explain that as being due to Nikita airing on Fridays. Still, this is The CW, so they'll almost certainly still air the whole season. It's not like they have anything they can bring out to plug the gap if they yank it anyway, unless they've somehow been secretly working on a second season of The Secret Circle. (Oh, if only that were true!) The CW is a bit of an oddball compared to the Big Four networks, so who knows, they might actually even give the show another season for syndication purposes. Unlikely, but if any show on the network deserves it, it would have to be Nikita. In completely unrelated news, here's a first: I've been asked to provide a blurb for a chapbook. I've had snippets quoted from reviews that I've done in the past, but this is the first time I've been approached in my capacity as an editor. Please understand that this is disproportionately exciting for me at the moment, as not a lot else is going on in my life. You might already have gathered this from how every other post these days seems to be about the TV shows that I'm watching.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Episode 1489: Need To Get Stuff Done Before My Holiday!

Editing a pair of reprints for the site. Way too many semicolons in the sentences! Call me old-fashioned, but the semicolon shouldn't be used like a comma. Need to remember to upload a couple of accepted submissions for The Cadaverine before I go off to Hong Kong for a short holiday. Also sort of hoping to finish a review before the holiday, and maybe one during. At the very least, I want to read at least a couple of the books, to trim the stack down. I had a good run about a week and a half ago, but then the momentum kind of died, partly because I've been reading Issue 4 of Lucky Peach. Yeah, it finally arrived, though this is actually the replacement for my subscription copy that got lost in transit. The McSweeney's customer service people have been really helpful though, in this matter and that massive order of The Believer issues I made a while ago, so props to them! Don't think I'm going to renew my Lucky Peach subscription though, not if I can get the issues through The Book Depository. The additional cost of shipping my subscription to Singapore means I actually get a slightly better deal via The Book Depository.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Episode 1488: Yes, I Did!

Note to self: I won't save that much time by taking the Circle Line if I'm doing it just before midnight. Literally ended up on the last Kranji-bound train, and then on the last feeder bus back to my block, so what I'd intended to be a time-saving measure ended up with me reaching home half an hour later than I would have if I'd just stuck to my usual MRT route. Anyway, I've received official confirmation from the department, so yeah, I have got a Distinction for my MA. Sharing that news on Facebook led to what I think is probably my status with the most Likes ever, so thanks everyone. Congratulations to everyone else on their results as well! Wish I could go back to Warwick for graduation in January, but it doesn't look likely to happen. Now to send the dissertation to Edwin Thumboo, since now that I know at least two other academics don't think it's rubbish, I won't feel too embarrassed about having him read it. I wonder if we'll get the comments sheet back for our last essays/dissertations. I mean, they did end up being the best grades I got all year, so I'd quite like to know what the feedback on them was like. Might e-mail Cheryl again to ask. It's not terribly important, since NIE aside, I won't be returning to academia for half a decade or more. Just interesting for personal reference, I suppose.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Episode 1487: I Think I Got A Distinction?

I think I might've found my new favourite TV show and it's MTV's Underemployed. I freely admit that a huge part of why I can enjoy it carefree is that I am not facing post-graduation unemployment, for which I am immensely grateful. Yet beneath the veneer of reality (unpaid internships, wannabe models/writers trapped in dead-end jobs), Underemployed plays more like a caricature of graduate un(der)employment than the real thing. As it should though, since this is scripted drama (as opposed to the staged 'real' deal on the reality TV that MTV has made its post-music video name on), it can be as outlandish as it wants, and it'll still get a pass from me (and quite a few other people, I should imagine). It's more fun to watch than HBO's Girls, that's for sure! Anyway, I'm supposed to get my MA results at some point today/tomorrow, but I think I've worked out that I got a distinction overall. The marks I need to calculate my average are already up on my.warwick, and barring any drastic changes by the examination board to my first two modules, my average is above 70, which is, you know, nice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Episode 1486: Looper

Went to see Looper with Natalie. Don't see why some people have found it confusing. Admittedly, I did leave the cinema thinking that for a time travel film, it actually took care of its temporal paradoxes quite well. Then I thought about it some more, and realised that the film doesn't seem to obey the Novikov self-consistency principle, which is one of the ways in which such paradoxes can be explained away. Long story short, Young Joe shooting himself would render unexplained why there was ever an Old Joe coming back from the future to try and alter the past in the first place. Then I found this article on The Huffington Post, which not only clarified how the various timelines work in the film, but in the comments thread, someone put forward an interesting suggestion. Although an optimistic interpretation of the ending indicates that Young Joe has succeeded in altering Cid's future, preventing him from becoming the Rainmaker, there's no actual evidence provided within the film for this. Furthermore, if Young Joe foresees how Old Joe killing Sara would drive Cid to grow up into the Rainmaker, i.e. Old Joe is caught up in a self-fulfilling prophecy, this doesn't explain how the Rainmaker came to exist in the original timeline. So there could be some other event that steers Cid onto that path, and in order to obey the Novikov self-consistency principle, it's really Cid that's closing his loop, so to speak, by becoming the Rainmaker who starts sending all the loopers back for execution, due to what he witnessed at the ending of the film. Pretty interesting theory, I think? Anyway, plenty of food for thought, like with all good science fiction films (and science fiction in general).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Episode 1485: Return Of The Walking Dead

So The Walking Dead Season 3 premiered this week, and its ratings mean it's currently the best-rated premiere of this TV season, and we're talking about something that airs on cable. Awesome ratings aside, the show's definitely making use of its budget increase for this season. I swear that in this episode alone, there were more zombies than we've seen in the rest of the show put together, excluding the pilot. Let's just hope they haven't pulled the opposite of what they did in Season 2, when they saved up to be able to binge on effects in the season finale. I worry though. Now that the characters are all sort of safely sequestered in their prison cells (bit of a heavy-handed visual metaphor for the Ricktatorship, wasn't it?), once again the people making the show have an excuse to spend a whole season not showing us zombies on a zombie show. I have to say though, I'm rooting for Lori to die this season. I was on the fence before, but Phil's right, she's annoying. My idea for her exit involves Carl shooting her. Don't you think that'd be a pretty amazing twist? Gruesome and definitely polarising. I can already imagine the outraged articles it would generate...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Episode 1484: ABC's Sunday Slump?

Having watched this week's episode, I've decided that the problem with 666 Park Avenue is that it moves too slowly for network television. On a cable channel, however, it might fare better. Three episodes in, the show hasn't quite struck a balance between all its elements, which doesn't bode well for its survival, even if its ratings weren't so terrible. The temptation-of-the-week storyline doesn't really gel with either the ongoing attempts of Terry O'Quinn's Gavin to ensnare Dave Annable's Henry or the spooky stuff that Rachael Taylor's Jane keeps running up against. Not that those two storylines are really working all that well together anyway, if you ask me, though I'm guessing that Gavin is trying to groom Henry to take over his role of tempter at the Drake, which is an interesting angle but needs to be played up more, assuming that's where the story is going. Revenge, on the other hand, seems to have hit a sophomore slump, at least for me. I mean, the plot's still deliciously twisty and unbelievably ridiculous, but it also feels like nothing that much really happens each week. The show is also showing signs of having problems with juggling its ensemble cast, as some characters are clearly just showing up each week for a few minutes so that the viewers know they still exist, without any actual plot development that's germane to them.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Episode 1483: An Album Ahead Of Its Time?

So after a post on TV stars of yesteryear popping back on our screens, I might as well do a post about some 'old' pop music that I've been playing a lot on my iPod lately. To be exact, it's really just one album, Rachel Stevens's sophomore effort Come And Get It. For me, it's one of those rare albums that I can listen straight through without skipping any of the tracks and honestly tell myself that I find something to enjoy in each one. (Most recently, that's happened with Bright Light Bright Light's Make Me Believe In Hope.) Stevens might be better remembered as one of the members of S Club 7, though in that pop group, she was more eye candy than key vocalist. Her solo tracks tend to rely on production to buoy her lacklustre vocals, but on Come And Get It, this actually pays off. The album didn't do all that well, but music reviewers have tended to consider it an underrated pop gem, and I think they're right. If any track on the album had been done by any of today's pop darlings like Katy Perry or Rihanna (i.e. anyone whose voice actually seemed to possess some sort of personality), it would probably have been a hit. This is not to say that Stevens's singing is terrible or entirely buried beneath Auto-Tune (I'm looking at you, Britney Spears), it's just a bit emotionally flat and lacking in musical or dynamic range. Still, in a way Come And Get It was sort of ahead of its time, since the dominance of producer RedOne's sound had yet to arrive in the guise of Lady Gaga. (Then there was those awful couple of years when Timbaland's beats were all the rage.) That's part of the album's appeal for me though, that it sounds almost like today's overproduced pop, but somehow isn't quite trapped by all that sonic gimmickry yet. It hits that sweet spot between the cheesiness of late nineties/early noughties bubblegum pop and the slickness of today's club-friendly stuff.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Episode 1482: The Comeback Season?

It struck me that this TV season has largely been about comebacks. Not so much in the sense of faded TV stars trying to rekindle their careers, but rather TV executives obviously banking on familiar names from various hit shows of the last decade or so to propel this year's new shows to success. In a way, it's not surprising that actors and actresses from old shows are popping up again now. I mean, they have to work, don't they? What is surprising is the sheer number of shows that seem to be counting on this tactic paying off, which by and large, it actually hasn't. Off the top of my head, considering only those shows that I'm actually watching and excluding stuff that's premiering mid-season: 666 Park Avenue - Robert Buckley (Lipstick Jungle, One Tree Hill), Terry O'Quinn (Lost, Hawaii Five-0), Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty). Animal Practice - Joanna García-Swisher (Privileged, Gossip Girl, Royal Pains). Arrow - Stephen Amell (Hung), Katie Cassidy (Melrose Place, Gossip Girl). Beauty & The Beast - Kristin Kreuk (Smallville). Chicago Fire - Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries), Jesse Spencer (House). Elementary - Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal, Dirty Sexy Money). Last Resort - Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse, Being Human), Autumn Reeser (The O.C.), Scott Speedman (Felicity). Nashville - Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes). Partners - Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), David Krumholtz (Numb3rs), Michael Urie (Ugly Betty). Revolution - Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V). The Mindy Project - Mindy Kaling (The Office). The Mob Doctor - Jordana Spiro (My Boys). Vegas - Jason O'Mara (Terra Nova).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Episode 1481: What A Beastly Show

I don't think anyone goes for their pre-employment medical checkup expecting the doctor to be so interested in the fact that they write poetry. I mean, the guy actually tried to Google me on the spot, but the search engine was blocked on his computer. Honestly though, it's slightly ridiculous that the amount of time he spent chatting to me was about twice as long as the actual physical examination. Was good to catch up with Jared afterwards though. Now I'm watching the pilot for Beauty & The Beast, which is actually pretty awful. Kristin Kreuk is easy on the eyes, but since this is The CW, the Beast of the show, Jay Ryan, just gets given a scar because you know, now you just can't bear to look at his ugly face. Right? (Yeah, I think Hollywood already tried this with Alex Pettyfer in Beastly, and nobody bought it that time either.) Also, what the world obviously needs is yet another show that makes out a guy stalking a girl to be something really romantic. It's possible to use that as a springboard for something more nuanced (The Vampire Diaries), but it's equally possible to just go downhill from there (the whole Twilight franchise). In short, I can't believe The CW axed The Secret Circle for this. The only thing this show has going for it is that as a procedural, it's another step towards further diversifying The CW's offerings. It also premiered solidly ratings-wise, but likely only because it aired opposite the US vice-presidential debate this week, rather than competing dramas in its timeslot.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Episode 1480: People, NBC's Revolution Isn't That Good, Okay?

Dear Nielsen households of America, do you honestly like Revolution that much? It really isn't that good. Having seen four episodes, I'm obviously going to stick with it for the full season, but I'm unimpressed by the way the show has managed to drag out a 'rescue' over four episodes, to the detriment of significant plot developments in other more interesting areas. Like why the power suddenly went out. Hello, that is the basic premise of the whole show, right? So yeah, it's baffling to me that the ratings for Revolution are still holding up. On the pilot side of things, today I've seen NBC's Chicago Fire, I'm watching ABC's Nashville right now, and I'll get to The CW's Arrow later. Of the three, the one I'm really rooting for is Arrow because I've loved Katie Cassidy since she was on the failed Melrose Place reboot in 2009. The CW clearly likes her too, since they gave her an (admittedly somewhat disappointing) arc on Gossip Girl, and now she's the female lead in Arrow. (Then again, The CW has this tendency to recycle actors anyway. Like Kristin Kreuk in Beauty And The Beast, which I bet is going to flop, despite being given The Vampire Diaries as a lead-in. Hope it tanks faster than The Secret Circle, which was actually getting good towards the end.) I thought Chicago Fire was okay, and I'm curious to see what sort of ratings it gets for NBC, although I think they should really have let Jesse Spencer keep his native accent, like on House. As for Nashville, it's been described as Smash-meets-country, but it's actually moving along quite snappily in comparison to that show's pilot. Not a country music fan, so I went into this not expecting to like it, but hey, I'm being pleasantly surprised, Hayden Panettiere's presence notwithstanding. Not impressed by the presence of a politics subplot though. Like that worked out so well on Smash, right?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Episode 1479: Third Review, And I've Barely Dented The Pile

Review of Cryptic Endearments is done and sent off to Andrea. A bit nervous about this one, as I feel like he's got quite high expectations (based on the review of Alan Brownjohn's The Saner Places that I sent him as a sample) and it's also the first poetry review I've done in ages (the last two were of fiction). I also think that there's a lot more to Howie's collection than I've managed to cover in 900+ words, but it's also difficult to articulate what those things are without resorting to extensive and repeated quotation of the poems themselves. It sounds clichéd, but it's really one of those collections that you have to read yourself, in order to get a sense of what it's like. Here's the link to purchase a copy, in case anyone's interested. Ah well, no use worrying about the review now that it's done. Time to move on to the next one! Have done three since I got back from the UK, but I've still barely made a dent in my to-do pile and my editors are beginning to come knocking. I think the next thing on my list is going to be Wes Brown's Shark, and then one of the KFS chapbooks that I've owed Lindsey, and now Claire, since the middle of the year.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Episode 1478: Ageing Teen Dramas

So The CW is finally premiering the rest of its shows. Have seen the first episode of 90210 Season 5 and I'm amazed that this was given the green light for a full season, whereas Gossip Girl only got a half-season order. (I'm already predicting that its timeslot mid-season replacement, The Carrie Diaries, is going to be this TV season's Ringer-style flop.) Don't get me wrong, I think the A.V. Club's D- review of the Gossip Girl Season 6 premiere is basically spot-on, and this is without even having seen the episode (because Gossip Girl has honestly become that predictable). I just figured the flagship show of the network would have been cut some slack and given a full season to send it off, though I suppose it's really The Vampire Diaries that's The CW's crown jewel now. Thought it's going into Season 4 this year, it's managed to avoid (so far) the fundamental pitfall of teen dramas, i.e. failing to properly handle the characters' inevitable growing up. 90210 and Gossip Girl, on the other hand, are perfect case studies of how a teen drama can go completely off the rails.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Episode 1477: The Silent History

Okay, I've changed my mind about Season 2 of Homeland because this week's episode was great! On a side note, for some reason it's taken ages for genuine AVI versions of my shows to become available, which makes it difficult to keep up with what is a very packed viewing schedule. Haven't managed to read Cryptic Endearments again today, so I absolutely have to do it tomorrow, and maybe try to write the review too, which means another bunch of TV shows that I can't watch. Anyway, my discovery of the day has been The Silent History, which is an e-book with a twist. To begin with, it's serialised, so the story is being portioned out in six volumes, each running for a month with some time in between for people to catch up. However, as it's delivered in the form of an app for iPhone or iPad, the creators have taken advantage of the GPS function to add content that is only unlocked when the app is run at specific locations. These ancillary stories add another dimension to the narrative, but are not strictly necessary reading in order to follow the storyline. The creators have already stated that they don't expect anyone to actually be able to unlock all these site-specific stories, but part of the fun is that users can submit their own work for consideration. There's currently no unlockable content in Singapore, so I might actually try my hand at writing something for the app. It's definitely a way of doing e-books that goes beyond just converting text into a digital format, and for readers living near unlockable content, will make for very immersive storytelling. The main narrative itself is already intriguing anyway, about an 'epidemic' of silence that begins affecting children, and the book looks like it'll be tracking fictional firsthand accounts all the way to the early 2040s. At US$8.99 (I paid S$10.98), it's pricier than the average Apple app, but I think it's worth it.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Episode 1476: Merlin's Back!

So the long-awaited Series 5 of Merlin has finally begun! To be honest, I think I might actually prefer watching this to Doctor Who, whose seventh series was the reason why Merlin was bumped till now. Seems like they're going to try to sex the show up a little this series, which makes sense because even though it's still ostensibly a show for the kids that airs before the watershed (in spite of what are pretty much constant homoerotic undertones to the Arthur/Merlin relationship), a good number of the kids who were watching it back in 2008 will have grown up by now to become young adults. On the other hand, Merlin is also one of those shows where there has been negligible character development over four series, besides the whole good-girl-gone-bad thing with Morgana, so any change with Series 5 is at least something happening. Have finished reading Cryptic Endearments, so I'm thinking I'll read it again tomorrow and then write the review on Tuesday. Since it's due on Wednesday, even if I end up procrastinating a little too much tomorrow, I've got the additional day as a buffer, right?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Episode 1475: Finally Getting Back In The Swing Of Things

So I've just finished writing my review of Robert Wexelblatt's Losses, and I've already started reading Howie Good's Cryptic Endearments for my next review. Hadn't realised before I read the acknowledgements that there's work in this latest collection that first appeared in Eunoia Review, so that was a pleasant surprise. I also caught up on all the fiction submissions on my end for The Cadaverine, including scheduling the accepted stories, so I've actually been quite productive for the past couple of days. It's helped that this past week has seen way fewer submissions from the Submission Bombers Facebook group than I was expecting. (Many thanks to everyone who did participate in the 'bombing', by the way!) So I've been able to carry on in my usual 'holiday mode', i.e. watching more TV than is reasonable for one person. (Incidentally, if things like opening credits matter to you, check out Elementary because I think that show's opening credits look pretty cool. It's also a decent CBS procedural, so I'm glad that comparisons to BBC's Sherlock don't seem to be dominating reviews of it now, the way they were before the pilot had even aired.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Episode 1474: Two Political Plays

Finished reading both Tan Tarn How's Fear Of Writing and Alfian Sa'at's Cooling-Off Day. Left me wishing I'd been in town to see them being staged, especially the former, which is meta-theatre about censorship. I imagine it would have felt a bit like when I went to see Tim Crouch's The Author at the Warwick Arts Centre, another play that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, while touching on controversial subjects. I think that plays like these were staged is a sign that the local cultural and political landscape has changed/is changing. If you want to be negative about it, you might label them as token gestures, ways of taming dissenting elements by restricting their potential audience. (Let's all be realistic about how many Singaporeans go to the theatre, okay?) However, both plays draw from a diverse bunch of Singaporean experiences, letting viewpoints that wouldn't necessarily encounter each other 'speak' to one another (even if indirectly through the medium of the play), in a way that seems highly appropriate given our ongoing 'national conversation'. Well, now I know what I'll be buying the next time I'm at BooksActually, assuming that there's stock.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Episode 1473: Temporary ADD?

Although I own all but the most recent title in the Angry Birds franchise, I've never been hooked on the games. These past couple of days though, I've actually been getting into them. I can definitely see why people feel compelled to keep playing. Trying to get three stars on every level drives me crazy too! Am halfway through the next thing that I have to review, although it's taken me far longer to read it than necessary. Much as reading on the iPad is convenient in comparison to reading off the laptop screen, it's just so easy to swipe to some other app and get distracted. Sigh. My attention span has been shot to hell lately, and there's really no reason it should be like that. I mean, you'd think at the very least, I could settle down for around 40 minutes, the length of one of my TV dramas, and get through a fair chunk of what I need to read. Oh well, there's always tomorrow, right? Also need to start driving lessons soon, as my parents are bugging me about it. To be honest, I don't see what's the rush. As it is, our family already has one car but three drivers, so why hurry to add a fourth? (Tangentially, what is this overcrowding on public transport that Singaporeans have been complaining about incessantly? Am I just taking the buses and trains at the wrong time of day?)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Episode 1472: Is The Mindy Project This Year's New Girl?

All the Prnned in the Margins books I ordered from The Book Depository have just arrived, so I've got plenty of new reading material. Given that The CW has finally started premiering its shows though (at last, Hart Of Dixie is back!), I might not have much time for reading outside of my reviewing work. Revolution continues to be surprisingly watchable in spite of the insufferable writing for Tracy Spiridakos's character, as the rest of the cast has actually begun developing into fairly compelling characters. I'm already trying to predict what the plot twists will be, now that the series has just been given a full-season pickup by NBC. The network also gave one to The New Normal, which actually delivered an okay episode this week, i.e. less politics, more humour. The show that I'm truly surprised by, however, is Fox's The Mindy Project. I know two weeks is way too early to call it, but I have a feeling that it could be this year's New Girl, i.e. starts out strong in the 18-49 ratings and declines even as critics increasingly praise it. What I found really funny is how Ed Weeks's Jeremy on this show literally has the same accent as Rowly Dennis's Jeremy on the now-cancelled Jane By Design. I mean, they're both English, but it's like American TV has decided this is now a 'thing', the token Englishman.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Episode 1471: Swimming With Sharks

Let's get my only issue with Swimming With Sharks out of the way first, which is with the unevenness of the American accents across the cast. George Young pretty much nailed it, and Adrian Pang sort of did as well, but Janice Koh tended to sound like just a well-educated Singaporean. The supporting cast was similarly a mixed bag. That aside, however, I enjoyed the production. I'll admit that the first half actually didn't quite 'click' for me, which was a bit weird because I've seen all three leads act together on The Pupil, and they had great chemistry on that. Everything after the intermission worked though, especially the scene where Young's Guy tortures Pang's Buddy. In retrospect, all the pre-intermission stuff that sometimes felt like it was retreading 'boss from hell' clichés made complete sense. It's a play about show business, and show business thrives on its archetypes, right down to the sob story that Buddy busted out towards the end of the torture scene. Like Guy, I'd been a bit of a schmuck, willing to take everything at face value, including buying into the overt betrayals happening onstage, without considering that Buddy was playing us all for a sucker with a long con, right till the final scene's twist, which considering the amount of American TV that I watch, I really should have seen coming. I won't spoil it, since the production is running till the end of this week, but it's a clever one. Not by any means original, of course, but in this context, it's hard to deny that it's fiendishly clever.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Episode 1470: Finally, A New Review Written!

Haven't written a review since more than a month ago, when I started working exclusively on my dissertation. Didn't get around to writing one, even after I finished the dissertation and my essay. Today though, I finally managed one. It's long, long overdue, looking at Jonathan Lee's Joy. Enjoyed the book, although I had a minor quibble with the ending. Now that this review has been sent off, I need to finish reading Robert Wexelblatt's Losses and review that. Can't write the review tomorrow because I'm going to see Swimming With Sharks with Shirley, otherwise I'd aim to do a review a day this whole week. Anyway, the latest round of TV premieres has been a mixed bag for me. I loved the Season 2 premiere of Once Upon A Time, which is finally fully embracing its fairytale side, but I found myself indifferent to the Season 2 premieres of Homeland and Revenge, shows that I was really into in their freshman seasons. I still think the former has really solid acting from Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, so I'll keep watching because of that. I still love the soapiness of the latter, and having invested so much time on the first season, I'll definitely be following this new one, but I just wish some of the bad guys would get their comeuppance. At least Gabriel Mann is still getting great lines this year. Definitely the breakout character on that show. As for 666 Park Avenue, I enjoyed its supernatural aspect, but like most of this year's freshman dramas, it could get really good or really bad after the pilot. Keeping my fingers crossed that it's the former!