Thursday, November 30, 2006

term's over

Well nearly.
It's week nine and there aren't any formal classes next week. The library's still packed with students - mostly undergrads with papers due.

But to celebrate the end of term, and to say goodbye somewhat as not all of us are taking the same courses next year, the nine of us in the course hit Las Iguanas in the North Laine to celebrate.

With two-for-one drinks all night, thanks to the classmate who amazingly works full-time there as a manager while juggling the course part-time (and who kept the drinks coming), and pretty yummy latin american food, it was a fantastic time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

listening comprehension

I first read of Tally Hall on monoceros' blog, and they were mentioned on some music blogs too. I just adore their version of The Killers' Smile Like You Mean It, maybe even more than the original. Apparently it's from the OC soundtrack. I got it off one of the music blogs although I forget which now.

here's the yousendit if you'd like a listen.

more to read

The Guardian Review has a two parter on writers and their picks for 2006. I can't help it. I love lists.
part one
part two

Philip Pullman recommends Marjane Satrapi's new book Chicken With Plums.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I'm well stocked for the weekend - in books that is.
From the school library, I've got 13 (!) out, most of which are only due back in January, and from the Jubilee (public), another 3, one of which - Persepolis - I've just finished and am so glad I picked up. It's an absolute gem.
It's time to start figuring out where my term papers are headed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

bad news

I'm longing for a satisfying hot cooked breakfast. But no time today have to leave for school in half an hour or so and the cold cereal will have to do for now.

Had the shocking news yesterday that a tutor's husband was in an accident overseas and she had to fly there, cancelling her classes for the rest of term. The co-tutor has stepped in, but his area of expertise is quite different so I'm not entirely sure how that will work out and how he can supervise term papers. I just hope things turn out all right for the tutor and her family.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Where did it all go?

This weekend zipped by. Spending the day out on Saturday did eat up well, a whole day. And by the time I got back, I was a bit too pooped to do any work.

Sunday was a different story, sitting on the beach for about 45 minutes until my hands got too cold. (I feel like I have to make full use of a sunny day) Then a trip to the supermarket, where I bought too many things and had a painful walk back with a heavy bag. And some decent reading put in in the afternoon (although sidetracked by an episode or two of Greys)

And then today, a few hours in the library, followed by a hearty latte at the Gardner - the only decent coffee in school - with my packed lunch. But as I sat there, reading and sipping my coffee, the sun decided to make an appearance and there went the rest of my resolve. I headed back into Brighton and watched the sun set from my window.

Haven't done this for a while, but here's a download. (it's an m4a file)
Richard Julian - On Your Own

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bath and Stonehenge

It's always painful to wake up and leave the house before seven, even if it's for a fun reason. The streets were still dark and it was pretty cold.

But about 1 1/2 hours, there was Stonehenge, fenced off from the main road, with cars zipping by this ancient wonder. It was quiet, little noise from the visitors as everyone listened to the audio tours from large grey devices that reminded me of the mobile phones of years ago.

It is an amazing sight, these ancient stones, in formation, in the middle of these fields.

I am no writer, so I shall (as the audio tour did) use some lines from Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles:

“What monstrous place is this?” said Angel.

“It hums,” said she. “Hearken!”

He listened. The wind, playing upon the edifice, produced a booming tune, like the note of some gigantic one-stringed harp. No other sound came from it, and lifting his hand and advancing a step or two, Clare felt the vertical surface of the structure. It seemed to be of solid stone, without joint or moulding. Carrying his fingers onward he found that what he had come in contact with was a colossal rectangular pillar; by stretching out his left hand he could feel a similar one adjoining. At an indefinite height overhead something made the black sky blacker, which had the semblance of a vast architrave uniting the pillars horizontally. They carefully entered beneath and between; the surfaces echoed their soft rustle; but they seemed to be still out of doors. The place was roofless. Tess drew her breath fearfully, and Angel, perplexed, said —

“What can it be?”

Feeling sideways they encountered another tower-like pillar, square and uncompromising as the first; beyond it another and another. The place was all doors and pillars, some connected above by continuous architraves.

“A very Temple of the Winds,” he said.

The next pillar was isolated; others composed a trilithon; others were prostrate, their flanks forming a causeway wide enough for a carriage and it was soon obvious that they made up a forest of monoliths grouped upon the grassy expanse of the plain. The couple advanced further into this pavilion of the night till they stood in its midst.

“It is Stonehenge!” said Clare.

And after an hour's drive, Bath, where we hit the Roman Baths Museum. And listened to yet another audio tour - but one which also included insights from Bill Bryson which were more interesting.

You don't actually get down to the main baths until much later through the museum. Instead there are various artefacts to look at first.

Then you get to the bottom level, which you've been getting peeks and glimpses at through the windows of the museum above, and then you can truly appreciate the ingenuity of the Romans, and their penchant for a good soak.

A view of the Bath Abbey (where a Roman temple probably had once stood) from the Roman bath.

The plunge pool

And after all that history, the afternoon was free to wander around this beautiful place.

A walk through the Royal Victoria Park

At the entrance of the park, a fairytale cottage

The Royal Crescent

The Pulteney Bridge

And after, a 3 1/2 hour bus ride back to Brighton. It was a long day but a good one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


More soon

Thursday, November 16, 2006

for now, a moment

I returned from several hours in school - digging up some old books from the library (including a lovely 1937 edition of a Rudyard Kipling book) and talking to a couple of my lecturers about term papers - to delight in a respite from the howling wind. No longer is it rattling at my window, trying to force its way in to freeze me from head to toe. No longer are the waves bashing against the pebbled shore. No longer did I have to stagger against the wind when crossing Middle Street to get to the flat.

But not for long I'm sure. The forecast is showers over the rest of the week, although Saturday has the glorious forecast of "Cloudy", a good sign as I'm off to Bath and Stonehenge!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

excess baggage

Britain's environment minister Ben Bradshaw urged shoppers to dump excess packaging at supermarket tills
Mr Bradshaw said it was "unacceptable" that packaging had increased by 12% between 1999 and 2005, and now accounts for one-third of an average household's total waste.

The Guardian takes him up on it

I have noticed that supermarkets like M&S like to wrap stuff up, for example, four apples on a plastic tray and covered with plastic wrap! How ridiculous. But I am indeed guilty of bagging bananas and picking up mini trays of peas. But sometimes there's no choice. I try to make up for it by bringing my own canvas shopping bag instead of lugging two or three plastic bags back. But sometimes I have to make a stop at the store after school and end up with plastic bags.

The situation was really far worse in Singapore where I just never thought abt the numerous bags I used. Everything would be bagged at checkout and popped into the car. Here, where I have to bag it myself and lug it all home, a 10 minute walk away, these things matter more.


I'm done with presentations for this year.

It's always nervewracking presenting, even when the class has only six people and 1 lecturer. I can't concentrate on what my groupmate is saying as I'm going over my bit in my head. I keep thinking, come on, it's only 15 minutes, it's not that bad. And then when it's my turn, I realise I keep saying "sorta" often and hastily try to stop myself. I stumble over words and I find myself repeating things. I look around the room for a supportive nod, to make sure people understand what I'm saying. And then I get to the conclusion and it's over.

I know we're not expected to be able to be profoundly proficient in the topic for the week. After all, I've only had a week to prepare on the caste system, which you could spend your whole lifetime trying to figure out. There's only so much that can be done but I cannot help but want to get a much broader view on things. So I've decided it's my term paper topic. Now to narrow it down to something more specific and figure out a title... (and also to think about what the other term paper should be on)

I'm glad it's over, at least for now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

come again another day

I knew that spell of sunshine wouldn't last forever...I woke up to a gloomy Monday, the streets slick with rain, the waves a surfer's dream.

Sunday lunch

sunday lunch

So it's not your usual English Sunday lunch, which always makes me think of Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, sitting around a heavy dark wooden table in a cosy pub somewhere down the back alleys. And of course, several pints.

Instead, it's a simple spaghetti thrown on top of some roughly chopped crisp salad leaves, tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil and with some prosciutto torn up and placed on top. Serve that with a mug of hot green tea and Edward Said's Orientalism. And finish with a sliced-up large persimmon, which I found at the organic Asian store, Taj.

So this post is for you mum, to let you know that my diet's more than sandwiches and soup!

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Reading for this MA has sorta rekindled my fondness for things ancient. I used to love history and wanted to be an archaeologist. Then somehow, somewhere...well in JC really, that love vanished. I couldn't see any connection between what I was reading, desperately cramming for, and well, myself. We were learning all this stuff about South-east Asian history, and then when it got to second year and it would be all about China, I faltered and dropped it (plus I did really badly overall in first year and was in that group which was "encouraged" by the school to drop a subject). I realise now I should've dropped economics but that's a different story.

But here, now, as I'm reading all this stuff about places I've never been to (Africa and South Asia), it's fascinating. I suppose it's partly cos I'm not a teenager wanting to go against everything anymore. But also partly cos I realise how much it's like a jigsaw puzzle, all this history, all these European representations of the Other. And how it affects so much today. And how myself, as an Other, being here in England, the land of the colonisers, am learning about myself by being here. Yes, you were all right, being here makes me realise that I am Chinese. I still don't really know what being a Singaporean means though. But does anybody?

sushi for dessert

Snack Cake Sushi! and especially check out the chocolate sushi

I think I'll stick to the normal sushi thanks.

What I learnt today

When you have a birthday party for 3-year-olds, musical chairs won't cut it. There's too much confusion (like walking in different directions) and when a kid doesn't get a chair, tears follow.

Question: Why was I at a party for 3-year-olds?
Answer: It was my host's son's birthday.

More questions: Host? What?

The university has a programme for interested international students where they match us up with alumni who live in the area. I was lucky to be picked for this and got matched to a Malaysian lady who lives in the area. She took an MPhil a few years ago and married and settled here. She plays host to me and a Japanese girl. There isn't any hard and fast rules to the programme I believe, it's really up to the host to make plans. So she invited us to her son's party and then lunch at her home in a couple of weeks.

An hour in a room with some 20 young ones jumping in an inflatable castle, running around and yelling was about all I could take. I walked out into the fading light of the afternoon a little dazed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dead ahead

I now know more about cadavers than I ever knew (or wished to know) before.

Stiff is a rather strangely compelling book. If it werent for the millions of other things I had to read for class, I'd probably have finished it earlier.

There are bits about cadavers being used for practising surgery, on human decay, on crash test dummies, on embalming. And the author Mary Roach agonises over what she'll do with her body when it's her time to go.

Roach, a journalist, is both appreciative of her subjects and also quite amused about the cadaver situation.

"The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens and nothing is expected of you."

With such an opening paragraph, how could I not take this book home? It was just demanding to be read instead of languishing on the shelf at the library. So go on, take home a Stiff today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

explosions in the sky

The fireworks show continues, perhaps even more ardently than yesterday.

From the kitchen window, looking south, I watched as the sky sparkled in all directions. A burst of red from one direction, followed by several bursts of bright white there, another shower of green over there, some bright yellow being shot up in another direction. It was hard to count but just from that window, I could guess at some 20 fireworks fanatics having a blast of a time.

My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion

I love Wayne Coyne
Here is a man, a lead singer of a band, who comes out on stage to shoot confetti at the audience before the opening act even comes on.
Here is a man who comes out on stage to check on the setup and er shoots more confetti at the audience while he's at it.
Here's a man who halfway through the show stops to talk about the opening act and praises him for his dering-do.
Here is a man who stops the concert while paramedics help someone who apparently had some kinda reaction (seizure maybe) to the strobe lights.
So yes, I love Wayne Coyne.
I love the Flaming Lips.
I would like to say now that I can die happy having finally seen then in concert, but I'm not satisfied...I was up in the balcony. I need to be in the front, to get shot at with confetti.

Anyway, I must say that I was quite surprised at the rather lackadaisal attitude of the pit. When we got there at about 645, the standing room only was hardly standing room only! There were a few people at the front, firmly chopeing their places but the rest of the people only sauntered in through the opening act.

The opening act: Get Cape Wear Cape Fly (he repeated the name thrice but it was only when Coyne said it that I finally understood) is rather emo but was actually pretty good though, him and his guitar and his drummer and his laptop and a trumpeter.

But as every opening act knows, we were there for the Lips. And the Lips did not disappoint!

There was the inflatable hamster wheel that Wayne gets in and walks on the audience in.
There's the gang of Santa Clauses on the right and the gang of aliens on the left (ok so I was expecting the animal suits). There was the laser show. There was Wayne inflating a massive balloon filled with confetti until it bursts, sprinkling coloured paper on the audience below. There was the nun puppet. There was the whirling over the head of a light bulb thingy. There was however no fake blood.
flaming lips 3
But there were all my favourites:
Race to the Prize
Fight Test
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Do You Realise?
She Don't Use Jelly
and of course, many more, including from their new album like Free Radicals and My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion, and also, the description (and many swearwords) about a thief who had snuck into their dressing room and stole a laptop and cameras.

Friday, November 03, 2006

the gunpowder treason and plot

For the past week, fireworks have been going off around town at night and in the evenings. Its bonfire night on Saturday and the nearby village of Lewes apparently is nationally renowned for its bonfire with six bonfire societies battling it out for top honours - burning of Guy Fawkes and all that. Stores selling fireworks have suddenly sprung up along the route to school and obviously from the noise outside, some people aren't gonna wait for Saturday. Actually the fact that it is on Saturday already shows that it's all about the fireworks cos the Fifth of November is really on Sunday isn't it?

Anyway I'm not gonna be there, because (a) it's gonna be bloody crowded (b) it's gonna be freaking cold (c) I'm gonna be at the Brighton Centre watching the Flaming Lips. What to do?


My flatmate Yukiko cooked a delicious dinner of chirashi sushi and miso soup. And now I'm stuffed and I have to attack India, well not literally, but start on my readings for the class on South Asia next Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Think tank

This masters course is like a full-time job. If I'm not in class or in a seminar or at a talk, I'm in the library or in my room reading for this week, for last week, for next week.
I've got a pile of photocopied chapters for my presentation next week on commodities and consumption, and the lecturer for the other course, who starts teaching the second half of European Representatives of Africa and Asia (she teaches the Asia part, which really should be titled SOUTH Asia), just emailed to say that she's got 15 articles she'd like us to read over the next four weeks. This is besides the reading list she already gave us and which I've not had a decent chance to have a look at yet.
I feel a desperate need for a week's break in between. I need a chance to look over everything I've read and to get a headstart for the rest of the term. I can't believe it's been a month already and a month after this, it's time to write the two 5,000-word essays for the term's two courses.
I knew it wouldn't be easy but I didn't expect it to feel this hectic.
One of my classmates just switched to a part-time version where he does 1 course per term, and over two years instead of one. That sounds more sensible. To be able to read more indepth and not think of that growing pile of notes, books, articles and plenty, plenty of thoughts.
And I haven't a bloody clue what my two essay topics should be on yet.