Growing Fins

Today’s Special (2009, dir: David Kaplan)

by on Sep.23, 2016, under Cinema and Television, Movie Notes, Orphée's Theatrette, sf/f, writing

I watched Today’s Special last night and tonight (in the world of the busy, you watch movies in chunks rather than in one sitting. OMG, I love it so much). It’s super feel-good but still feels so real and relatable. I love the world inhabited by Samir, and love the ensemble cast. I think Naseeruddin Shah totally stole the show, and I’d love to watch more things with him in it. Also featuring the inimitable Madhur Jaffrey as the mother. I love this woman, she’s awesome. Problem. I now want to eat that meal. ALL OF THE FEELGOOD STUFF. Perfect for me to bring the memory of this show while I’m revising that story for my R&R (omg I really really need them to like this and buy this story).

I do have some quibbles though:

— You expect me to believe that a seasoned sous chef, who grew up watching the old cook in his father’s Pakistani restaurant, doesn’t know how to mix his own masala? Heck. Even **I** know how to do that while eyeballing.

— I’m mixed myself so obviously I have nothing against mixed marriages etc. But enough already with the stereotype of “only someone from [the dominant culture] will understand the hero because obvious the desi women must all be stereotypical caricatures of the women your family will arrange for you to marry”. I swear I rolled my eyes more than once.

But having said that, those were small quibbles and there was pretty good onscreen chemistry between the leads. Also, Did I mention yet how mesmerising Naseeruddin Shah was?

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Triumph of the Daisies

by on Sep.22, 2016, under Academia, sf/f, writing

Dreamhost reminded me that the domain I registered for a society that didn’t happen is lapsing soon. Which is how I remembered it’s almost the anniversary of A Certain Thing.

TBH I am so happy to be rid of all that jazz, I tell you. Let other people do that stuff, do the organizing. Good luck to them and God Bless Them!

It’s not for me. Takes too much time and energy. I’d rather be writing. And I am!

8)

 

 

*

Re not teaching Lit — I guess E-Methods (Creative Writing) the way I teach it is plenty literary. Even though genre writing is one option/pathway in this course, my method is anchored in literary strategies. And I’ve become more organic in my writing instruction style because students need that freedom to breathe in order to create. I’m thinking of including more than excerpts this semester. Like, give them full stories to read and critique/discuss. That would be great. Also doing this for my English in Social Sciences class. I read their movie reviews, they did good work. So I think they can handle a short story or two!

All up, I have around (counts) 55 students this semester, not counting 5 PhD students. I’m the main supervisor of one, and another one is coming (we hope!). Publication-wise, not too bad but need to do better.

So I’m busy enough. It’ll be okay. Mildly more optimistic today!

*

Today I: 

  1. Had joint supervision with my co-supervisor with the student I’m main supervisor of.
  2. Wrote and signed a recommendation letter for a previous creative writing student who’s applying for a scholarship.
  3. Attended to various academic/research-related correspondences.
  4. Sent off another PhD student’s chapter back to said student, with edits.
  5. Drove across the valley for my annual road-tax/car insurance policy renewal etc blargh blargh stuff. Also added coverage for my windscreen this time.
  6. Bought clothes 😐 Well, I was going to just get a new top. But I saw this dress! This glorious dress! That has short sleeves that are comfy and fit (so I don’t have to wear a shrug or jacket!)! That has such cheerful daisies as patterns. That has POCKETS! POCKETS! OMG! Guess what I am wearing for my reading on Saturday? 😀
  7. Ate Prawn noodles at a restaurant.
  8. Bought sugar-free chocolate. Damn sedap. 😐
  9. Wrote about 100 words in the novel :}
  10. Rehearsed and practiced for Saturday’s reading. Nobody’s going to care, but I am pretty much doing this because I like reading stuff out loud and hey, why not?! Life’s too short, goodwill bla bla. And since so many things are happening this Saturday, it’ll be a small crowd and the glitterati will be elsewhere. Score! Triumph of the Daisies*!

*Props to Matt Dovey for the meme. I’m just doing my part to making it a thing In Real Life. Well, I won’t be telling people It Is A Thing because It Is A Thing for, you know, the oarsum Codexian peeps.

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When the going gets rough, work on your novel

by on Sep.21, 2016, under Academia, sf/f, writing

I was sick with misery yesterday because I did not work on my novel. I am realising today that I am sick with this feeling of apprehension in relation to work even if I am trying, as always, to put a brave face on things.

So, I’ve written a kitchen scene for the novel, complete with romance and pathos.

Now I feel better and can sleep. Sigh.

Truly, these are difficult times.

121k words now. I think I am going to aim for a sedate 1k words per night as that will cheer me up. Right now, I need to work on this novel like a tree needs sunlight and rain. It is a deep need, a visceral need, a fundamental need.

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Hopping Islands again

by on Sep.21, 2016, under island-hopping

I need to remember to post links here. I already have a links category so I should use it. I don’t use Pocket on my iPad as much because it sucks up space. And I keep forgetting to use Pinterest these days. Bookmarks folder? **laughs and laughs and laughs**

I have also been sharing things on FB and twitter so I’d read them later but honestly, it just goes into the same sinkhole. Things are searchable here. And tagged, and neatly categorised.

 

So let’s start:

  1. This post by Kameron Hurley about that post by Merritt Tierce (Her book sounds absolutely fascinating, do want to read!)
  2. This lady has an interesting cooking channel! (Singaporean Chinese cooking with some Nyonya and Kristang recipes)
  3. Dun. Dun. Dun. “Nasa to Hold Media Call” on account of surprising activity on Europa. Anyone else thinking of 2010: Odyssey Two?
  4. This is a pretty nifty Android smartphone.

 

 

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Thoughts on an incoming (Academic) Change

by on Sep.21, 2016, under Academia

Salary is in, woop woop!

Got to pay my credit cards and put money back into my nest egg account — the thing that was upsetting me the most was having to take that out for my car insurance and road tax. So. I really wanted to do the Malacca road trip but that will have to wait for another month. October’s going to be a time to budget properly. Which means — no swanky restaurants 🙁 🙁 🙁 but I am confident I can find very good food that is not swanky.

Jalan Jalan Cari Makan in Klang Valley only lor.

Looks like I can claim that Saturday I’m working, but cannot take leave on Tuesday anyway, because some other work-related thing is happening. Nevermind. Having an extra day of leave for later in the year is a good thing. I’ll just rest during those two days, clean house, cook.

Right now however, I am in a state of being absolutely sick of my cooking 😛

So, the moment salary came in, off I went to the bank, and then I had to decide where to eat lunch. I am very proud of myself in that I restrained myself and had an RM7.50 set lunch (although with service tax etc it came to RM9-lor). And then I came straight home after the faculty meeting. I want to work on my article some more tonight. With maybe 1k words in the novel.

Sadly however, I have run out of bottled water so I’ll need to go out again later.

Later, because I am still full from the nice lunch at that Chinese Muslim place (this other place does a much better buttered chicken, and there’s more chicken! And it’s cheaper! Sadly, they don’t give my usual “soup kosong” thing. So sad!).

*

The new Dean wins my vote for today because he ended the meeting at 4:15pm. I approve. I’m a bit wary about the restructuring thing in one sense (it’s the kind of thing you need to see in action before you get used to it) but in another, I welcome it because this change might be interesting in the shifting of dynamics — so long as the integrity of research and teaching is sustained and we don’t disappear into busywork for the sake of busywork. I am really worried about us being asked to attach ourselves to colleges. Unlike say, Oxford or Cambridge, our colleges don’t really have the infrastructure to support the kind of intellectual work some of us do. I mean, if you’re an anthropologist or a psychologist etc colleges are GREAT. Literary scholars in English? Notsomuch if you know what I mean. Also, I am leery of what that entails. I’d be thrilled to be attached to an institute though especially if it opens up avenues for research.

As I was remarking to someone earlier — there are some people in academia who love busywork because it makes them look like they’re doing something. Some of us aren’t so into outwardly showing this but we’re doing the real, plodding intellectual and emotional labour our career and vocation requires. We’re the ones staying up late in the night researching (when we’re not writing novels hahaha), we’re the ones discriminating carefully between work that has value for our intellectual pathways and work that does not.

If you know what I mean. *taps nose*

However, I am content in that most of my colleagues are people I actually like and are quite cool. Avoiding the other type however, is a challenge and you know what? I know I shouldn’t flaunt my IQ, but I do have a genius IQ, and the power of discernment that comes with years of observing people both for my craft as a writer and my vocation as an academic/educator. So. I can grapple with these demons. What do I see in this restructuring? Opportunity to improve the quality of my teaching and research. New avenues I can explore. One closed door brings you to many open windows, or something like that.

I’ve never really had a problem drawing students to my classes (when tomfoolery is not happening by certain devious individuals /cough) and I’ve taught high level literature in two countries (by this I include the fact that I’ve coordinated A-Levels literature for two boards and the amount of literary chops and dedication needed to teach that to young people is completely underestimated sometimes. There is no way I could teach even the undergraduates in this uni the full Lamia, Endymion, Hyperion. I did over there. And those students excelled. That’s a sad indictment innit?). And this semester? Creative Writing (which I enjoy and tbh who else has the chops to teach this), and English for Social Sciences. My MA course? Not a single person signed up due to shenanigans that I shall not detail.

No literature courses. For someone who fought for, who lives for, teaching literature. Do you think I’m going to forget this? Honey, no.

I’m not your showy “Dead Poets Society” kind of lecturer — in fact that movie is so full of white male privilege that I can’t really warm up to it. I do like to have rapport with my students, and I joke around with them etc (but I’m very proper about boundaries because I’m not comfortable when those boundaries are trespassed) but I also teach them their Ps and Qs, how to behave like proper human beings who understand proper ways of interacting with others. And you know what? I think the best literature instructors/Professors balance the kind of quiet, plodding gruntwork this discipline needs with the kind of open-ness, rapport and camaraderie young minds need in order to be comfortable enough to grow. You want me to write a teaching philosophy? I could write a fricking book. But I’d rather be writing about literature.

I’ve been teaching Literature since 2004.

I have the kind of depth knowledge in this field that very few have in this country. And I’m not ashamed to flaunt that. Teach Chaucer? In Middle English? Yes. Teach Beowulf? Yes (not in Old English, though). Know the different nuances between different Shakespearean texts AND stage adaptations? Yes. Know all the important in-jokes and secrets? Yes. Read the depth and breadth of new literatures in English? Honey, I have a Postcolonial PhD. Read the main authors and poets in ALL of the periods? Yes. Read the many volumes of the Norton Anthology back to back? More than one, including for the GREs, and TAUGHT it in Australia too. If you knew how hard it is to get a tutoring position in a TOP SCHOOL for English in Australia, you would appreciate how significant my appointment was. People told me it was impossible. LOCALS did not get that tutoring position. I got it. And I got decent evaluation scores and a goodbye present, and students following me like adorable puppies to my PhD thesis hub :3 (I was really so touched by that because I thought that would never happen in another country)

(apart from a handful of malcontents who were determined to show me up because race)

Award nominated for poetry? Oh yes. Multiply published? Yes.

**drops mic**

#nocontextforyou

 

I for one welcome this restructuring with open arms. Let’s see if we can make this situation better.

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Thoughts about Academic Writing

by on Sep.20, 2016, under Academia, travels?

Just by working on an article I last touched two years ago I realise how much I have grown in my academic writing. That’s comforting. I think working as an associate editor and doing countless peer reviews has also helped me identify mistakes and what not to do in a way that I find incredibly beneficial. I have to do a report of every article that gets assigned to me. So I guess this is in a way, learning in the trenches.

In other news — thinking is apparently doing 😛
Whee!

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Aiyoh How Laidat

by on Sep.20, 2016, under travels?

Sudden strong longing urge to be back on the road again. Road trip to Malacca 😀

Not this weekend, obvs since I am going to be terrorizing the local lit people with a saucy reading of two poems and a prose excerpt. I decided to be low key about it this time — takes the pressure off. I’m also bringing a peace-offering of crisps (my salary will be in by then and it will amuse me to bring potato crisps since it seems to be a Readings thing and I’ve been happily munching on crisps the past two times I went).

I like bringing food gifts and it’ll make me feel less awkward. I hope.

And next weekend I’m on duty on Saturday. I could have wriggled out of it but I feel very bad I didn’t go for that other weekend so I want to make up for it. But I am going to be able to claim that Saturday so uh, we’ll see. o:)

I want to go jalan-jalan cari makan around Jonker Street!

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Being a Good Academic Tonight

by on Sep.20, 2016, under Academia, Food Notes, geekery, postcolonial issues, writing

Taking a break from writing fiction today. Not because I want to, but because the end of the year draws close, and I have so many unfinished academic articles, and I need more sole-authored articles out in the wild, so to speak.

I looked through my stable of articles and selected one that’s fairly finished so I’m working on that tonight. Hopefully I can submit it by next week. I’m actually looking forward to diving back into my research tonight. Wasn’t able to get much done today because the guys came to give me my new work computer — and then I had to sign some forms, and I was just too unsettled by all the change (new computer means for two weeks I’ve been working out of my inbox and had to delete all data). I don’t respond that well to change in case people have not noticed. I like things exactly where I put them — aka this is why I live alone hahaha. So anyway I decided to do a spring-clean of my office and the nice javanese cleaner lady was hovering around outside so I asked her if she wanted to vacuum the room (she’s always asking me and I’m always in class or at a meeting or just too frazzled).

Am pretty broke (god two more days till gaji, I want to cry already) but I don’t like her going away empty-handed so I gave her some money for food/drinks and she was very happy, so I was happy. Later my colleague from across the corridor paid me a visit and gave me yummy halal mooncake and we had a nice conversation. I was very happy by that also. Food gifts are always a good thing 😛 Moral of the story, if you give nice javanese ladies money, mooncake will come to you. Or something. No, actually there was no moral, both things made me feel happy.

The new computer is nice. I got the biggest computer monitor I ever had! That was sweet. And the screen resolution was good. Processor works fast. Only snag, I haven’t installed the printer yet. Will do that tomorrow. A bit puzzled why the 8 gig RAM on that dell PC works faster than my 16 gig RAM on this laptop. Probably a processor issue but also I have noticed this machine’s been slowing down. I need to see what needs to be uninstalled and probably need to do a defrag.

Well, I wound up bringing the remainder spaghetti and bakso meatballs to work today. Mostly because I had no time for breakfast. So I also brought a ziploc bag of the ethiopia sidamo coffee grounds so I could make coffee in my coffee press. Damn. That was DAMN GOOD COFFEE. I had it black with stevia powder. So good I made a second round. I think my caffeine resistance is growing which means I can drink more coffee 😛 but it is probably bad for me. But DAMN, that was DAMN GOOD COFFEE. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning so I can have some more coffee.

There’s something so full-bodied and satisfying about the Ethiopia Sidamo coffee. It’s fruity as advertised but there’s also a..I don’t know how to describe it, toffee-like quality (without being sweet) to the smell and the flavour of it. It’s potent yet gentle to the tongue without being bitter. And I think it’s the most umami-ish coffee I’ve ever had.

So yeah. Good stuff.

Since I didn’t bring my remainder Kai Fan  w/ the inche-kabin inspired chicken to work today, I guess I am having it for dinner tonight. It is just too mah fan to bring to work because of the souplah, the chilli-lah. There would definitely be spillage. Whereas here I can just heat up the rice, then the soup, and everything is in a container so I’ll have that while watching Astro. Then get back to the article. I brought back a lot of theory stuff to read. I’m looking forward to it, and hope I can submit after I submit this article, two more others. I did mention I have 8-10 articles in my article stable that I’ve been working on since I finished my PhD, right? Right. Let’s finish this.

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State of the Watermyth: 118k words, and stepping back a bit.

by on Sep.18, 2016, under sf/f, writing

I am at 118, 133 words right now. Slowed down mostly because I realise this leg of revisions is reaching its last quarter! And I need careful planning now to tweak the pacing. More things need to be happening and the exposition needs to be streamlined.

I’m quite happy with my progress thusfar. Would have been nice to hit 120k but I’m not going to add wordcount just for the sake of wordcount. Time to step back from the novel a bit. For a couple of days, at least — not more!

Tomorrow I have four hours of teaching so I’ll take it easy on my brain. Probably return to the novel on Wednesday.

May keep to my promise of only returning to social media after I’ve hit 120k words 😛

I’m into making this more compact and faster-paced so we may not reach 150k words. I may slice off stuff after I am satisfied I have fully fledged chapters. We’re nearly there, and what’s even more exciting, I’ve already started structuring Rosemirror (Book Two!) in my brain.

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Spaghetti and Bakso Meatballs/ Inche Kabin Inspired Fried Chicken

by on Sep.18, 2016, under Food Notes

Wut. Spaghetti using Bakso Meatballs? Delicious. I made it for my lunches this week.

Well, I’ve packed three lunch containers for Monday to Wednesday.

Container 1: Hainanese Chicken Rice with AWESOME Inche Kabin inspired dark fried chicken

Container 2: Asian-ish Spaghetti and Bakso Meatballs

Container 3: Spaghetti and shredded Inche Kabin inspired dark fried chicken (on Tuesday I’ll wilt baby spinach w/ onion and make a nice orange-ginger sauce for it).

Onwards to the recipe!

8-10 Bakso Meatballs
Small can of tomato puree
Massel Beef stock
Olive Oil
Parsley
Oregano
Sea Salt and peper to taste
Pasta water from the spaghetti

Mix together: diced big onion, 3-4 cloves garlic that have been minced, diced carrot, 1 green chilli, a handful of fresh coriander.

Directions:
Heat olive oil, brown meatballs, add the aromatics mixture. When meatballs are browned and the aromatics moist and happy, add the pasta water, stock, tomato puree. Season to taste with other herbs and seasonings. Simmer till done. Serve with spaghetti and fresh coriander.

*

Inche Kabin Inspired Fried Chicken

Cuts of meat with bone are best for this. I got 2 chicken ribs for about RM4.15 earlier and was very happy because I am broke girl. I thought of the amazingly delicious inche kabin I had at Lone Pine and wanted to make a cross between my usual honey-soy blackened fried chicken and the tasty inche kabin. Another day I will make the traditional nyonya recipe. Yum yum.

Marinade:
Minced ginger and garlic, curry powder, salt, pepper, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, worcestershire sauce.

Directions

Mix marinade, add washed and dried chicken pieces. Make sure chicken is fully immersed. Marinade for 1-4 hours or overnight if you damn rajin fellows. Deep-fry till crispy and black on the outside and oh-so-succulent on the inside.

Can be served traditional Inche Kabin style (the Inche Kabin marinade involves assorted aromatics, curry powder and coconut milk), or chopped and placed on top of sliced cucumber and tomato, topped with fresh coriander before drizzled with sesame oil and soy sauce (wot I had today). And then there’s the pasta option which I will make on Tuesday for Wednesday’s lunch.

*

Would you believe it, I have shortcrust pastry in the fridge and granny smiths diced and mixed with demerara sugar and cinnamon powder ready for me to make hand-pies? Yup. I’m afraid of me right now.

ETA: Mini-pies made in muffin tray. I only had enough pastry for 4 mini-pies so I made a weird cornflake-apple crumble in the other two spaces, plus an additional tray!

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