Wednesday, 24 May 2017

#bookreview: Seeing Red | Lina Meruane

Seeing RedSeeing Red by Lina Meruane
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the veins in Lina's eyes burst, filling her sight with blood, she struggles through months of blindness, wavering between attempting to be independent and being reliant on her partner, Ignacio, and her family.

In Seeing Red, she narrates her experience, filled with asides to Ignacio. It reads like part-diary, part-rambling, an autobiographical novel of a writer's relationship with sight. It's one of those books that need to be read in one sitting--not because it is particularly enthralling, but because the webs that she spins and the tangents she veers into in her narrative are easily lost once you take your eyes off them.

There's a taste of her Hispanic background that rolls off the page in the words used and the way she phrases her thoughts; the story starts in New York but soon steps into Santiago, Chile, where she explores her family dynamics and prods at the differences between her Chilean self and Ignacio's Galician background, ending back in New York where her eyes are operated on by Doctor Lekz, a Russian doctor born in Galicia who forgets Lina's name every time she comes in but remembers the state of her eyes and what's wrong with them.

It took some time for me to get into the story--I started it twice, pushing through past the 25% mark until I reached a point where the narrative emerged strong enough to pull me along its very scattered path.

Note: I received a review copy via Edelweiss.

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

North Star

Sometime in the distant past, you've fixed your North Star; in your heart, your mind, your soul. Every fibre of your being knows who it is--but somehow you've lost sight. Your compass broke. You don't know where true North is anymore.

And you don't know if you should care.

But you do.

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So you run.

You run because nothing is as it should be, nothing is as you thought it would be, nothing is. Everything is ashes. Ashes and smoke. The bitter tang of defeat.

Because one day you woke up, and everything broke.
You made choices. The choices you felt were right. And are right. Maybe.
But your choices rub it in over and over again.
So you push yourself. Get over it.

But you can't.
I can't.

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From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
Deliver me O God

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And you fear you will always be alone.
As you watch everyone moving on.
Building a life you will never see. You know not to hope.

Yet it always comes back to that one question, doesn't it?

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Why am I always alone?

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On your lips; you mouth: further up and further in!
In your heart, you dig in your heels.

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You've forgotten what he looks like, that North Star of yours, for all that you say you pursue him. You forget why you chose him, what resonated when you sealed the deal. So you wander, your restless heart leading you, searching but not finding. Looking but not seeing. Listening but not hearing.

So your compass spins.

Friday, 19 May 2017

#Fridayflash: Dongeng (an excerpt)

... when Sara woke up early one Sunday to find a bird perching at the foot of her bed, she was shocked. She stared mutely at the animal, wondering how it had gotten in. It wasn’t any bird she remembered seeing before; pigeons and crows were what she was used to, not great big birds in bright golden plumage with a flaming horn.

“Hai, Penglipur Lara,” the bird said.

“What the—” She bolted upright. Rubbed her eyes. Stared.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Who—what—”

The bird chuckled. Sara slapped her face lightly, wondering if she was awake.

“You’re awake, Sara,” the bird said. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Garuda. Ah, I see a spark of recognition there. You have heard of me, yes?”

Sara nodded mutely. Why is this happening? She tried to pinch herself.

“I am a legend. Everyone knows of me. Which is why I have been chosen to come and speak to you. Again.”

Sara pulled the blankets up around her body, as if building a wall between the mystical bird and herself. “Again?”

“Well, the Orang Bunian tried—and failed. Thus, again.”

Realisation dawned upon her. “Oh!”

“Right now, I deem that you are not sufficiently awake. If you could wash up and maybe make a cup of your preferred caffeine fix, that would be great.” He started to fly off, then settled down again, staring at her with piercing eyes. “I assure you I am not a dream.”

Garuda flew out of the room without a backward glance leaving Sara staring at the open door. In a daze, she stumbled out of bed and into the shower, where she took an extra-long, extra-hot shower. She left feeling refreshed and comfortable, having quite forgotten about Garuda. She was boiling water to make instant noodles and tea when Garuda re-materalised and perched on one of the dining chairs. Surprised, she threw the hot water at him, screaming.

“What was that for?” Garuda said in annoyance as he flapped frantically out of the way.

She stared at him. “You’re not a dream!”

“I told you that already,” he huffed, settling on a dry chair.

“Okay. Yes. You did. I forgot. Sorry.” She hurried to wipe up the spilt water and then stopped to stare at the bird.

“Go on, you were in the middle of making breakfast.”

Sara opened the packet of Maggi Kari, noting distractedly that her hands were shaking as she poured the flavouring powder into the bowl. She managed to pour hot water into the bowl and into her tea cup without spilling anything. When she was finally settled at the table with food and drink, she took a deep breath, grateful that she hadn’t dropped anything.

She looked expectantly at Garuda. “So…”

“Go ahead,” the bird said politely, cocking his head to one side. “I’ll talk while you eat.”

He waited until Sara had started eating before he cleared his throat. “You read fairy tales, don’t you?”
Sara looked up at him and nodded.

“And you know Tinkerbell’s story.”

“The Barrie version or the Disney version?”

A smile crossed his face. “Ah, most people would not even think to ask that. The Disney version.”

“Well, yes.”

“At that tragic moment when Tinkerbell is dying and Peter is trying to save her, what does he do? He asks all the boys and girls in the world to clap for her. The more that clap, the more that acknowledge her existence, the faster she recovers. It’s the same thing. Your belief and your stories fuel our continued existence.”

Sara swallowed. “The NeverEnding Story.”

“Ah yes, yes, something like that.”

“So, you are being forgotten and you want me to be like him and save your world?”

Garuda’s grin looked almost mischievous. “Yes and no. You see, we’re in this unique position of being part of stories told in a language that is confined to these borders. And as much as we can try to keep ourselves alive in the Kisah Dongeng, hikayat and folklore of these people, we won’t get very far. Once our language dies out, we will die too.”

“Your language? Dying out? Malay is the official language of Malaysia. It’s not going to die out. Not like all the other little dialects and tongues used here. I mean, if you were saying that Iban legends or Dayak legends were dying out, I’d believe you. But Malay? I mean, everyone in this country of 30 million people knows the language.” It was true. She spent eleven years in school learning it. She may not be fluent… but at least she knew it.

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Dongeng is now up for pre-order! Check out the landing page here! :)

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Super lovely cover commissioned from Charis Loke features Sara, Helmi, and Garuda. Check out her site if you want to commission her art.

Monday, 15 May 2017

#Musicmonday: What it should have been



I sing because You are good
And I dance because You are good
And I shout because You are good
You are good to me 
Turn it around 
Open the windows of heaven
Pour out Your spirit
Overflow
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
This is how we overcome:
You have turned my mourning into dancing
You have turned my sorrow into joy
Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart
And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I'm holding on to Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful
Whom shall I fear?

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And so it goes, a full circle.

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As it should have been.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

#bookreview: Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act | Jeff Corey

Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act (Screen Classics)Improvising Out Loud: My Life Teaching Hollywood How to Act by Jeff Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I decide to read something useful. Like Improvising Out Loud, due to my sporadic interest in acting and amateur theatre. Okay, I have a bunch of drama books that I should get round to reading... which I will get round to one day, after I read the bunch of writing books that I should get round to reading...

Anyway, Improvising is Jeff Corey's fascinating (mostly) memoir .

Part I: How to Live, Corey's memoir, is mostly easy reading and accessible to all. Corey's story is captivating as well as relevant, reminiscing about the good old days which segue into the bad old days, and finally into the better new days of film in America. Blacklisted from acting jobs in the 1950s after being offered up as a scapegoat during the HUAC's witch hunt for communists, Corey pressed on, refusing to name names, leave America or his love for acting. Instead, he diverted his energies into teaching acting, gathering luminous students, including James Dean, Kirk Douglas, Jane Fonda, Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson, and Leonard Nimoy. He is frank and open, talking about his experiences as a photographer during World War II, his bitterness at the blacklist and how it changed his life and the lives of countless other hapless actors, the unfairness of the House Un-American Activities Committee, as well as the hope and the excitement of working on stage and in the burgeoning American film industry.

Part II: How to Act rambles on about different acting techniques, styles, theory, and ideologies. Corey offers fascinating thoughts about acting, improvisation, and text which might need some prior knowledge of acting (at least theoretically, if not practically), but is still pretty much accessible to the layman. I'd rather like to re-read this part and chew over some of the thoughts here (I highlighted a bunch of quotes in this section).

The final part, Part 3: Etudes - The Acting Exercises, is the most technical part of the book and is probably only relevant to actors & acting teachers themselves. I have to admit, I skimmed over parts of this.

All in all, I'd recommend this to film & acting students as well as anyone who'd like an insight into acting.

Note: I received a free digital ARC of this book for review via Edelweiss.

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Monday, 8 May 2017

#musicmonday: The More | Downhere



Because I've been on something like a nostalgia trip, playing old compilation CDs of stuff from past free music fridays.