Wednesday 26 June 2013

#book review: more local-ish books.

Having read Readings 2, I went on a little local(ish) spree:

Readings From Readings: New Malaysian WritingReadings From Readings: New Malaysian Writing by Sharon Bakar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm rather ambivalent about this book. I'd rate it somewhere between "it's ok" and "I liked it".
There were some outstanding gems, such as Brian Gomez's "a/p", Jade-Yi Lo's "The girl with the ruby red shoes" and Rafil Elyas' "Progress report", and some pretty good pieces, such as Dina Zaman's "How to stay married", Clarissa Tan's "The visit" and Janet Tay's "The airport" but the overall feel of the book was an underwhelming meh.

The second anthology, Readings 2, is a much better read and it was a good thing I picked that one up first. If I had started with this I would most likely have given that one a miss.

View all my reviews

Followed by:

A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder (Inspector Singh Investigates #1)A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder because it was RM8 for a hardback. I'd been wanting to read it for a while, but paying Rm30+ for an author I'd never read before... and have hardly heard off was always a little too off-putting, especially when there were always cheaper books around by more well-known authors. But anyway, so it was cheap so I took the chance. *shrug*.

Chelsea Liew, a Singaporean, has been accused of killing her rich Malaysian husband. In a bid to appear as a caring government, Singapore sends Inspector Singh to Malaysia to help solve the case. It was a quick, breezy read; nothing to puzzle your head over too much; the ending... well. Hm. I don't know, it just wasn't quite that satisfying, which is why this isn't a 5 out of 5.

It has a very local feel to the story, and I enjoyed the Malaysianisms thrown into the story, though at times I felt that she over-explained things. The language is a little too simplistic for my taste, possibly because she also writes children's books, though that's beside the point.

View all my reviews

Next on my (local) to-read list is KL Noir: Red.

Sunday 16 June 2013

#fireplace: Spiritually, a shaking; deeper still, he cuts.

Haggai 2
6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Hebrews 12
26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[ref: Haggai 2:6] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
There is a shaking going on. A shaking we cannot see and sometimes do not feel, but nevertheless shakes us to the core.

Friday morning after the crazy wind and storm, I was driving to work and I had this crazy image of a small group of people praying in a tiny room while the storm raged around them. And it was as if it was saying that this storm - this physical storm that devastated our little island - is just a tiny outflow of the spiritual storm and shaking that is happening around us, right now, right here.

And then I had goosebumps.

Then came the thought, the always present, ever nagging thought, and what are you doing about it?Because that's the question isn't it? That's the really important question.


Josh once described me as an onion, with layers being peeled away to reveal new things beneath. I think those were the words he used, or at least I remember them that way anyway, and you know the thing about onions? As every skin is shed, it makes you cry. It makes you tear up. I don't know if God's tearing up, but I do know that I've been crying a lot. It's probably a mix of hormones and stress and a lot of other factors, but the underlying factor under it all, is the feeling of unworthiness, the feeling of being unwanted, forgotten.

Maybe I'm not sleeping well enough, or maybe this shaking that's going on is shaking me up, but I had this dream, I think last night or so (no, not about the books, which was bizarre enough in its own way). In this dream, everyone else, all the alumni of my previous youth group, were invited to some big celebratory do, like some kind of reunion. And I was not invited. Because in some way, I was never part of them. Not truly, never in the heart.

And at the risk of jumping off track, I'm thinking of Eustace when he was turned into a dragon. And it's the same; the peeling of an onion, and Eustace trying to dig off his dragon skin; sometimes I feel that way, as if I dig at scabs, emotional scabs, and the pain, oh, the satisfying pain, that you revel in, just to make sure you still feel something, that you're something more than a moving statue. And sometimes, more than once, I imagine if I were somewhere else, some person else, and not who I was brought up to be, would I be cutting, would I be drinking myself into a stupor, breaking things, anything to make me feel alive? And I remember Aslan, coming in, and with one deep cut, deeper than anything else, breaking through the dragon and making Eustace human again.


And so this shaking.

It's a sense of something moving, something happening, something poised to erupt.

It's as if, with our cultivated elegance, we've lost touch with the primal in us, the thing that makes you wail, undone, in the presence of something bigger than yourself. And so we fail in worship, because we are too careful. We're careful we're in the right key, we sing the right words, we play the right notes, we look the right way, we do the right things. And we ignore the deeper urge that is trying to pull us deeper and deeper and deeper in, instead allowing ourselves to be wound up in considerations of whether the band is too loud, or the drums are too noisy.

I am a  tightly wound coil, almost springing, but not yet, not quite yet; waiting.

So God shakes us.

Monday 10 June 2013

The books, they frighten me.

In my nightmare, I had this huge treehouse full of books that I picked up cheap over many years, over many sales, which I hadn't yet read. That was the good part. 
But my treehouse was in this zone gazetted for construction or something and I don't know why but I forgot to move the books. And then the machines and stuff came. 
So somehow the contractor says okay we'll keep this off somewhere on the site until you can move it. But then when the destroy the treehouse all thd books are in a jumble, but they're still ok. Just messy. In a huge pile while I need to figure out how many lorries I need. (Or at least how many rounds to make in my car)


And I lost half of them. 
Then I woke up. 

I think my psyche is telling me something.

Monday 3 June 2013

Broken bridges - a must-watch Malaysian musical

Broken Bridges is the story of a boy who couldn't wait to leave his small town home of Ipoh, and how he broke his father's heart in the process. It is the story of a boy, grown up, coming back to change his home town, and breaking his father's heart again.

Broken Bridges is the story of the rift between father and son and how they try to make amends giving in, or apologising. It is the story of the generation gap that was and that is, where parents do not understand their children and try to make them copies of themselves, and where children do not understand their parents and do not bother to try.

Broken Bridges is the story of a decision between maintaining tradition and culture and venturing out into something new. It is the story of expectations made and dashed, traditions clung to and discarded, promises given and broken.

Broken Bridges is a story of love. Love of the new, love of the old, love of a town, love of a lifestyle, love of a woman, love of a child.

Broken Bridges is a story of many things. But no physical bridges were broken in its making.

I thought it was a good musical, deserving of the many Boh Cameronian Arts Awards it garnered. It tells a strong story, one that resonates with the local crowd. And boy, was it a responsive crowd at the Sunday matinee. The first act was well-paced. I hardly realised that almost an hour had passed when suddenly it was the end of the act. The second act felt a little bit rushed though, as if there was too much material to be covered (and there was).

The overall casting was excellent. This is the first time I've seen Jon Chew act (after being told to catch his shows, but never managing to) and I thought he was a good fit. Ho Soon Yoon was perfect as Leong, though I think he overplayed the simplicity just a little in the first scene so for a moment I wondered if he was supposed to be a bit retarded. I was a little concerned at first about how Colin Kirton could pull off a "quintessential Chinese towkay" because I remember how strong his accent can be, but he was excellent as Wong. I initially thought Anrie Too was a little old to play Mei Ling, especially when they started describing her as a school girl years younger than Ming, but after watching the musical, it was obvious why they had to make that choice. A younger girl or less mature actress would have difficulty with that role. The only complaints I had casting wise was that Ringo wasn't quite splashy enough for his song. Nick Dorian wasn't from the original cast though, so maybe that was why it didn't quite fit. He was pretty okay, but not really outstanding enough, making the song just a little draggy. (Not quite sure why they changed KL in the original to Singapore in this run. What, KL not good enough for you, issit?)

What didn't work for me was placing the Teacher (Theresa Leahy) as part of the "aunties" group. It was a little awkward that in the scene where the boys visit the pub, and the aunties come in, that they addressed her as "Teacher" (what teacher would dare be seen at the pub in those days?). As it was, I thought her role a little pointless, especially since she didn't really have any role-specific lines and her accent was too different from the rest of the cast & ensemble.

Choreography wasn't quite tight enough in the opening scene (nerves, maybe) but that's the most I have to say about that. Singing/talking complaint is the usual Malaysian diction problem but this was much clearer than most.

Story wise, I would have liked the love story between Ming and Mei Ling to have unfolded a little slower, rather than just a discussion about a book and a song and then oh they kiss but then again, there wouldn't have been enough time for that. (It would also have been interesting if  Siew Yee were still around and had a jealous fit. Hah!) And it would have been a much better closure if at the end, Ming didn't hear the story from the waitress, but from his friend Leong instead. I mean, what waitress would bother to go and learn the history of the place she's working at in such detail?

So overall, good show. Go catch it if you can.
[Much better than Malaysian Girls :P ]

Broken Bridges runs at Penangpac until 8 June. 

Sunday 2 June 2013

Thank you

Today, I am thankful for friends, new and old and in-between, for the time to spend to talk and dream, to encourage and to spur.

Today, I am thankful for dreams that align, for visions that encompass more than just us, for the hearts that beat as one.

Today, I am thankful for a God bigger than what we comprehend, who somehow draws us together, and knits us close, in many random and beautiful ways.

Today, I am thankful for the space you've given me to continue to be me, even whilst pressing me to be better than what I already am.

Today, I am thankful for you.

Saturday 1 June 2013

#fridayflash: Derailed, Episode 2

Episode 1

They sell you a dream, telling you that you can have it all, now. Your child, your career, your jet-setting lifestyle, with perks. Everything you wanted in life is at your fingertips. All you have to do is pay a one-time membership fee, get your materials and start selling dreams. Forget about your dead-weight husband (pause); I'm sorry for your loss. 

I bought into it, alone as I was with Sean. What else could I do? I couldn't find a desk job with a babe suckling at my breast. Maybe I could have, but it would have been awkward. Besides, I was about two semesters away from a degree that I didn't think I would finish in the next three or four years, unless I was time-barred and then - I didn't want to think about it.

It worked fine for a while. I made some money; not much, but enough to get by. Enough even, to put a little in the bank. But then one day, I wake up and I can't find the energy to meet one more prospect, close one more deal, smile.  And I stared up at the ceiling with this one thought in mind - this isn't even my dream.

And that's the difficult part, you know? Selling something you've stopped believing in. I'm not even sure I ever believed in it, really. It was just something to get me by. But getting by isn't enough in the long term. To really run with something you needed that spark, that passion, that vibe.