Monday, 30 May 2016

Friday, 27 May 2016

#fridayflash: Death, Thou Shalt Die (Fleshing Susie Monahan #4)



I read this book once - I do read, you know, when I have time - about Death. It was my sister's book. Reaper, I think it was called. Reaper Man? Something like that. About how Death became... human? Not exactly human, I guess, at least, he was given a timer and told his time would run out and the new Death would come for him. So he set out to discover what it felt like to be alive. I don't remember much of what it said anymore - it was really long ago, back when I was still in school - but Death kind of (I think) falls in love with the woman he was staying with. And he discovered that he didn't want to die, being on the other end of the scythe.

We talked last night. Early this morning, rather. She was awake. Worried. Afraid. I... I took my chance, though Jace might hate me for it. Kelekian... Kelekian might understand. He's a little more... well, he knows better when to give up. When to be human, or at least, "nice". Through experience. I wonder if he was once like Jace. Probably. I don't know. Anyway. I gave her her choices, bulldozing my way through like I had a right to, but... she's good at reading people, you know? At least, she's good at reading me.

At any rate, I'm glad I did.
For better or worse.

---

So. Tickets are for sale. Did I not tell you yet? I think I did.
Come watch meeeee :D
Call penangpac or get it off ticketpro.


---

Also, Charity Event. So all money goes to Penang Hospice Society.


And none to me.

Buy a book. Support your local artist :P

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

#bookreview: Tesla Gate by John D. Mimms

The Tesla GateThe Tesla Gate by John D. Mimms
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If I had known what this story really was about, I would never have downloaded it for review from Edelweiss.

Some baffling science stuff happens at the beginning of the book - never really explained because protagonist Thomas Pendleton is all broken up about the death of his wife and son [also, there are better ways to start off a book than with a dream sequence, even if it was an "aware" dream sequence, and then going back and forth and being all cagey and strange before telling people, okay they died] - which makes ghosts (or spirits) visible. Okay, the making spirits visible part was evident in the book description, at least, but at any rate, I was expecting a father-son road trip with sci-fi elements of maybe alien-type, strange new tech and happenings encounters, instead of...

Man trying to adjust to living with dead son, going on a very long road trip, skirmishes with notable dead people including Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln, being chased by the military and finally finding a way of killing himself without being a suicide in order to walk into the Tesla Gate (oh look, the title suddenly makes an appearance!) together with his son so they will never be alone again.


I also possibly did not like it because I hated the writing style. I am not a huge fan of first-person narratives, though I have made exceptions. This is not one of them.
Meh.

1.2 stars with the additional 0.2 stars because I actually felt invested enough to finish the book, and maybe that little semi-twist near the end with Patrick was slightly gut-wrenching, but most likely because I got a free copy for review purposes so I needed to finish it anyway. I was thinking of pushing it to a two, but nah.

View all my reviews

Monday, 23 May 2016

#musicmonday: You make me brave | Amanda Cook



Because I would totally do a worship set segue from:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour


directly into:

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made

---

I tie myself up in conundrums. 
If you are somewhere out on the waves and pray for faith, does that mean you get stuck further out on the waves for longer? Or does that mean a ship comes to take you home to shore?
Or does that mean the waves become home?

Do you find certainty in uncertainty?
Or do you find assurance in the midst of uncertainty?

Maybe I shouldn't pray for faith.
Maybe I should pray for results. 
Maybe it's time to pray for tides to turn. 
Because I'm already out here anyway. The faith part is pretty much a done deal. It's holding on until something changes.

Friday, 20 May 2016

#fridayflash: On John Donne (Fleshing Susie Monahan #3)

Thou hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
So I looked up John Donne. It’s all Vivian and Jace talk about. It’s dark. Darker than I thought poetry could be. I mean, you always think of these dreamy, floaty stuff when you talk about poems, don’t you? But John Donne talks about death. Death and God.
I run to death, and Death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday.
When you think about it, that’s true, isn’t it? Death meets us all. I don’t run to it, but I can’t run away either. It’s coming quick for Vivian. A frightening thought. I don’t think Jace thinks of it at all. Sometimes it’s like he thinks he’s as immortal as those cancer cells of his.
I dare not move my dim eyes any way;
Despair behind, and Death before doth cast
Such terror, and my feeble flesh doth waste
By sin in it, which it towards hell doth weigh.
Jace calls it Salvation Anxiety and treats it as an eternal puzzle to solve without any resolution. Vivian liked it enough to give him an A minus, so I suppose they think alike in some ways. I don’t know. He calls it that “meaning of life garbage” but it isn’t that. There has to be meaning, doesn’t there? I mean, I don’t know if my sin weighs my flesh towards hell (if I’m even understanding this right), but…
Death doesn’t terrify me. It’s just another rite of life. But the road to it can be terrifying, especially with cancer. Which, I suppose, is why I’m here. Why I do what I do.
Only Thou art above, and when towards Thee
By Thy leave I can look, I rise again;
I don’t know why Donne needs God’s permission to look at Him. Doesn’t He call us all to seek His face anyway? Maybe it means something that I don’t get. Maybe it’s something you’ll only understand if you study more of his poems.
But our old subtle foe so tempteth me,
That not one hour myself I can sustain.
And maybe that’s why Jace thinks I’m stupid. I mean, he’s never said it directly, but sometimes… Subtle foe? I’m guessing he means the devil. I admit, I’m not the best at reading this sort of stuff. Like I said, I never took literature. Poetry is hard. Which is why Vivian studied it, I guess. But at least I treat people like people, not like… research.
Thy grace may wing me to prevent his art
And thou like adamant draw mine iron heart.
I had to look up ‘adamant’. I thought I knew what it meant, but it didn’t make sense. Even then, there were so many meanings, that I’m guessing the one he wants is the one meaning “magnet”. Because that makes sense, to me at least. God being a magnet, drawing my heart to him.

Oh, I don’t know.

---

John Donne's Holy Sonnet I, quoted from http://www.bartleby.com/357/91.html

---




Wednesday, 18 May 2016

#bookreview: Queer Virtue by Elizabeth Edman

This... will be an interesting book review.
I picked this up from Edelweiss for review because... well, because it looked interesting. Then I kind of forgot about it until it came up in my queue. And then, I was all, now, what did I get myself into?

Well, at any rate, here are my thoughts. For better or worse.

Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize ChristianityQueer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity by Elizabeth M. Edman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an inherently difficult book to review. Whatever I say, for or against, will probably upset someone in either camp. And I use"camp" instead of a mere divide, because this is an intensely polarising issue with people who would want to build trenches and throw bombs and sing fighting songs and the like. Whatever I rate it will also be a problem, so that remains squarely in the middle, a 2.5, because there are many things she says that I agree with, but there are also many vague areas - either due to my lack of ability to understand, or her lack of clarity in writing - which shall remain question marks.

So, on to the content.

As a professing lesbian and ordained Episcopal priest, Edman comes from the viewpoint that being queer is simply who she is. She argues that the binaries that we adhere to (male/female; right/wrong; good/bad) are overly simplistic, especially when defined in relation to current cultural norms, i.e. you're Christian, therefore you're good. You're not Christian, therefore you're bad. You're LGBT, therefore you're bad. You're heterosexual, therefore normal, therefore good. You're white - good; you're not, no good, and so on.
Throughout the book, she posits that being Christian is to be "queer" - which makes it terribly easy to dismiss the book offhand and declare her a heretic, unless you understand how she understands the term, which is:
something that has at its centre an impulse to disrupt any and all efforts to reduce into simplistic dualisms our experience of life, of God.
This spoke to me because at the core of my experience, my Christianity, is the need to continually break the barriers of the sacred and secular divide, being able to live a life that is whole, no matter who is watching or what I'm doing. She also quotes, early on, Paul's passage on neither male/female, Jew/Greek, slave/free - mainly to say that these are false, temporary binaries, both then and now.

If you expect her to continue quoting scripture to explain why it's Biblically justified to be LGBT+ (or queer, the umbrella term she uses), you'll be sorely disappointed. Instead, she uses her life and her experience, the reality of her lived life as a Christian and as a lesbian, to point and say that this is who I am, this is my identity, and God loves me. Which is true. You cannot deny that.

She also redefines "Pride," acknowledging the traditional Christian definition of pride as a destructive sin, an excessive self-esteem and self-sufficiency, but using instead the queer definition, which is about "healthy relationship with Self, Other... and transcendent reality," and involves "a reciprocal dynamic in which one's sense of self-worth feeds and is fed by relationships with others." In many ways, what Edman does in this book is translate basic Biblical theology and knowledge into queer terms, most of which are usually misunderstood because we are not part of that community, drawing parallels between progressive Christianity and queer community experiences.

Edman doesn't go into specifics of how a queer should live as a Christian - frustratingly and admirably - because, in the end, Christianity is a path - a pilgrimage, if you will - into the arms of God. Urging her to do so would feel rather voyeuristic, and falls into the trap of defining people only via their sexual expression. It comes back to that problematic system we have made of grading sins, as if one were worse than the other. The reader can guess, though - her casual references to sex and partners, her celebration of casual grinding, her final story of breaking up a community due to her own failure and affair - that she is much more on the liberal end of things; I am much more conservative in these matters so I would disagree on this point. And yet, as I said, she does not give any firm answer on these questions (pressing questions to the heterosexual, I suppose, rather than to the queer community) so I cannot catch her out in any explicit fallacy or heresy, if I were so inclined.

But I am not.

I am no stranger to self-hatred, and if the gradual opening of the Church to accept queers into their communities to tell them that they are loved is a help, I am all for that. In Chapter 5 - Scandal, Edman says this:
Pointing to that cross wasn't an accident, or an odd literary choice. [Paul] was telling his audiences, the people in his churches, that it was impossible to ignore the cross - and very specifically the scandal of the cross - and fully understand what Jesus was up to.
Again and again, she comes back to that central point that most of us have forgotten, in our comfortable Christianity and our simplistic, dualistic view of the world: the cross itself, in its day, was a scandal, not a pretty bling-bling or badge of honourable membership. This draws me back to what Craig Greenfield says in Subversive Jesus: An Adventure in Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness in a Broken World, that:
Jesus Himself was a friend of the broken... not just an occasional visitor.
Whether queerness is something you're born with, whether it is a genetic aberration, a mental disorder, or just a quirk of nature - we don't know. I don't know if we'll ever know. It's not our place to judge. Throughout this book, Edman is calling us - Christians - to remember the scandal of the cross and the Jesus of the Bible who ate with the sinners and who did not throw the first stone. She opens up a doorway, a bridge, into understanding the lives of the people we've branded as queer, as abnormal, showing us that they are just like us. Human. Fallible. Broken. Desperately wanting love. She ends by inviting authenticity and hospitality, asking us once again to ponder what it truly means to do justice.

Our mission in life is not to maintain the status quo. It's not to protect the sanctity of Us the Church from the evil of Them the Other. It's to stand in the gap for those on the outside and to help them reach sanctuary. It's
From a list of laws
seeing all our flaws
To the blind, the lame,
we are all the same
Our High Priest has come
to make us all as one in Him
- 6 - Inside His Presence; Question Mark; Neal Morse
You may ultimately disagree with her stance. I don't know. I think that I do not want to definitively decide one way or another because I would rather have someone come to God because of the existence of this community - the ability to find like-minded people who will fight the fight of faith with him/her/hir - than to turn them away "until they repent". Because if God had done that to us, none of us would be saved.

I'll just leave you with this last quote:
Be the priest, who simply by standing in a place of vulnerability, invites someone else to enter the sacred.

View all my reviews

Monday, 16 May 2016

#musicmonday: Jealous Kind | Jars of Clay

So this came up on my playlist.



I built another temple to a stranger
I gave away my heart to the rushing wind
I set my course to run right into danger
Sought the company of fools instead of friends

You know I've been unfaithful
Lovers in lines
While you're turning over tables with the rage of a jealous kind
I chose the gallows to the aisle
Thought that love would never find
Hanging ropes will never keep you
And your love of a jealous kind
Love of a jealous kind

Trying to jump away from rock that keeps on spreading
For solace in the shift of the sinking sand
I'd rather feel the pain all too familiar
Than to be broken by a lover I don't understand
'Cause I don't understand

One hundred other lovers, more, one hundred other altars
If I should slow my pace and finally subject me to grace
And love that shames the wise, betrays the heart's deceit and lies
And breaks the back of foolish pride

---

I haven't thought about this for a long time.

But God's love is jealous.

It wants you. ALL of you.

Not the 50% you're willing to give, or the 80% you think you could maybe afford.

But all of it.

And we don't understand that.

Because we always need to keep something back for ourselves.

Friday, 13 May 2016

#fridayflash: Oh, Jace (Fleshing Susie Monahan #2)

I trusted you once. Looked up to you. You were so smart, so good-looking. Focused. I could see that you would go far. I listened to your dreams, the things that you wanted to achieve, the illnesses you would cure. When you spoke, I soared with you. You do that, you know.

And then she came and all she was to you was research. Nothing more.
Not a person. Not a soul.
Just research. Data.
Even when she was breaking down, even when her body failed her and all we could do was give her comfort – you didn’t care, did you? All you cared for was what she gave you. Those precious numbers on your graphs, the symptoms, the problem areas, the side effects. She was all that, but not a person. Not to you.

But you can’t live on dreams, can you? I can’t. Maybe you can. I don’t know. I think you’ve kind of lost the forest for the trees.
I get that maybe you don’t believe in God… in that "meaning of life garbage". I get that you don't have salvation anxiety, for all that she taught you about it.
You don’t have to.


But I wish you’d listen to your heart for once. 

If you still have one.

---


Thursday, 12 May 2016

The #atozchallenge reflection post

Eh, I thought of not doing this, but oh well.

Posting was not a problem this year because I pre-wrote everything by mid-March. During the month of April, I even revised everything to be included in a booklet to be released later this month (still working on formatting and proofing).

I started off well with visiting and commenting and all, but mid-month, practices for W;T started, and work on the ArtsEd archives kicked off and there was the ChargeUp Conference and then I went off on my vacation to England... so yeah. I pretty much failed on the visiting part, though I'll try to get on to it soon. (sigh)

So goal 1 achieved, goal 2.... failed. I somewhat survived the a to z challenge!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

#bookreview: The Feminist Edition

I was supposed to post my review of Mosaics on release day last week (May 1), but couldn't finish it before I flew off for my holiday.

So instead, I'll give you two reviews for one today!

First up is Mosaics 2, an anthology of brilliant women writing, followed by Women's Work, a hauntingly beautiful tale.

Mosaics 2: A Collection of Independent WomenMosaics 2: A Collection of Independent Women by Nina Perez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like Mosaics: A Collection of Independent Women, Mosaics 2 is a collection of stories, poetry, art and essays that talk about the vast undefinable experience of being a woman.

Painted Truths and Prayer Beads (Nillu Nasser Stelter) is the grudging meeting between local whites and their immigrant neighbours; explosive, angry, loving, understanding. Starting Over (Zen DiPietro) takes you to the stars in another story of immigration, another story of people seeking refuge from war and the devastation that it leaves in its wake. Sunshower (Kim Wells) takes you to the end of the world, where knowledge in a woman is deemed as witchcraft, haunting enough, until you reach Like Father (Audrey T. Carroll), the dark story of Andrea's meeting with the local rich hermit. Which is also why you don't follow strange men home, especially when there are really bad stories about him. This turns hauntingly beautiful (and sweet) in Durnushka (Nikki Richard). Forever an Other (Joan Brown) stirs up your blood for Mamie and Naomi and the way they're always outcasts for the colour of their eyes and skin. Rounding it all up is The Lion and the Dragonslayer (Jennifer R. Donohue), which puts a satisfied smile on your face, or at least mine.

There's much more to this anthology - these are just the ones that I loved the most, and obviously I love the fiction (sorry, poets!) - but maybe these are enough to make you want to read more.

Mosaics is unapologetically all about women and their experiences (real and imagined. I mean, sexism isn't real, is it? But dragons undoubtedly are...). It has a strongly feminist slant and isn't exactly all straight. Or abled. Or cis. Or white.
A good read, overall.

*Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Women's WorkWomen's Work by Kari Aguila
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even when women have taken over the world, fear lingers.

It is a deep-rooted fear of men. Not of the men they know, who they keep in their houses and make decisions for. But the fear of strange men; those without a controlling, subduing factor in their lives, prone to anger and violence. Because the sisterhood cannot conceive of any one man on his own who is good, and kind, and loving. They teach nonviolence as one of the main tenets of the Habits of Humanity, but when it comes down to it, these women are as capable of violence as the next man.

When a strange man appears on her doorstep with a very sick boy in tow, Kate must decide whether to give in to her fear and chase them away, or to help them. But her decisions, as slowly, as carefully, as distrustfully, as she makes them has repercussions on everyone: herself, her family, the man and his son, her community, the policies and laws that guide their new lives.

Women's Work starts off a little choppily, giving a glimpse through the main protagonist's eyes of the changed world that she lives in; it's not until the middle of the chapter, when she reaches the market, that names are assigned and identities established. Kari Aguila guides you gently into this strange, inconceivable world, where women finally have the upper hand. She's not all complimentary - Patrice and some of the women hold very extreme positions; Iris has her issues and has single-handedly built this community to where it is, but she is sympathetic enough to listen; Rhia and Sarah bring thoughtful, careful balance.

But at the core of it, as all our lives must be, it is Kate's own decisions and Kate's own heart that must guide her. She is wary, distrustful, and so is the stranger at her doorstep - him more so, because he has much more to lose. The need to value people as people is as urgent and important as ever, whether they are male or female. And though Kate is comfortable with the new society she lives in now, she also wonders - what's in store for her son? Will Jonah be able to be the doctor he wants to be? What's the terrifying age when he suddenly changes from an innocent child into a dangerous man? No one knows yet. They are the pioneers.

Aguila writes in third person, present tense, forming a very dream-like story; here, but not here, happening, but happened. It slows you down in your reading, helping you to savour the thoughts that are being thrown up. It's not entirely to my preference, but it works, for this story at least. It centres you on Kate's fears, the way she mistrusts people, even herself, the way she gradually opens up, the betrayal she feels over and over again.

If there's anything that doesn't work, it's the way that the ending feels rushed. I would have liked to see a little of what happens in between chapter 20 and the epilogue-like chapter 21, instead of a few summarising paragraphs.

* Note: I received a review copy via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Monday, 9 May 2016

#musicmonday: Somebody's Hero



Because I suppose this is the appropriate time to share this song.


Friday, 6 May 2016

#fridayflash: Fleshing Susie Monahan

You’re cold and hard and lonely and I want to comfort you, but you don’t want comforting. It’s not just professionalism or “clinical” like some of the fellows here. I know, it’s my job, but I do care. That’s why I became a nurse. To make people feel happier in their saddest times. To let them know they are loved, that they’re wanted and cared for even if they’re alone.
You’re so alone, Vivian. You don’t want to let me in. I mean, you listen to me sometimes, you laugh and you seem welcoming for a while, but when I leave I know you freeze up again, stuck in your lonely little tower. Maybe you laugh at me a little because I really don’t know what you’re getting at sometimes. I don’t know what to say sometimes, because you make me feel stupid with your big words and your sarcastic voice. So I just try to be my kindest even if I don’t understand.
I do wish I had taken poetry. It’s not just empty words. I do wish I had learnt something of it, if only to be able to connect with you in some way. It’s all you know, and it kills me that it’s something I cannot give to you as part of my care. As part of my love.
You and Jason are so alike. Always thinking. Always puzzling things out. You’re so smart that you’ve forgotten what it means to be human. What it means to love. What it means to care for someone… and to be cared for. I imagine you as a young lady sometimes, maybe about my age, and I think about you falling in love – but I think you’d only fall in love with his brains. Or with his words. With his ideals. But you can’t live on those, sweetheart. You can’t.

I overheard you asking Jace if he would miss people. I don’t think he would. I don’t think he’s capable of it. But I would. 
I would miss you, even if it’s only to hear you laugh at me.

---

Preliminary character work on Susie Monahan from the play W;T by Margaret Edson, which is slated to show on June 16 & 17 at PenangPAC.
I also started on a Susie/Jace piece, but didn't have time to complete it. I should probably work on it before the next rehearsal.

---

Which makes me think that Semicolon doesn't work because I didn't do enough character work. I thought I knew them enough, but now I realise that I never wrote their monologues and first-person pieces, not like I did for A Place to Call Home. 

So yeah, that needs more work.

---

Also, second last day to use the Smashwords coupon for 50% discount on Coexist. Talk to me if you need one ;)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

#bookreview: The Dragon Chronicles

The Dragon Chronicles (The Future Chronicles)The Dragon Chronicles by Ellen Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I dunno. I expected to be more excited about this anthology. I think it started off pretty well,became pretty much "meh" in the middle and then picked up again at the end.

Some of the more notable stories that I liked, in no particular order, are:

Grey (Chris Pourteau): Grey tells the story of the friendship between Amanda, a young girl, and Grey, the last dragon in the world. It's sweet - and somewhat predictable, but incredibly heartwarming.

Ten Things You Should Know About Dragons (Elle Casey): This was funny, whimsical, and the perfect way to start the anthology. Very tongue-in-cheek humour, but also very serious at the same time. After all, Dragons can kill you, even if you're their Dragon Rider.

Tasty Dragon Meat (K.J. Colt): This was somewhat folksy - and a complete story arch (as compared to some of the others that felt a little unfinished).

Transparency (Alex Albrinck): Transparency is a tale of forbidden love between ice dragons and fire dragons. I liked it, despite the fact that it was never entirely clear how the half-breeds came about.

The Storymaster (Vincent Trigili): A little more lore-like, this is the tale of the last dragon and dragonmaster in the world.

Judgment (Monica Enderle Pierce): I have a love/hate relationship with Westerns. Some I love, some I hate... it's rarely anywhere in between. Luckily, Judgment ended up in the love side of it, because it would be really sad to end this book with a story I hated.

Note: I received a review copy of this ebook via NetGalley.

View all my reviews

Monday, 2 May 2016

#musicmonday: Calm My Soul | Paper Route



During rehearsals for W;T, Professor Ashford quotes Hamlet, saying "And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
There's a song somewhere in the universe which ends with this line, but for the life of me, I can't recall the title or the artist.

Here's the nearest.