Monday, September 30, 2013

31 Days of Books: The Fault in our Stars

Introduction:  I've recently been made aware of the "31 Days" project that takes place across the blogosphere each October (you can read more about it here).  I've decided to do highly condensed reviews of some of the books I've most enjoyed.  The questions you see below are the questions I'll answer for each book.


I hope you enjoy "31 Days of Books."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Title:  The Fault in our Stars

Author:  John Green

Published:  2012

Year I read it:  2013

One sentence summary:  Green examines the more tender, less reverent side of life from the perspective of Hazel Grace, a 17 year old suffering from cancer.

Three reasons to read it:  

  • It's a reminder at how fleeting and fragile life is and to spend it generously.
  • Green excels at navigating romance, loss, and humor, with a running philosophical commentary.
  • Catharsis is necessary; pain demands to be felt.
(Bonus reason: film adaptation coming 2014)

One reason you maybe shouldn't:

  • It could be a dangerous trigger (or at least a bit too much to handle) for some people.

Great quotes:

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal” 

“It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing.” 

"You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you."

"Some infinities are bigger than other infinities."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Containing this great treasure...

A few songs for Thursday :)

Gungor released their new album this week (yippee!)
I have to admit, I'm still warming up to it.  I got a handful of songs, and they're good.
I just still regard Ghosts Upon the Earth as one of the most incredible albums...
So it's kind of hard for me to move on with the band.

That being said... there are some great songs including the title track:

"I am Mountain" (the single) picks up on the themes of "Beautiful Things."  
The premise is the unity of creation.
God used the same building blocks for mountains, stars, and people.
Homo sapiens are unique due to God's life-breathed power,
but we are made of common, mortal elements just the same.
This song (and music video) are a refreshing reminder
that we are both common and glorious:

I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There's glory in the dirt
A universe within the sand
Eternity within a man

We are ocean, we are mist
Brilliant fools who wound and kiss
There's beauty in the dirt
Wandering in skin and soul
Searching, longing for a home...

Momentary carbon stories
From the ashes
Filled with holy ghost
Life is here now
Breathe it all in
Let it all go
You are earth and wind

Along a similar theme, another favorite artist, Sleeping at Last released another EP last week.
Just to (re?)explain, "Sleeping at Last" is now a one-man band comprised of: Ryan O'Neil.
He writes all the the songs and plays and sings 90%+ of everything he produces.
(You may have just heard his instrumental "Households"
on Kid President's breakout video.)
This year, he's taken upon a year-long music project entitled "Atlas."
It's basically a 4-part musical exploration of creation.
He has/will release an EP every quarter.
He started with Darkness, moved on to Light, and just released Space 1, to be followed by Space 2.
It may sound like a very rigid way to produce music,
but his self-enforced discipline has provided a springboard to some incredible music.
Space 1 examines "Sun," "Mercury," "Venus," "Earth," "Moon" (a stunning instrumental!) and "Mars."
[The EP can currently be streamed here.]
The follow up will cover the rest of the planets.
Be of good cheer. I think Pluto will even be included :)
[You can read more about his project here and here]
As a side note, this album carries a lot of the same threads as "I am Mountain."
"Sun" emphasizes:
We are the dust of dust.
We are the apple of God’s eye.
We are infinite as the universe we hold inside.
I think there is a yearning in God's people to move a place of awareness and humility.
A posture that says, "Yes, we are special,
but only because of a gift from Father."
Because then, there are no outsiders.
There are no special clubs.
[Ok, ending a rant before I get started]
Needless to say... it's an interesting and inspiring view of our relationship to the World.

The song is currently gripping me is "Mercury."
Mercury is the type of song that makes you want to hold your breath and turn it up.
It's like you don't want to miss a single word or note.
The song is musically and lyrically gorgeous by itself, 
but even more so for O'Neal's musical decisions.
As he explains, "For a planet 70% metallic, it felt fitting to only use metallic instruments on this song (except for my voice, of course, which is made of human)."
Here is the song and the lyrics interspersed with some [commentary]:

rows of houses,
sound asleep.
only street lights
notice me.

i am desperate,
if nothing else,
in a holding pattern
to find myself.*
[*a theme running throughout the song
a need for clarity of vision -
something I am definitely seeking]

i talk in circles,
i talk in circles,
i watch for signals,
for a clue.*

how to feel different.
how to feel new.
like science fiction
bending truth.

no one can unring this bell, [Magicians Nephew?]
unsound this alarm, unbreak my heart new.
God knows, i am dissonance
waiting to be swiftly pulled into tune.*

i’ll go anywhere you want,
anywhere you want,
anywhere you want me.
[Ever been so desperate you say,
"God, just tell me where and I'll go!"]

i know the further i go,
the harder i try, only keeps my eyes closed.
and somehow i’ve fallen in love
with this middle ground at the cost of my soul.
yet i know, if i stepped aside,
released the controls, you would open my eyes.
that somehow, all of this mess
is just an attempt to know the worth of my life…*

…made of precious metals,
precious metals,
precious metals inside.

i’ll go anywhere you want me.

["We now have this light shining in our hearts,
but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars
containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that our great power
is from God, not from ourselves." - II Cor. 4:7]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Last night I was at a performance of Les Miserables put on by the Balagan Theatre Group here in Seattle.  Really well done and I appreciated the more intimate setting.  Having front row seats didn't hurt either (Thanks, Cami!).  

There might be more to come on that later... but one of the things I love about live theatre - even things you've seen before - is that something different stands out each time.  A certain performance,  a particular line provokes something like the pulling of a thread, one that you're still pulling a day or two or a year later.  

One of those provoking thoughts from yesterday's performance was in regards to "On My Own."  It was one of the stand-out moments.  The actress delivered the solo effortlessly (and it didn't hurt that she was stunning ;)

[Danielle Barnum as Eponine]
But more than a great performance, discussing our reflections after the show Cami and I ended up asking, "Why is it that every girl can - at one point or another - identify so deeply with 'On My Own'?  It's the song every girl has wanted to express at some point."  That may seem like an exaggeration or at least a bit melodramatic.  

But [ranty rabbit trail] I'm also kind of sick of the "cool girl" facade everyone seems to be pushing.  I should probably save this for another post, but sometimes my friends try to act "above it all" and pretend like things don't hurt and I just want to tell them, "Guess what?  God made you a girl!  That means you're allowed to feel things.  Actually, God likes it when you feel things.  He feels things and He made you like Himself.  So you don't have to act like you don't feel."  [end rant]

Getting back on topic,  I think pretty much every girl has had one or more "On My Own" seasons.  And then, of course, I thought about other favorite characters, and specifically Jane Austen character.  I thought about the two types of love stories Austen sets out:  the waiting ones and the winning ones.  

The "winning" ones are often our favorites:  Darcy works (almost entirely "off screen") to win Elizabeth who is surprised by love.  I'd also put Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland, and Marianne Dashwood into this category.  They are surprised and/or won over by the gents in their prospective stories.  

But there are also some incredible "waiting" narratives:  Elinor waits for Edward; Anne Elliot for Captain Wentworth;  Fanny Price for Edmund Bertram. 

I'm sure that love in real life contains aspects of both waiting and winning, but I couldn't help but ask myself which make for the better love stories?  There is something so unbelievable and fantastical and reminiscent of Christ's love when a character gets their world turned upside down with the idea that someone loves them undeservedly.  There's a reason - for all of his faults - that girls find Darcy's first proposal so attractive.  There's something inexplicably delightful in the speeches given by Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado when they "realize" the other person loves them.

And yet... what compares to the absolute thrill at the end of Sense and Sensibility when Elinor realizes that she and Edward can finally be married?  [In case you have any doubt of just how wonderful that moment is, I offer you the 1995 Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant scene - also check out the 2008 BBC version with Hattie Morahan and Dan Stevens (yes, he was Edward Ferrars before he was Matthew Crawley ;) ]

What romantic moment can beat Wentworth's letter?  "I am half agony, half hope..."

[The lovely Obvious State artwork based on his letter]

The ending to Persuasion is so overwhelming that I confess to avoiding it.  Both times I've read it and after seeing a sub-par adaptation, it wrecked me for days or weeks.  I am challenged and fascinated by Anne's endurance.  It's a beautiful and terrible thing.

I suppose I've rambled long enough.  I don't even have an answer for which seems to be the more powerful love story.  But I'd love to hear your thoughts - maybe not a definitive answer, but stories or people you've known that moved you.  

Love is so complex, and yet simple.  But it's worth both the surprises and the waiting.

“You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love, is to live by it.” - Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Monday morning win-loss report

It's before 8 on Monday morning. Here's the win-loss round up

Win: woke up to my alarm 
Loss: woke up to my alarm and am exhausted already

Win: make-up
Loss: hair 

Win: great time journaling & chatting with Jesus
Loss: nodded off towards the end, putting me behind schedule

Win: I actually cleaned up from breakfast 
Loss: didn't pack any food

Win: made myself chai at home
Loss: forgot in my car 

Win: caught the bus
Loss: it's the "last ditch effort" bus, and I only caught it because of a pathetic sprint & forgetting my chai in the car 

Win: it's fall
Loss: it's raining = not the right kind of fall 

Win: "I'm going to forgo starting a new book so I can focus on writing today."
Loss: forgot journal at home [first time being without it in months!]

Win: sporting some new clothes
Loss: ...there's no loss to wearing new clothes

Well, here's to the start of another week: first week of fall!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Just found this picture of me with short hair...

Someday, it's going to be shorter.  Much shorter :)


A few from my current playlist.

// Follow me
You can follow me
I will keep you safe
Follow me
You can follow me
I will protect you //

// The sound of the branches breaking under your feet
The smell of the falling and burning leaves
The bitterness of winter
Or the sweetness of spring
You are an artist
And your heart is your masterpiece
And I’ll keep it safe //

// And with outstretched arms
I will sing out melodies
And my beating heart
Will pour out a symphony
Hallelujah's in the morning
Hallelujah's in the night
I will wait for you as long as I have life //

// I heard the distant battle drum
The mockingbird spoke in tongues
Longing for the day to come
I set my face, forsook my fears
I saw the city through my tears
The darkness soon will disappear
And be swallowed by the sun //

// Sing it out
Sing it out
Take what is left of me
And make it a melody //

** Sorry for any of the vids with weird visuals... just listen to the song :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013


It may heat up again today - but this morning was a perfectly fall morning.


I dig you, Fall.
Come in and stay a while.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


So...  I was out late last night at my aunt's house.  When I get these texts from my flatmate:

If you want to read the hilarious backstory...check out Bek's account.  Here's the brief version:
That awkward moment when you're sitting on the floor sobbing over Doctor Who reruns and realize a spider has joined you...
And the longer version.
Ha!  I'm really flattered by her statement about my abilities:
Samara's nickname is "Sting, the Spider Slayer" because that woman takes out spiders like a Seattlite takes out recycling. Which is like a boss, in case you don't get my made-up analogy.
HAHA! Firstly, it's true.  I'm part Hobbit, so the small portion of bravery I was awarded is somehow aimed at spiders.  I sometimes wish I could be brave about other things... but, no, pretty much just spiders.  They show up and I'm all like, "For the Shire!"  Yah, that's pretty much exactly how it goes.
Secondly, ummm... the recycling analogy is just brilliance!  I'm gonna use that one. 
Thirdly,  Thanks, Beks.  Proud to slay spiders to protect our little abode.

Ok... so if you've read the story, you saw that our little visitor was waiting for me when I got home.  At 12:30 AM!  Yah, grateful for the warning, but I was just going to go to bed.  Then as I stumbled in to my room I knocked over the shoe it was hiding under.  It was trying to scurry away, but it's first mistake was hiding under a shoe.  I was able to smash it pretty quickly.  But it didn't die!  I had to smash it like 5 times!

Anyway, it reminded me of one of my favorite blog posts on spiders.  [Warning: brief, strong language.]   This always has me cracking up: 
Anyway... wishing you a spider-free day :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Current favorite song:

*This is my type of dubstep.  And I love the U2 bit at the end :)

** I think this could be done really well with a choir and maybe a soloist or two.  Scala and Kolansky Brothers?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

10: Farewell, pt. 2. "Vale Decem"

As I said, my flatmate and I recently bid David Tennant a fond farewell from Doctor Who.  And we did it in style.

[One of my favorite pics of Tennant with the chapter heading of my current book...
which is coincidentally (?) by Doctor Who guest-writer, Neil Gaiman :]

My coworker let us borrow this fantastic TARDIS-disappearing-mug.
Seriously, the TARDIS is sitting on the street outside Rose's house
...and then you put hot water in it and the TARDIS vworps into space (the other side of the mug).
Complete with sound effects - if you're cool like that and do the sound effects ;)
(Thanks, Jennifer, for adding to the festivities!!)


Then, I printed some cute and funny pictures for our "backdrop."
I also did a quick (and shoddy) rendition of the TARDIS.
And, of course, Allons-y!

I had the soundtrack from Season 4 playing when Beks got home (fabulous stuff!)
And made our own little 3-D glasses.

Without even conciously thinking about it, I was already wearing "TARDIS colors"
and Beks put in her TARDIS earrings.  Such fun!

Then we settled in with pizza and chocolate for the End of Time 2-parter.
Oh wow!!  Brilliant.
Sad.  Funny.  Poingnant.
And Brilliant!

"Vale Decem" - Farewell to Ten

In love with this song... and even more so with it's latin lyrics.

After crying through the "End of Time," we spontaneously jumped right into "The Eleventh Hour."
I'm pleased to say we enjoyed Matt Smith from the get-go.
But as they say, "My only problem with Matt Smith as the Doctor... is that he isn't David Tennant."
We look forward with hope, but back with fondness.
I can say it now more than ever:  Ten is my Doctor.

Vale Decem,  Salve Undecim.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years

It is a solemn day as we once again remember such a brutal attack on our nation.

But it also does us good to remember. 

And I feel I have a special connection with New York & DC on this day, so I wanted to share about it. No pictures of those horrific attacks, no heart-wrenching stories... Just a small connection I share to this day & our shining cities on the East Coast. 

I should begin by saying that growing up in Seattle, it's hard to completely connect to the East Coast. It's not a different country, but it might as well be. Different cultures, different accents, different weather. The times I've been there have seemed nearly as foreign as being in the UK. (Preparing for my recent trip to Boston, I had to remind myself I'd have cell coverage.)  All that to say... It's easy to feel disconnected & disjointed with the East Coast.

But, as they say, on that day, we all became New Yorkers.  This became more real to me when my family road-tripped across the country the summer after.  It had been 9 months, but as we walked toward Ground Zero, the hums and honks of the city stilled.  Complete silence in the middle of Manhattan.  And the wall was still up.  Ribbons, cards, flowers, teddy-bears, have-you-seen-them signs.  The makeshift memorial had survived the winter.  I stared at sun-bleached paper no one had the heart to take down.  And in that moment, I touched their pain.  As distant as Seattle might be from New York, I felt the pain as if someone had struck "my city."  It became personal.  And it became beautiful.  I am so grateful for that moment.

Fast-forward nearly 12 years.  This year on tax day, April 15th, 2 bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston bombing.  I can't tell you how or why, but I identified so quickly with the Bostoners left hurt and frustrated by the blasts.  Little did I know then that I'd be visiting Boston in just a few months.

And this is what greeted me:

A wall.  A wall of remembrance.  A wall of mourning.  And another connection.  Another reminder that though spread across "amber waves of grain" and inhabiting from "sea to shining sea" - we are, indeed, United.

Above is a map of the Boston Marathon route.  Below is the restaurant the bomb wiped out.  It re-opened the week before I visited.

On this day, we are all New Yorkers.  We are Boston Strong.  And our resilience makes us all Americans.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

10: Farewell

Tonight is the "End of Time" - at least of our time with David Tennant.

He is just the bestest.
I know, I know. Matt Smith is grand.
He's adorable and quirky and the Doctor in his own right.
But Tennant lived and breathed Doctor Who since he was a kid.
He owned the role in the best way possible.
And, excited as I am for the future...
I will miss you Ten(nant)! least until November 23rd when he returns for the 50th! ;)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happy Birthday, Cami!

Cami is the type of friend who you can't just do coffee with. No, we need whole-day long dates! This past year has provided SO many fun memories. We have...
Traveled to Portland. 
Seen Mumford & Sons (aka the Mumfies ;) in Vancouver BC. 
Found ourselves lying face-up on paddle boards, surrounded by nothing but sky & water. 
Began our (sometimes 2-person) film club. 
Stayed up too late too many times. 
Adventured to Bainbridge. 
Talked about art, literature, history, society, film, theatre, music, economics, criminal justice, the Church, and more. 
Had delightful picnics. 
Sent each other texts en francais. 
Bought & shared & read good books. 
And had such a marvelous time. 

I look forward to all the fun times ahead!

Cami, you are SUCH a dear friend and I'm so grateful for you! 

Happiest of Birthdays!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch: Fifth Estate Premier at TIFF

As previously mentioned on the blog... Benedict Cumberbatch is currently in Toronto promoting The Fifth Estate, 12 Years a Slave, and August: Osage County.  Of the latter two, he claims to be just a "small proud cog,"  but last night at The Fifth Estate premier, he was the star.  Earlier in the day, it was announced he would be awarded "British Artist of the Year" at the LA BAFTA's.  With 3 high profile films at TIFF, exciting casting news (including Star Wars rumors), award buzz, and even despite having to jet off before the August premier to start his next film--he was heralded last night as the "it" man of this year's festival. 
So when he arrived with his post-Sherlock hair cut, donning a (presumably, Spencer Hart) bow-tied tuxedo, the cameras were ready.  These are just a few fun shots from last night's premier and this morning's Fifth Estate press conference (which you can catch here).


[He's come a long way to get to this red carpet]

[glamor shot]

[Still seems a bit overwhelmed on the red carpet]

[but he adores his fans... and we adore him]

[With director and co-stars - including Dan Stevens!]

[Fantastic suit and tie for the press conference]

["Oh, you like my new hair?"]

[ha! dorky smile]

[Truly, fabulous tie]

[Benedict Cumberbatch and Dan Stevens]

[cool blue]
All photos via Cumberbatched.

Another few fun bits:

Photos and accounts of the afterparty - where Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Steve McQueen, Colin Hanks, and Juno Temple showed up.

And oh Buzzfeed!

This fall there will be several more premiers and fun times... but yesterday was a brilliant day for the Cumber-collective.