Monday, June 27, 2016

The Chronicles of a Potential Whovian: The Beginning

          I tend to move in certain, fandom-leaning circles. I'm a member of the original Harry Potter readers, the Pokemon generation, the newly forged Marvel fans, one of the clinically insane Sherlocked. I'm a fully fledged Star Wars watching, GOT theorizing, AVPM singing, nerd. The only thing I'm not, is a Whovian (also, I haven't jumped on the Korean Drama wagon, but one thing at a time). And it's weird, because all of my closest friends, and fellow fandom warriors are. I'm quite certain that I've all the potential in the world, of becoming the most faithful of Whovians, I've just never taken the time. Because if we're honest here, taking up Doctor Who, from start to finish, is no easy task. So, I've decided to blog my way through Doctor Who (both, to keep myself from bingeing, and therefore letting it take over my life, and to make it a little more interesting). I've been advised by many respectable Whovians to start my journey with the Eccleston series. So here we go: post one of "The Chronicles of a Potential Whovian."

Oh! And spoilers people!

Episode One: Rose

  1. So far so good. I'm loving this intro music. I'm not going to be exactly humming it around my apartment like the Sherlock theme (when is it COMING BACK?!!! I'm fine), but it's pretty neat.
  2. Oh hey there Billie Piper! She's Rose right? Doesn't something tragic happen to her? Spoiler alert?
  3. Aah! London pre-Brexit! A simpler, happier time.
  4. Maybe I'm wrong but a pink hoodie seems a little casual for working in this kind of retail job. Never mind, pink hoodies seem to be the uniform of everyone in this establishment.
  5. Forgive me, but hearing Billie Piper calling for "Wilson" can only bring to mind this:

     6.   Don't walk towards the creepy sounds!!! Woman survival 101!

     7.   Holy crap! The mannequins are moving!! 
     8.   Rose is way too calm about this! Is this an every day occurrence for her? Do inanimate objects     
           just come to life in front of her on a regular basis? Run you fool! Run!!!
     9.   Aww yeah, it's the Doctor!!
    10. "You pulled his arm off," what a strange line.
    11.  Haha! Oh students! You so silly! Always pulling pranks, like creating killer mannequins.
          I remember when I was a student and a bunch of us...Sorry, tangent, where was I? Oh yeah!
    12. Oh no Wilson is dead! Wilson! WILSON!!!
    13. "Run for your life." Foreshadowing?
    14.  TARDIS!!

    15.  Rose's boyfriend getting rid of the mannequin arm can only lead to good things, I'm sure. 
           Given the fact that the boyfriend is the only person of colour in this show, and Rose is  
           obviously supposed to be with the Doctor,  I'd say the boyfriend's doomed!!
    16.  A little double entendre there Rose!
    17.  Can we just have a show where the Doctor reads tabloids? Pleeese!

    18. Ok, I know he's the Doctor, and telling the truth and everything, but any normal person would 
          listen to his spiel, and immediately run the other way. Rose is basically Bella Swan, if she 
          were an interesting, well written character.
    19. What kind of search engine is that? Rose! Use google!
    20.  Article by conspiracy theorist: title drop!
    21.  Now we're going to meet the conspiracy theorist! Good thing he's a local.
    22.  Boyfriend (who's name is Mickey apparently) doesn't think this is a safe idea. I'm glad there's 
           someone sensible around here, even if he is doomed.
    23.  Conspiracy theorist says the Doctor brings death. Foreshadowing? 
    24.  Mickey just got eaten by a demon bin! Called it!
    25. Aaah! The aliens have turned him into a creepy plastic, humanoid of nightmares!

     26.   He likes pizza though, so he can't be all bad.
     27.   The Doctor turns up just when he's needed! I feel like this is going to happen a lot in this     
     28.  A wooden box?! Girlie, that is a Tardis! Even I know how disrespectful that is!
     29.  The Tardis is so cool inside!! It's like the Weasley's tent at the Quidditch World Cup! 
     30.  "It's from the 1950s! It's a disguise!" 
     31.  Hey. Hey Doctor. Hey. Look behind you!


    32.   Ok. This Doctor is adorkable!
    33.   WHAAT? Mickey's alive!! This show is more progressive than I thought!
    34.   No Rose's mum! Don't go shopping, go home!! Mannequins are coming to kill you!
    35.   If these aliens can inhabit anything, why not go for something destructive, like a nuclear     
            bomb...or a tank....or a shark? Not too bright these aliens. 
    36.   Oh no! Conspiracy guy!!
    37.   Yay! Rose slay.
    38.   Aww Rose! You made him so disappointed when you said you couldn't go with him, even 
            though you're totally going to change your mind in a second.
    39.   Hurray!!!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Ugly Soap Boxes

          There's been a lot going on in the world lately. Only two weeks ago the online world was consumed with discussion about rape and consent, as a result of this powerful statement released by a victim of sexual assault. The week before that, the internet got pretty self righteous about an unfortunate incident involving a gorilla, and a four year-old child. This week we had two horrific incidents back to back, and both in Orlando; singer Christina Grimmie was gunned down and killed, while signing autographs with fans, and barely two days later, in Pulse night club, 49 people were murdered in cold blood.

Sunday night hit me like a punch in the gut. Where was I when 49 people died? What was I doing? What was running through my mind? Probably nothing of profound importance or consequence. It was another day for me, and it was just another day for the people in Pulse: until a man walked in with a gun. 

Where was God? What was He doing? Why didn't He stop this? My worldview, and reliance on scripture informs me, that it was well within His ability. So why didn't He? These are questions that I still can't answer with any clarity or certainly, and I probably won't ever be able to. There are some things I can never reconcile; God's infinite love, and ultimate sovereignty and control over this world seem like irreconcilable truths sometimes. They are both true aspects of His character, and they are beyond my complete understanding. Believing that God is all loving, and all powerful, takes trust; it takes faith.

I've been wrestling with these questions and thoughts this past week. But while grieving the lives lost and shaped by this tragedy and crime, and asking God to show Himself in the darkness, I could hardly comprehend the reaction I was seeing online. The internet can be an ugly place, with ugly people, standing on ugly soap boxes. I know this, you know it. So it shouldn't have been surprising that the bodies weren't even cold, before people were using this tragedy as an opportunity to mount said soap boxes to congratulate themselves on being right, to give their opinions and unsolicited advice, and to call out the idiocy of those who think differently.

 Never before in human history, have we been able to give our opinions so freely, to an available audience. This platform has evolved and developed so quickly, that we hardly recognize the gravity and impact our words have anymore. As a blogger, and a human online, I'm as guilty of this as anyone. It's easy to feel assured, and brave with our words behind a computer screen, where the effect of our words is unseen and unfelt by us in the moment. I'm still learning to be careful how I conduct myself online: not just what I say, but when I say it. Please let this be clear before I go any further; this post is not to call out any one specific person, but if you were guilty of this, this week, then I plead with you to examine yourself, and how you conduct yourself on this platform.

I understand to some extent, the controversy surrounding this event. It was the worst mass shooting in recent American memory. Was it terrorism? A hate crime? A gun control issue? To me, the outcome is still the same, 49 people are dead. However, it deeply troubles me, when I see people, Christians, more disturbed with the prospect of their guns being taken away, than the fact that 49 people entered eternity, and their loved ones are left reeling in their grief, questioning God, and seeking Him in this tragedy. Death is a profound, and serious matter, and should always be dealt with by the faithful, with brokenness, and humility. And love. Christ's love. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He faced His own death with grief and agony. His followers should always be stones throw away, in the face of  death and grief:ready to receive the mourning with gravity, comfort, love and mercy. Instead this week, I saw a lot of pointing fingers, and insensitivity from Christians, that I love and respect. I saw very little empathy for the grieving, or evidence that these deaths affected them very much at all-at least, from what I saw, in Facebook posts. 

If you are reading this, maybe you were very much affected by this event. Maybe you gave blood, maybe you donated money, or your time, or dedicated your prayers to these families. However, ask yourself, does your Facebook page reflect this? Even if you didn't post, did you join an argument, or comment under an insensitive post? I almost did. I was a couple clicks away, before I stopped myself. It's easy when you're angry, or confused, or frustrated, but ask yourself, if you were facing this person in real life, would you say it to their face? Would you spout off about gun control in the face of a grieving sibling or parent of a victim? It is not that these things don't need to be spoken of. Like I said, there's a lot of controversy tied up in this incident, and I expect people will still be speaking of it in years to come. But now is not the time. Now is the time to mourn. 

I'm not saying that my timeline was representative of believers online as a whole, but for me, it was enough for me to close my computer in tears, wondering where God and His people were. I wonder who else thought this, and if they were someone who needed to see light a whole lot more than I did: and all they saw was an ugly soap box.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Music Monday: "As Family We Go" needs more time in the incubator

          As Family We Go was released in August 2015, so this review is a little redundant I admit. However, heavy promotion is still taking place for this album, so in internet terms, this isn't completely without place. Regardless, I am a huge fan of Rend Collective, and I couldn't let this release go unacknowledged.

With that out of the way, I should warn you, I didn't like As Family We Go. Not even a little bit. Again, I want to emphasize how much I like this group and their music. I've travelled across country, through traffic jams, at the crack of dawn, to see Rend Collective in concert. I've indignantly defended them against "haters" (and oh, how I hate myself for using that term unironically, on the internet of all places), and recommded them to anyone who would listen. And yet, I really, really don't like this album.

Without sounding too much like a hipster, there's always been an anti-mainstream charm to Rend Collective's music. There's something warm, intimate, and nostalgic about their indie, folk pop, authentically recorded in living rooms, or around campfires. It's the lack of polish, and the unassuming fun and reverence about Rend Collective's previous albums, that have, up until this point, set them apart from the over-produced and self-aware mainstream.

Barely a year in between their previous release The Art of CelebrationAs Family We Go sounds terribly rushed. The band announced a few months before this release, that their studio had been broken into, and as a result the band lost some valuable equipment and songs they had been working on. It's speculation at this point, whether or not this incident affected the finished product of As Family We Go, but, to me, the album sounds like it needed more time in the recording process. It baffles me, why the band felt the need to release anything so soon at all. Maybe Rend Collective felt an obligation to fans, or were receiving pressure from their new label, Capitol Christian Distribution.

Rend Collective is a band made of people who can't take themselves seriously, giving their music a warmth, and mischief, that you will never hear from say, Chris Tomlin, or even Tenth Avenue North. However, with this album, Rend Collective have turned up the fun, about 60 notches (so much so that tracks like CelebrateYou Will Never Run, and The Artist sound more like Wiggles tracks), and taken away most, if not all of the warmth and intimacy of their folk sound, and opted for a more polished, synthetic product. This makes As Family We Go, sound disjointed, because mainstream worship albums tend to take themselves very seriously, something that Rend Collective is not really capable of. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Rend Collective, you just can't!

Even thematically,  As Family We Go fails miserably. The theme of unity, and family within the body of Christ, is not a new one for the group, as they've explored this with Campfire. In fact, they've formed their whole music philosophy on this theme. So, it is shocking to find As Family We Go, almost completely void of it. Really, the album seems more of a repeat of themes so beautifully explored in The Art of Celebration.

What really lets this release down, is that for all it's studio polish, and grandstanding, As Family We Go, is exceedingly dull. With the exception of Free As A Bird, You Will Never Run (which, for all it's zaniness, grows on you), Every Giant Will Fall, and a bluesy, reimagining of Nothing But The Blood called Royal Blood, the album is a bit underwhelming.

I so very much wanted to love this album, but in my opinion As Family We Go is a misstep. I don't think we've yet heard their best work, and here's hoping Rend Collective's next album will spend a bit more time in the incubator. I'm willing to wait longer for something truly special. Lord knows, Christian music needs it!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Music Monday: Gabrielle Aplin Made a Tribute To David Bowie

Hey everyone! I'm going to take a break from album reviews this Monday. I'll get back to my list next week. This my second week back to work after my holiday during Chinese New Year. I have so many things to tell you about, particularly my trip to Thailand! But that's another post for another day.

Gabrielle Aplin's UK tour came to an end last month, and during she made a lovely tribute to the late David Bowie. Enjoy, and happy Monday!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Music Monday: Light Up The Dark Review

         If you've followed this blog for awhile then you know how much a fan I am of Gabrielle Aplin. I first discovered her when she was a fifteen year-old releasing covers and self-made Eps on youtube. Her voice was untrained, and her skills in desperate need of honing, but ultimately it was her song writing that drew me in. Her lyrics were mature, etherial, and smart. She knew how to write a clever and engaging hook, and how to handle unpretentious metaphors alongside the teenage angst appropriate for her age. She's also, always been a bit of an old soul, with influences like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell. These influences have never been more apparent, than with her sophomore album, Light Up The Dark.

         I loved Aplin's debut English Rain, but I had a few problems with it. English Rain was used an introduction to the uninitiated, but because the songs were written years apart from each other, the album failed to work as a coherent whole. This is no longer an issue with Light Up The Dark, which presents Aplin as the artist, she's been trying to be all these years.

          The album opens with the title track Light Up The Dark, which pushes Aplin's vocals much further than ever before. The track is energetic, dark and mysterious (it would fit very well in Bond soundtrack), but ultimately Light Up The Dark is one of the less exciting and nuanced tracks on the album.

This is followed by Skeleton, which is in my opinion one of the best songs Aplin's ever written. There are many influences apparent in the instrumentation of this track. The sweet, piano chords are reminiscent of the folk-pop that's been Aplin's comfort zone for so long, while the synth guitar, and vocals present a more modern edge. Aplin's etherial, whispy vocals could have let the song down, but somehow it all works perfectly.

Fools Love, brings to mind 70s pop, soulful and smooth. Aplin's vocals effortlessly glide through the whip-smart lyrics:

Silence in the hallway
There's nothing you can say
All false information
We've lost communication
There's something you've hidden 
You'e quietly taken
I fall every quarter
You hold me under your thumb

Sophisticated as Fools Love is, the song is a bit of a bore, and the album would have been that much stronger for leaving it out.

Slip Away is soulful, slinky and dramatic, and once again shows how much Aplin's voice has developed over the years. Sweet Nothing, is a joyful, dance number that mixes aspects of folk rhythm with old-time swing. As soon as chorus drops, you won't be able to stop your feet from tapping.

Heavy Heart is hands down the best song on the album. Lyrically it is intimate, and sadly honest. Aplin's vocals are appropriately understated for this track, as she uses the sweet, raspiness in her voice to good effect here.

Saw you staring into nothing
In the silence something's screaming
I know you're trying but there's nothing you can say...
We're bittersweet in the sunlight
We can't believe every story we're sold 
There's truth in the darkness we find.

Shallow Love begins with that old acoustic guitar, we all thought was gone forever, joined by bluesy percussion, and a little cheeky piano, and keyboard.

There's hints of  Florence And The Machine, in pop tracks Anybody Out There and Together,  while Hurt and What Did You Do? sound more in line with English Rain than anything else on the album. Hurt especially resonates with it's ernest lyrics and memorable chorus.

The album ends with the understated A While and the haunting bonus track Don't Break Your Heart On Me. The deluxe version offers five bonus tracks, most notable being Coming Home and The House We Never Built.

          All in all, Light Up The Dark is a complete improvement to the problems present in English Rain. This new release takes some interesting directions, and some new risks for Aplin, but it's clear that she's finally finding her sound. While Light Up The Dark is lacking the tenderness and transcendence of tracks like Salvation and Start of Time, I have very few issues with this album. It's kind of almost perfect.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Music Monday: Dear Wormwood Review

          It could be said that modern folk revival began with Mumford and Sons' rise to popularity, paving the way for other groups and singers to come into the limelight; or,  to mimic the sounds of greater, better musicians. Bands like Rend Collective, The Lumineers, The Heart and The Head, suddenly had an audience for their brand of folk pop, and still appear to be doing fairly well (although we'll be getting to Rend Collective and Mumford in a few weeks I'm sorry to say). However, as enjoyable as the genre still is to me, it's beginning to lack in surprises and sincerity. That's where bands like The Oh Hellos come in. They possess a warmth and energy that more popular groups like Mumford and The Lumineers just don't have. It's not that these groups are bad or mediocre, far from it, but The Oh Hellos are just all kinds of special.

            I first discovered the group on Noisetrade, on which they had uploaded their debut, critically acclaimed album, Through the Deep Dark Valley. The group which is headlined by sibling duo, Tyler and Maggie Heath, has a unique artistry when it comes to their sound and their writing. Their superb sophomore album Dear Wormwood, is a concept album, taking inspiration from C.S Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. Supposedly picking up where Through the Deep Dark Valley left off, Dear Wormwood tells the story of a toxic and abusive relationship, told through letters written from the abused. Despite the dark material covered, the album is exuberantly energetic and ultimately uplifting. Lyrically, it's one of the best examples of song writing to come out in 2015.

          The album begins with the atmospheric Prelude, where voices and instruments are heard from a distance, becoming more distinct as the song crescendo's into Bitter Water. Mandolins introduce the song, and a crash of vocals and percussion enter, offering an energetic and complex beginning to the story.

This is followed with There Beneath, an atmospheric and almost ethereal search for beauty and learning in everyday things. The scene beneath the willow tree is perfectly captured by the mood created by the synth instruments. 

In The Blue Hours of Morning, introduces Exeunt, with a series of running scales on the string instruments. Exeunt, is a masterpiece of song writing, with many layers of instruments, and themes perfectly timed and positioned. It's a song of heartbreak, of the victim tearing themselves in their mind from the control of their abuser; "I have set my mind, and my will, I am leaving."

Caesar, is a quiet and reflective song where the character contemplates their next move. Still tormented mentally, the singer tries to looks for signs hope.

Hear on the wind how the pendulum swings
Feel how the winter succumbs to the spring
Over the palisade morning will break
Rise up to meet it, oh sleeper awake
...Look to the sky where the sign will be shown
Heaven and earth and the king on his throne

This Will End, questions the meaning of a life so burdened with suffering. It is a huge song, in very understated packaging, about looking for hope in a world that is dying. 

No, I am not afraid to die
It's every breath that comes before
Heartache, I've heard, is part of life
And I have broken more and more

Pale White Horse is rife with biblical imagery. It has an almost otherworldly feel to it's instrumentation and vocals, which quietly build to a pinnacle culmination. The song is psychologically dark conversation with death. 

This leads directly into Where is Your Rider, where the character once again faces their tormentor, this time seeing him for who he is: powerless against the Lord who has triumphed over death and Hades. This is followed by the exuberant Soldier, Poet, King, a gospel anthem, triumphantly heralding the future victory.

The title track, Dear Wormwood, is the by far the best on the album. This is a powerful meditation on all that has past. It is powerful in it's refrain "I know who you are now, I know who you are." It is a song both eerie and beautiful in it's vocalization and lyrics, and joyful and haunting in it's message.

Instrumental Danse Macabre takes influences from old medieval Europe in it's sound, and leads into the closing song Thus Always to the Tyrants

Dear Wormwood is an accomplished, superb sophomore album from The Oh Hellos. The song writing is exceptional, and powerful, and the group's sound never fails to endear. If you have never listened to this group, I can't recommend them enough. I promise you, they will win you over. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ten Ponderings of Christmas in China


          Christmas and New Years are over, and the world mourns and diets. I have officially experienced my first holiday season in China, and my first Christmas ever without my family. During the jubilation that is Christmas, I had a few thoughts, and revelations, and I decided to share them with you all.

1. The so called "war on Chistmas," yeah that's not a thing!

 Remarkably, spending Christmas in a country where the holiday isn't nationally recognized, did absolutely nothing to hinder me from personally celebrating Christmas! I know right! In fact, it might even have heightened my awareness of why I celebrate in the first place. An unregenerate person, wishing me a merry Christmas, and handing me a red cup with Santa on it: that's commercialism, not Christmas. And China has plenty of Christmas commercialism to enjoy anyway.

2. Jingle Bells and We Wish You Merry Christmas are the only Christmas songs that China knows, and they play them on

3. Most of the highs and lows at Christmas are dependent on comparison. It seems to me that our experience of Christmas is dependent on what we think it should be, after comparing our experience to what we see on T.V. or the people around us. As I mentioned, this was my first ever Christmas apart from my family. Surprisingly, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. After thinking about it for awhile, I concluded that the fact I'm China, where they don't celebrate Christmas is the key factor. The day still seemed special, because while the country went to work, and carried on as usual, I got to go have a nice dinner with my friends. If I had been in the States, watching others celebrate with their families, it would have been a different story. Indeed the only time when I had the Christmas blues, was when I logged into Facebook.

4. Traditions are important, even when you're thousands of miles away. Whether it's making sugar cookies or watching The Muppets Christmas Carol, traditions keep us aware of where we come from, and who we're going to be.

5. A Christmas tree makes all the difference. I haven't quite made my apartment my own yet, but adding a Christmas tree, suddenly made my living room a place I wanted to be. 

6. People freaking love Christmas music. My playlists on Spotify, have never had very many followers, but my Christmas playlist kind of soared in popularity this year. Huzzah!

7. Minion Monopoly is much more fun than dummy regular Monopoly. My sister Abby kind of loves minions, and so the majority of her presents this year were minion related. One such gift was Minion Monopoly. This is a thing that exists. Falling asleep, while listening to my family play this game over Skype, was my best Christmas memory this year.

8. I love being a kindergarten teacher at Christmas. It means you get to dress up in a red coat and hat and give sweets and toys to cutie Chinese children. Bring on the happiness!

9. Chinese New Year! My holiday season extends well into February. I guess the decorations get to stay up that long too!

10. The Incarnation is where it's at. Extra points to those who know who coined that phrase. I spent most of December contemplating, just how bizarre, miraculous and pinnacle the truth of the incarnation is. What difference does the divinity of Christ make to the life of the believer? The answer: it makes all the difference. 

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known
John 1:18

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Bring on 2016; it's going to be epic!

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