2016 – Update. A loooong overdue update.

Hello, both new and faithful blog readers!

It’s been a long time – I apologise for that. In Victoria, Australia the summer school holidays only came to an end a little under two weeks ago. I chose to spend the holidays as I so often do: grappling with pointless drama as Christmas throws us back in the deep end with some dysfunctional relationships we would normally avoid, followed by the process of trying to recover from the psychological trauma by booking extra visits to my mental health practitioners, and then a couple of weeks to relax with my kids. We spent the final two weeks of the holidays cramming in films – one per day. My kids got to watch the entire Harry Potter series for the first time and, as I hoped they would, they loved it. They are both now reading the books. As a book nerd parent, I always dreamed of the day I’d see my kids comfortably reading 600+ page books. Sadly, a few films into the marathon we heard the devastating news that Professor Snape actor Alan Rickman passed away and I’ll be honest – I spent that day in tears. I don’t normally cry at celebrity news but when I do, it’s at the passing of Alan Rickman and Leonard Nimoy… or the first time Rage Against the Machine split up, circa 2001.

We also watched Episodes I to V of Star Wars. Unfortunately we ran out of time to get in Return of the Jedi but the kids have seen it before and we’ll try to get onto it in the next week or two. My kids had never seen the Prequels before. I won’t say I’m a Star Wars purist but prior to that they had only seen the Original Trilogy and The Force Awakens, with the Original Trilogy in its cinematic release editions and not the digital remasters. I only relented on my Original Trilogy to begin-with rule when the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace came to our local cinemas and I took my Anakin-fan, Clone Wars-loving son to see it. We recently started watching Star Wars Rebels, and so far I’m enjoying it. For the record, I am not a Prequels-hater. While I am thoroughly all about the Original Trilogy, I don’t see Prequels fans as somehow second-class citizens of Star Wars fandom and I don’t like the pretentious elitism of the self-described “true fans.” (I understand where they’re coming from but I don’t like seeing anyone on the receiving end of such hostility.)

That said, it is a good time to be a Star Wars fan. I love seeing this new generation of Clone Wars, Rebels, and Force Awakens kids, like my own children, who embrace Ahsoka and Rey and Finn and Ezra as their own, in the way I embraced first Luke and Han and Leia and later Darth Maul and Padmé in my youth. I saw The Force Awakens twice at the cinemas in summer, and if I had the budget to support it I would’ve happily seen it several more times. Instead, I will have to be patient and wait until the Blu-Ray version is released.

 

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Image Source – Yeah, I know, how punny. It made me laugh a bit too much. 

And I’ve spent way too much of this new era of Star Wars poring through instagram pictures of General Hux. I have to be honest, I am obsessed with Hux to a degree I find mildly terrifying. As I read the novelisation of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (2016) I find myself having to resist the urge to highlight every Hux quote – and I will add that the novel is brilliant, and if you were left a little uncertain after watching the film, it fills in some plot details. If the novel is anything to go by, Hux is an outright psychopath. And I don’t know why the characters I like the most in films are the ones I’d be most scared to meet in real life.

In every film I’ve seen, ever, if I were to develop a vague crush on any character it would be on the typically brunette “bad boy” (everyone who knows me well in real life quite reasonably expected me to fall for Kylo Ren or Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens). And when I say “vague crush” I quite genuinely mean that it usually goes as far as me watching a film, the thought “he’s cute” fleeting through my mind, and then I move on with my existence. So while I did have a couple of life-size posters of Leonardo di Caprio back in the day and still admire him, I can easily explain that by the fact that he’s a great and influential campaigner for action on climate change. I actually find it horrendously draining and misery inducing to get too obsessed with characters and films and actors. It becomes an exhausting effort feeling obliged to engage with people when they so much as mention something I like… I’d rather keep things at a low-key, quietly enthusiastic kind of level. And, quite frankly, actors are such normal humans, admittedly often good humans with lots of positive and interesting qualities, and yet I’m perpetually disappointed when I realise that, for example, Alan Rickman was a mortal human like the rest of us and not in fact a dark, tortured wizard with a secret past and a heartbreaking patronus, or that Johnny Depp isn’t actually a pirate, though he is in fact a really great human being.

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The Winter Soldier portrayed by Romanian-American actor Sebastian Stan – just look at him for a moment. Because you can. [Image Source.]

And while I say I quietly think “he’s cute” most of the time, there was that one time I did in fact yell, “He’s so pretty!” in the cinema watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my friends who then rolled their eyes at me at the predictability of it all at the moment when the eponymous soldier is revealed to be, you guessed it, a brunette bad boy. The only anomalies to this brunette thing so far had been Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter (and the older version of Draco Malfoy) and Thranduil from The Hobbit, and I have long been rather partial to Will Smith (I, Robot gratuitous shower scene, anyone?), but on average, I do have a “type” as far as my favourite film characters go: long, dark hair, brooding demeanour, a dark and mysterious past, probably some form of supernatural power (Snape, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I’m looking at you).

So, where on Earth did this General Hux thing come from? Not to mention that despite having seen a small handful of films with Hux actor Domhnall Gleeson and not thinking twice about him (okay I admit that I thought Bill Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was pretty cute, but I would never have consciously noticed them as being the same actor) it was a bit unexpected for me. Who knows? Ah well, it’s not that important. I’ll just ride that Hux wave until it inevitably peters out…

In a way it’s a relief to be suddenly and utterly re-consumed by a fandom that is so fun, and creative, and funny, and reconnects me to my childhood self, while getting my mind off all the crap in my real life. I’ve gone through so much in recent years, and in the last decade, that to just push it to the side and unapologetically embrace the Star Wars Universe again is sheer joy.

I’m all aboard the Kylux ship, by the way – maybe not to the level of graphic intensity other people are – but I think it’s a cute idea that the underlying hostilities between Kylo Ren and General Hux are not just their competition for Supreme Leader Snoke‘s approval, but unexpressed romantic leanings. On top of that I find myself very tempted to write a fanfic and this is a new thing for me. I have my personal head canon, where I envision a vivid kind of Alternate Universe set immediately after The Force Awakens, when Kylo Ren is to begin his Sith training. Unless a better bit of inspiration hits me, I think that will be my NaNoWriMo story for this year.

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A little fan art mixed-media illustration I did inspired by “Kylux” (fanfic romances between Force Awakens characters Kylo and Hux). I wrote a little head canon story to explain it, which you can read at my RedBubble.

I am also quite enamoured with the Hux fanfic that gave him a pet cat, which apparently traces back to Pablo Hidalgo, THE expert on all things Star Wars, so it may as well be canon.

Bonus thematically relevant links:

General Hux fan art that made me go, “Good Lord, he is beautiful…”

Also, Luke Skywalker is the best.

Lent 2016 is underway and I am marking it by fasting Facebook, alcohol, and toning down my coffee consumption. Now, to me, the point of spiritual fasting isn’t to torture oneself but to create space for life-affirming action, in the context of devotion to spiritual nurturing. Instead of coffee and alcohol, I’m turning to gentle exercise and healthy food and going to bed at a sensible time. Instead of Facebook, I’m reading physical books, writing stories, drawing pictures, painting paintings and playing with my cats and interacting with my children, catching up with in-real-life friends, visiting a new church, and just generally being an all-round more productive human being. For the first time in a decade or two, I saved all of my birthday and Christmas money and splurged it on books. My kindle is stocked full of Catholic contemplative books. My shelves are updated with new Star Wars novels and movie guides, some much-needed new Anne Rice, and an assortment of other books. One of the most interesting that I’m reading at the moment is Wonderbook: The illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction by Jeff VanderMeer (2013) and it’s just fantastic. I am struggling to read it because every page or two makes me want to pick up pen and paper and start writing.

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“The Force be with you.”

“And also with you.”

“Don’t you mean, ‘And with your spirit?’ The new mass translations have been out for quite a while, after all…” [Image Source.]

 

Lent has a bit of a different vibe to me this year – in previous years it’s been a way for me to mark the changing seasons. But this year, as I go through a process of recalibrating my spiritual path, I’ve been occasionally attending mass at the local Catholic church while simultaneously cutting ties with my old nondenominational Pentecostal church (keeping much-loved old friends in my life, but otherwise getting space from the overall community so that I can fully embrace the next phase in my journey). In my experience, Pentecostals, in general, don’t do Lent – the only Pentes I know who do often have a liturgical mainline background so as I step out of the Pentecostal stream I find it helpful and anchoring to move back into the faith that first sowed the seeds of the Gospel for me. I hasten to add that this is my spiritual journey, and the fact that I’m finding a renewed hope and life in the Catholicism that is my heritage and that framed most of my life isn’t meant as prescriptive to anyone and everyone I meet – I embrace my friends of all and no religions with no demand that they acquiesce to my own meaning and mythology* system.

New Year’s Resolutions – I didn’t so much “resolve” to do anything for this year so much as develop some overarching new aims for the year.

  1. Write a novel, first draft, complete manuscript – I have ideas for a story that I think might fall somewhere in the realm of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy crossed with Dracula. Admittedly every story I write tends to be my attempt to write [space-themed sci fi/fantasy] x Dracula but hey, it’s what I would want to read, so why not try to write it for myself? If other people end up enjoying it too, I consider it a bonus.
  2. As mentioned above, I am seriously considering writing a Star Wars fanfic for NaNoWriMo in November.
  3. Write a comic book. Ask my 9-year-old self what I wanted to be as an adult and I would’ve said a comic book artist. I have some ideas and while I will be writing it for myself, if it ends up being anything better than terrible, I will be sure to share it here.
  4. Art every day. This is both a personal goal and one I’ve been encouraged in as part of my mental illness healing journey. Art was one of the many things I let go when my forays into borderline cult fundamentalism began and it was like killing off a part of me. To set aside my creativity was very painful and I didn’t do so voluntarily. It’s hard to want to create when you’re in a religious context that hates art when it’s not explicitly evangelistic nor something they can use in their own ambitions. My art is usually colourful, cartoonish representations of animals and mythical creatures, as well as emulations of medieval religious art, and so it didn’t have any obvious spiritual significance from the hardline Pentecostals who told me that my art (like my music and poetry and writing) reminded them of Satan. (Sigh) I’ve been trying my hand at Star Wars fan art, too. It’s a lot of fun.
  5. Work on my inner life. Heal mentally and emotionally and physically. Practice contemplation, mindfulness and physical exercise.
  6. Read books. Real, physical, tangible books, from a variety of genres. My to-read pile currently includes works from the Star Wars universe, both canon and ‘Legends’ (formerly Expanded Universe) books; Thomas Merton; Thomas Keating; Richard Rohr; Martin Laird; Timothy Gallagher; NT Wright; Australian fantasy author Sara Douglass; Anne Rice; as well as countless short stories from a variety of diverse authors.
  7. Write every day. Whether it’s my journal, my cognitive behavioural therapy diary, my ‘sentence a day’ book, my creative writing notebook, note-taking from books, blogging, poetry or making a comic, I want to get that flow of words coursing through my pen again. Handwriting, in particular, is a skill that I value and hope to maintain. When I write in ink I feel a greater connection to the words, like a kind of mystic magic-working as though manipulating paper with the scratching of a pen somehow brings a physicality of being to my words, more than if I am activating pixels on a screen. (I am not a Luddite in regards to technology but I do appreciate the old ways…)
  8. Work on my RedBubble portfolio. I am working on lots of art and hoping to improve the overall quality of my online store. Technically it’s just a hobby but I am curious to see if I can make it into a more reliable source of income by focusing more on it this year. I appreciate the luxury I have that my husband supports me in this pursuit.

Well, that’s it. I also have a vague aim of making sure my blog posts are more bite-sized… but I won’t make promises I can’t guarantee will be kept.

*When I talk about mythology, I do not mean that something is a false, untrue story, but rather that it is a system of narrative and symbolism referring to a transcendent truth. Thus I affirm both the historicity of the Gospels, while also seeing the Bible as a mythological system that offers an interpretive framework for the human experience.

On another notemy cat Odin turned two years old this week. I love my fur babies. As I type this they’re sleeping by a sunny window, getting fur all over the clean clothes in the washing basket. Here are some photos from when we gave Odin his birthday presents.

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Odin on his second birthday, 7 February 2016. Photo by M.L.

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Odin on his second birthday, with Riker (also aged 2). Photo by M.L.

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