Monday, August 26, 2013

Music Monday: Christafari's Reggae Revolution (mixtape 2, apparently)

There are days (and today is one of them) which are more or less marked by varying degrees of stress. Eye-burning, head-aching stress. The kind that makes the delights of your life seem intolerable under any conditions but complete unconsciousness. 

These are those days in which everything makes you angry on one level or another. The days where you sort of want to start a fight just to do it, except you know it would only stress you out more, so you don't bother. The kinds of days where your Christian witness, if you're into that sort of thing, is the last thing actually on your mind; but you're too lazy to do anything to it, for good or for ill. 

These are the days in which your entire mind rebels against the very idea of serenity, as if peace were some sort of Hell it must escape at all costs. As if your mind and, to some extent, your very soul were actively frightened of calm. 

I was in this mood when I first rediscovered Christafari -- a gospel Reggae band I remembered playing back in my college radio days. I found them on Myspace, which only bands ever use anymore because it's cheaper than uploading streaming audio on a private website. It was there I discovered the gem that is Reggae Revolution (Mixtape 2). 

The tracks flow from one to the next to the next, with almost no indication that they're even changing. I think the first time I listened, I got all the way to song five before I realized they were all separate tracks. Usually, this would be a criticism, but it actually works for this album. 

Maybe that's because I really only listen to it when my mind needs to be beaten softly into quiet submission. But it works. 

For all that many of the tracks have the same basic background structure, they're actually each quite unique and enjoyable. Christafari really has put together another rather nice reggae mix. It may not be what I spend most days listening to, but some days you just need to chill. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Webcomic Wednesday* - Devolution

*Wherein I talk up comics I've found and enjoy, and search around for new comics to take up my limited surfing time.

I was fortunate enough, during this month's RealmMakers Conference, to meet comic writer (and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, but whatever) Matt Yocum. We discovered a kinship in both ideology (in many ways) and artistic vision (not to mention the fact that, while we both love to write, neither of us can actually draw). Matt has written stories for Marvel, and has published several comics independently. It's entirely possible I'll talk about more of Matt's comics in future posts.

In the meantime, I'd like to introduce you to one of his early webcomics. It's a zombie story that looks
deeper into the personal relationship between a husband and wife who have been dealing with personal tragedy since long before the dead started walking. It's a great, if heart-wrenching, little story, and readable in a single sitting (or two, depending on how much time you have).

So, here you go. Check out Devolution, by Matt Yokum, Jake Bilbao, Ignacio Calero, and Chris Studabaker.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: When Mockingbirds Sing

When Mockingbirds SingWhen Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having never read a book by Billy Coffey, and considering the contents of most of the other books to cross my desk at work, I was more than a little skeptical when I opened the cover to his latest offering, "When Mockingbirds Sing."

Even given the back cover synopsis, I confess I have no idea what I thought I was going to encounter when I started reading. Let's get some things out of the way first. The book comes from Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, part of Harper Collins and Zondervan. For some reason which I cannot grasp, such groups occasionally like to put reading group guides at the backs of their books. This ought to be ignored at all costs, as pretending it doesn't exist will allow for maximum enjoyment.

And this is a book deserving of enjoyment. Not roller coaster enjoyment, or even walk-in-the-park enjoyment, but a savoring. Each page should be taken in, soaked up, and processed.

The Norcross family has moved to the town of Mattingly from their city home, in order to escape past hurts and heal their small family. As the family strives for acceptance, their shy daughter Leah, makes two new friends -- one of whom nobody else can see. This invisible friend, The Rainbow Man, has bestowed on her an amazing gift -- one that will rally the town around her and, eventually, turn it against her. Helping her through the ups and downs is Allie, who is faithful, loyal, and most importantly, believes in Leah's Rainbow Man.

Coffey writes engaging characters you'll like enough to be disappointed in when they fail. And they will fail. Coffey's characters are real people -- people you know -- and they each harbor a darkness the reader will find at once shocking and familiar. The town of Mattingly, a character in its own right, is as inviting on one hand as it is cold and distant on the other. You feel for the Norcross family as they attempt to fit in, even as they begin to realize it will never happen in the way they hope.

When Mockingbirds Sing is part coming-of-age, part Southern Gothic, exploring faith and doubt, community and alienation, friendship and deep hurt.

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