What’s up?

Where else would you find Catholicism, Veganism and neo-Monasticism (yes that’s a thing now) thrown together in one blog? Welcome to my world. This blog is about my 2014 journey in faith, recognizing my body for the gift it is and striving to be worthy of that gift. It’s in the nature of man to seek out community and I’m no different, so please feel free to interact with my via comments or email. An important component to any successful change is a strong support network, and while I feel like I have that (for the most part) in my religious life, beginning a new dietary regime is quite a change for me. I’ve come to this decision for several ethical and spiritual reasons that I’ll hopefully explore in upcoming posts.

Let the documentation begin!

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Just a Pinch of Cyanide

by Peter Farrugia

Photo by Jacob Sammut

Premiering on Broadway in 1941, Arsenic and Old Lace is finally playing to a Maltese audience at the Manoel Theatre under the direction of Josette Ciappara. With whimsical touches, she’s managed to find a balance between expectations brought on by the popular film (starring Cary Grant and Boris Karloff) and some zany innovations of her own.
The story centers on two sisters, Martha and Abigail Brewster (Marylu Coppini and Polly March), who have found a calling to “release” old men from lonely and solitary lives by offering them lodgings, and then disposing of the poor souls with a glass of arsenic-laced elderberry wine.

They live with their muddled nephew Teddy (played by a boisterous Colin Fitz), who’s convinced that he’s Theodore Roosevelt – and is propped up in the delusion by his relatives and neighbours. Fitz attacked the role with gusto, perhaps playing it so close to the film version that it came across a little too much like the reflection of a reflection – a cardboard character that, in a cardboard world of wacky strangeness, didn’t so much seem out of place as a little lacklustre.
The aunt’s favourite nephew is Mortimer (Edward Mercieca), a dandy theater critic and the only “sane” member of the Brewster clan (though you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s as nuts as the rest of them). Edward Mercieca, as usual, turns in a creditable performance although his energy is likely to wear an audience down with all his bounding and bellowing.

To offset this, March and Coppini’s able turn as the two gentle poisoners is required to keep the show on an even keel. They’re delightful in their roles and sit at the heart of the performance.
The third nephew, evil Jonathan, was played to good effect by Joe Depasquale. His tittering, neurotic psychopath routine actually brought something new to the role. It wasn’t Karloff’s detached, authoritarian evil but something altogether more strange. Depasquale made the character a twisted sort of schoolboy, combining charm and menace to good effect. It was certainly the most original characterization in the show.
Mortimer is engaged to marry Elaine Harper (Kate de Cesare) the beautiful daughter of a prissy old reverend (well played by Chris Hudson, it’s a shame he wasn’t in it for longer). De Cesare spent most of the play fretting about the stage, wringing her hands and shrieking – she did all of that very well, and was funniest when confronted by the wicked Jonathan. However the chemistry between Mortimer and his fiancee never really gelled, and (as the romantic fulcrum of the story) that presented a few problems.
When Jonathan gate-crashes the Brewster home, in desperate need of a hide out, he’s accompanied by his trusty plastic surgeon Dr Einstein (Renato Dimech, who did an excellent job of it) – the two actors worked together seamlessly and their antics on stage were amongst the funniest. It’s interesting to note that the play contained a lot of its best moments when parallel characters were on stage – the Brewster spinsters, Jonathan and his doctor, the film critic (Mercieca) and an aspiring playwright (Colin Willis as Officer O’Hara).
There were several other policemen, whose attempts at American accents were by turns hilarious and cringe-worthy – Steve Hili pulled it off with some aplomb, and the kind of “you dirty rat” diction that would make James Cagney blush.
MADC have pulled off a tight and funny performance, with able actors and a darkly funny script. Perhaps a lot of the Roosevelt gags fall flat, the buttoned- Victorian aunts are a parody of themselves, the world has changed and Arsenic and Old Lace is an artifact, with laughs at the period’s mores as much as the black comedy.

Still, audiences can be sure of an entertaining night out, revisiting a film many of us remember as one of Hollywood’s kookiest productions. Enjoy!

The Magician & The Fiddler

Image Copyright: Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone

Marvin the Marvel takes Browning’s advice, ‘a man’s reach should exceed his grasp’, a little too literally. Alas, all his vaulting ambitions are matched by a capability only adequate to plunging off the end-of-the-pier – where he belongs – into the murky depths below. Stick to children’s parties and seaside resorts, is my advice to him.

Harry reread the review, over his morning cup of Earl Grey tea. He mouthed the words to himself, lingering over their shapes, framed by a pleasant, mild tea-taste. The grapefruit juice that chased it down was bitter. He felt the tiniest pang of guilt; but decided that he loved his job after all.

‘Were we too harsh?’ asked Monica, folding her newspaper and setting it beside her.

Harry shrugged.

‘I mean, it was terrible, there’s no denying that,’ Monica rationalised.

‘It’s our duty to keep our readers informed – and forewarned,’ Harry said cheerfully. He stood up and stretched, turning towards the window. ‘It’s a lovely day outside.’

Harry had no reservations about writing bad reviews; indeed, claims of moral duty aside, Monica suspected he enjoyed them rather more than was strictly necessary. Monica’s qualms, on the other hand, may have had something to do with her own insecurities as a fiddler. She had never attempted public performance – she suffered from a mortal terror of critics. Instead, she played an accompaniment to the crickets living in the hedgerow behind the house. She found this made for a more comforting arrangement of sounds.

Harry and Monica were theatre critics for different newspapers. Which meant they often got sent to watch and review the same shows. Last night’s had been a random addition – the RSC had cancelled their production of The Spanish Tragedy, and they’d decided to review a much-hyped magic show instead. Years of experience as the panto dame at the local corn exchange comprised the extent of Harry’s knowledge – quite a reasonable qualification, he thought.

Marvin the Marvel, magician and author of such esoteric volumes as Dangerous Fabrics, Voodoo for Beginners, The Multiple Uses of Cats, and one detective novel – Long-Distance Murder, had just launched his first solo show. It was cheap and tacky entertainment fare. It might have gone down quite well at Butlins, thought Monica – but Marvin was well out of his depth with last night’s audience, and he didn’t know the first thing about dealing with hecklers – the show started its slow grind towards an agonisingly awkward drawn-out halt as soon as the little girl in the audience yelled out, ‘I can see the string!’ Marvin had ended the show on an – admittedly spectacular – finale, going up in smoke. Everyone had cheered; no one harder than Harry. Monica had held her breath too long, and had simply been grateful for the opportunity to release her pent-up laughter.

With no work till tomorrow night – press night for another re-visioning of Beckett’s Endgame – Monica decided to devote her time to practising on the fiddle, and Harry idly contemplated doing some work in the garden. He wanted to see how the strawberries were coming along.

The phone call was a little out of the blue, but Harry and Monica had learned to expect the inconveniences that came with being a critic – the angry letters bristling with hurt pride, the deadly shards of glass, the occasional death-threat.

Monica answered.

‘Hello, it’s Marvin the Marvel here.’

Monica could barely contain herself. ‘Oh, hello Mr Marvel.’ She couldn’t manage any more than that; the urge to giggle was rising like an irrepressible tide.

‘I read the reviews.’ Silence.

‘Oh, that’s – good.’ She drew in deep breaths and steadied her quavering voice.

‘You will regret this.’

Marvin spoke in intensely dramatic tones, every word seemingly calculated to conjure up a spell. This was too much for Monica. Peals of laughter tore away at her reserve. ‘I’m sorry…’

‘You will be.’ The line went dead.

‘Guess who that was.’ She told Harry. The shared laughter over the affair raised their spirits, and cast its happy glow over the rest of the day.

That evening, they had a couple of glasses of red, and a lively discussion on hubris in Julius Caesar.

Monica crawled out of bed at 11am to answer the doorbell, the next morning. She signed for delivery, and waited for the parcel to be unloaded. ‘It’s the whole truckload, miss. Would you like any help?’ She shook her head.

She circled the truck in bemused wonderment. What could it be? Stage props? Scenery? Their own independent production of her play, Where has all the marmalade gone? (a cross between cutting social satire and Winnie the Pooh) wasn’t due to enter the rehearsal-process till September.

Did Harry mean to surprise her?

‘I have no idea where it came from. Have you tried looking inside?’ Harry eyed it quizzically.

‘No. I wanted to wait for you.’

‘Well then, let’s see, shall we?’

Monica threw open the door. Inside were rows upon rows of shelves, stacked to the heights with books. Mostly lurid paperback novels, tattered vintage comics – books with screaming titles that marched across the spines – and occasionally dripped blood-red ink – pursued by a series of exclamation marks.

There was one particular row of horror paperbacks – more lurid affairs, like bound volumes of lost Victorian penny-dreadfuls. An entire series of volumes, each dedicated to a monster; there was one on ‘Werewolves’, one on ‘The Undead’, another on ‘Frankenstein’s monster’… yet another on ‘Mummies’.

Monica’s eye caught something on a higher shelf, leaning with its back to the wall, frontcover facing out. As her gaze tried to focus, she read disappearing snatches… something about the Transformations of Fredric Marsh… Richard Mansfield… The cover-picture was a garish drawing of Mansfield clutching a beaker, face twisting itself into impossible shapelessness.

She climbed up the shelves towards it, Harry’s entreaties to ‘be careful’ vague muffled echoes on the edge of hearing. A nasty laugh cut through the dreamhaze. Though she knew it was there, the book vanished as soon as she reached out for it. Her grasp scooped air and insubstantial colours, that broke their containment and spread outwards in ripples as her fingertips dipped into the cover-that-was-no-longer-there. She groped around in the place where she was sure it had been, knowing that it was still there – merely inaccessible to her senses.

In the meantime, the monster-books on the lower shelf were splitting their bindings, and expelling their contents. Mummies stumbled forth, blindly staggering past. Bats burst forth with an explosive flurry. Gnashing wolves tumbled out, flattening Harry under padded feet. The walls of books imploded towards them, in monster-shaped fragments. Monica, thrown off balance by a giant taloned flying creature, fell to the ground. She clutched Harry’s arm, speechless, as a stream of skeletons rattled past.

Marvin the Marvel was standing on the doorstep, ushering his fiendish forces into the house. Monica and Harry ran back in, after his retreating back. The living-room was overrun with the creatures of nightmare – ravens cackled with glee as they dropped the tea-things onto unwitting zombies; werewolves mocked Lily the wire-haired terrier; and Marvin stirred sugar into his tea.

Alarmed at the manner in which they had been ousted from their own living-room, Harry confronted Marvin. ‘What… Just. What?’

Marvin nodded to two ratchety skeletons, who chased the couple through their house, and out the back door.

‘Oh, sorry about all the dirt on your welcome mat…’ Marvin threw back his head and laughed. Harry was about to say something about the whole maniacal performance being rather tastelessly overstated, but thought better of it, as the two sentry-skeletons sat down to guard the entrance. Earth fell from their joints as they marshalled their bones into a cross-legged position.

The crickets were out in full orchestral harmony that night. Monica picked up her fiddle and played, under the light of the moon. The howls of wolves picked up the refrain.

Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone

The Day the Schlinks Stood Still

By Le_Moyne_de_Morgues (La Royale, Jean Randier, p.31)

I think there’s room for both private exploration and group work in Yoga. (Sting)

Trust Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner to come up with something like this. Mind you, it’s a valid point, however this is light years away from what lies within the interests of Schlockanoids, and it’s included here only to have the popular singer’s name tagged in this post and hopefully cyber cheat a couple of extra hits in the process.

Then again, maybe Sting is not the ideal choice for that.

Anyways.

John Lennon (now that’s more like it) crooned about a certain Lucy whose best friends resided in the sky. He always denied the connection between Lucy-Sky-Diamonds and LSD and everybody believed him. NASA, of all people, proved him right because the heavenly drug of choice is NOT LSD but cocaine. CHECK THIS ONE OUT.

No wonder then that Robo Trek was invented. Robonaut 2, or R2, as he is known to close acquaintances, is immune to the allure of the white dust and thus more reliable. Also, considering that it consists of a mere head, torso and pair of arms, it cost $2.5 million to build and this impinged not a little on the recreation budget. No more fancy mind-altering stuff and anti-gravitational nights out- it’s back to Gin Rummy and Tiddlywinks.

Or Planetspotting. According to data acquired by NASA’s Kepler space telescope there could be billions of Earthlike planets in the Milky Way galaxy and thus the chances of having extraterrestrial intelligent life are increased dramatically. God knows if we are in dire need of more Dr Spocks.

Who sing about big hairy feet.

And who are hopefully fans of Michelangelo and Steven Spielberg rather than Tim Burton.

By Tama Leaver

Speaking of which, io9 published a list of great ET spoofs.  Check it out. Do yourself a favour and do not disclose how many of them you have actually seen. And yes, E.T. porn is included and even though it’s nobody’s business but mine, I am attending therapy sessions.

[Sigh.]

Here is the one about Kleeborp.

Image: Orchi

One need not go all the way to a galaxy far, far away to experience the thrill of discovery. There are always tropical rain forests and godforsaken jungles for some good old-fashioned perilous expeditions. Lurking amongst arboriculture that’s gone haywire there might be dinosaurs, for instance, which are just as cool. Look at what horror guru Mick Garris has to say about Irwin Allen’s 1960 adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. This film is awesome because instead of using models and stop motion animation, the special effects team actually stuck fins and props to real lizards and then filmed them!

IT’S METHOD ACTING LIZARDS, MAN!!!! (Eat your heart out Mr Brando!)

And if it’s not a land that time forgot, it can be a loch in Scotland (ok, I see the similarities too) which houses a creature whose sporadic sightings and much-debated practical use in the grand scheme of things, made it become the stuff of legend. It’s not Ewan McGregor but Nessie, the aquatic perplexity that is at the moment a Disney-in-the-making.

Following more or less the same trajectory, Glendon Mellow has an ubersome cool site full of ubersome cool drawings and paintings collectively known as Art in Awe of Science. There are numerous extrapolations/hybrids of extinct beasts and humanoids that are so high on the WOW factor.

One can explore the sky, one can explore the land but what about the ocean? This is one of the most exciting things ever: if you CLICK HERE, you will find an article detailing how a certain species of algae ‘insinuate themselves into salamander embryos’ allowing them to breathe underwater. If it is possible with salamanders, why not with humans? And as we speak, I bet that James Cameron is knocking on the door of the nearest cosplay shop for that Aquaman costme that nobody ever rents.

And with that, I am going to end this month’s Schlinks. To round things up, here is a gratuitous video tutorial of how to make an origami swan:

Schlock Podcast – Episode 2

Welcome again to Schlock’s podcast, now on it’s second episode with well over an hour’s worth of flash fiction, discussions and even a first – a comedy sketch of a rather dark nature, as Schlock Troupe make their audio debut after a successful run at The Burlesque Monster Cruise earlier this month.

Taking part is the Schlock team –  Teodor Reljic, Pete Farrugia, Noel Tanti, Bettina Borg Cardona, Michael Vella and Marco Attard.

Readings

Living on an Island is Like…(part 6) by Michael Vella – 0:54

A City Chase by Marco Attard – 3:38

The Third Rome by Daniel Vella – 30:07

Cafe Noir by Bettina Borg Cardona – 33:55

A day in the life of an A-B-C-darian by Peter Farrugia – 53:57

Only Light by Teodor Reljic – 57:21

Discussions:

Teodor and Marco handle the Marvel Might that is Thor, in a discussion leading into general talk on the current trend for superhero cinema. – 5:45

Comic! Michael leads a discussion with Noel and Marco on their current readings of a more graphical nature. – 36:19

Sketch:

OAPs by Schlock Troupe – 1:01:49

Click the arrow button to download or listen right here… either way, we hope you enjoy our ramblings – we’ll be back next month with more!

Special thanks go to Friend of Schlock Thom Cuschieri for making the recording of the podcast possible, the music, and for putting it all together in the end!

Be sure to stay with us for the coming weeks – our Exploration-themed issue will be making its way in early June, and it’ll be accompanied by the usual flash week from our core contributors. Also, please don’t hesitate to leave your feedback – positive or negative, we love it!

Black Night – They step into Darkness

Read the prelude…

Nar: They walked through the empty streets talking of unimportant things. Now and then one of them would laugh or shout with happiness. They pointed at all the strange sights of the dark city. The city was calling to them.

-Come to me…

Its language was as old as stone and dirt. They heard it in their souls. They were drawn to the darkness and mystery. Soon they were tired and could walk no further. They stood in front of a tall building. It loomed. The sign above the door read

The Last Waterhole

Continue reading

Faust Reversed… (or: Prometheus Rebounding)

'Dreamer', Caspar David Friedrich

‘Your funeral arrangements are underway, expenses to be borne by the community; the whole village will be there.’

They were conducting a vigil beneath his window at this very moment. Everyone knew Percy wouldn’t survive the night. He had performed ‘miracles’ in curing everybody else; but he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – save himself. The villagers prayed – though they believed he was some sort of miracle-worker, they were not praying for his life – a saint was more powerful dead. Snatches of hymns drifted up to his window, some were praying to him as though he were already in heaven, capable of the impossible. He was their very own martyr, having contracted the disease through contact with all those he had helped. Yet, he harboured no regrets, still less any grudges.

As far as the priest could see, Percy’s life had been faultless – ‘You have nothing to fear; there are already proposals for your beatification.’

‘Let me die first.’

‘Of course; however, I thought you’d like to know – the general agreement is that you probably are a saint. Those people below are praying to you, as well as for you.’

‘I wish I could do more for them… Perhaps I can do one last thing.’

‘Oh you will do even more than that, from your saintly seat in heaven, looking down upon us from on high.’

Percy shook his head ruefully. ‘Perhaps some day they’ll understand…’

The priest lifted the cross. ‘I shall give you the last sacrament…’

‘I don’t want it.’

The priest froze for a moment in shock; the shadow of the cross falling across the bed. Then he relaxed. ‘I know I am not worthy to give you the last rites; it was presumptuous of me, I’m sorry. You’re already at peace with God.’

‘You misunderstood me – I refuse the last rites. Just as I reject my Baptism.’

‘Why?’ the priest let the cross slip out of his grasp; ‘You have done God’s work all your life… You have put other people before yourself, you have consistently devoted your life to good. But though everyone, including myself, thinks you’re already a saint, you shouldn’t assume it without humility.’

‘It’s not a question of pride; or perhaps it is. I am nobody’s saint.’

‘You have earned Heaven, my son.’

‘That is irrelevant; or rather – necessary.’

‘Will you intercede for me, when you’re in heaven?’

‘Have you heard nothing I’ve just said?’ Percy’s voice was feeble. His strength was failing him. And he expected more visits that night – intruding between himself and his appointment with death.

The priest left without the blessing he so desired from the one whom all believed to be a saint.

Percy waited.

A flutter announced the arrival of the Nightingale. The Nightingale took over the Lark’s offices at night; it called to Percy, its gently oscillating waves of song cradling him, soothing him, calling him to faraway unbounded regions of eternal drifts.

Percy steeled himself against the siren’s call.

NIGHTINGALE: Percy, Percy, the pearly gates have been thrown wide open for your entry; the chariot’s waiting…

PERCY: I’m not coming.

NIGHTINGALE: You can’t resist the end.

PERCY: I don’t intend to.

NIGHTINGALE: Plans are in place for a miracle of dazzling rarity; the chariot will appear in the sky as a fiery star, soaring in splendour. You may look down upon your people, and bless them; they will know they can rely upon your heavenly glory to intercede for them.

PERCY: What’s with all the pomp? There are precious few signs of God’s existence given to the people in every other respect; why should I alone be cause for any such singular event?

NIGHTINGALE: Do not question the designs of God. God moves in mysterious ways..

The Nightingale looked rapt. Its song fled into the night.

PERCY: And cliché further mystifies.

The Nightingale was a lot of things – infinitely. But here, its patience almost dried up. A dangerously angry tremor entered its voice.

NIGHTINGALE: Beware the wrath of God! Beware.

PERCY: Let him do his worst.

The Nightingale reappraised the situation, shifting its metaphysical point of view to see Percy in a favourable light. It decided Percy exceeded measure in one virtue.

NIGHTINGALE: Excessive humility may be cast off, now that you are hearing it from me: Heaven confers its graces on you.

A hop and a curse at the window signalled a further visitor.

CROW: Am I too late?

NIGHTINGALE: You have no business being here. There’s nothing for you here.

CROW: I think annoying you is reason enough; don’t you? Besides, it’s always been our tradition.

The angelic altercation carried on for a few minutes, independently of Percy; who finally cut in – ‘You are welcome too; never let it be said I turned anyone away from my door – or window.’ He sounded tired.

NIGHTINGALE: I don’t see why the pest should always turn up at the most sacred of moments, it’s inappropriately farcical.

Percy turned to face the Nightingale. ‘I didn’t invite you.’

The Nightingale looked stunned. A stutter entered its song. It bravely persevered in its now haltingly-haunting tune.

NIGHTINGALE: You believe in God, don’t you?

Percy admitted, ‘Perhaps. Avian angels sort of tip the balance.’

NIGHTINGALE: Your faith has been rewarded with proof, finally.

PERCY: I never asked for proof.

NIGHTINGALE: And that is why God has favoured you with it.

PERCY: That doesn’t make much sense.

CROW: Ooh, I like a good riddle.

PERCY: Even acknowledging the possibility that there is a god doesn’t alter my resolve.

Here, he addressed the Crow: So, what have you come to offer me? More years of life?

CROW: Um… No, I’m afraid your lease of life is done.

NIGHTINGALE: See, not much bargaining power at this stage; begone, pest!

CROW: Wait! Wait… Um. I can offer you… let me see; exquisite torments for all eternity, beautiful fiery pits with flames that… leap and lick your hair; buzzards that long only to get intimate, feeding on your entrails; lively flails that whip your flesh up into a dynamic large red boil; you’ve seen the pictures…

NIGHTINGALE: He’s not interested.

CROW: Well, kudos on your triumph, smarmy-beak. I’ll be hopping off then.

The Crow took a deep draught of the brandy set by the bed.

‘I’ll take it.’ Percy’s frail voice was barely distinguishable. The Crow toppled over into the glass, and emerged hiccupping. ‘Wh*hiccup*at?’

The Nightingale simply failed to take in the situation.

‘I’ll come with you.’

The Crow’s glee was all the greater for the unexpectedness of the triumph. It drunkenly strutted along the table, and then was tipped over the edge by one particularly mighty hiccup. Its elation vanished as soon as it hit the ground. ‘But – but *hic* you can’t; *hic* we have no power over you.’

‘Why are you here then?’ Percy’s patience, like the Nightingale’s, was potentially infinite; but his time was running out, and this frustrated him.

‘To torment the songbird, mostly,’ the Crow explained. ‘And it’s tradition – though he tries to lose me, he’s always been too simpleminded to evade my ruses. I simply turn up wherever he does. That’s what we do.’

The Nightingale muttered ‘This is blasphemy’ at Percy, in tones that suggested song-gone-sour.

‘Not really,’ Percy reasoned, ‘I’m exercising my right of free will – something that is allowed by you. No more than that. I have abided by virtue all my life, now I merely ask that I retain that right to choose freely.’

The Nightingale tried to argue. It didn’t make much sense to subject a man who had never been anything but good to eternal punishment. God was a just and merciful God, and could never countenance it.

Percy however, pointed out that, as far as he knew – which wasn’t much – God didn’t have a countenance. And that God’s ‘sense’ was common to none, by definition – ultimately inscrutable.

Percy spent his last hour arguing theology with a Crow and a Nightingale, ending in an impasse. The debates carried on after his death; for that time, his soul was bound to earth – a wispy melmothic wanderer. His spirit, in despite of insubstantiality, rendered warmth and comfort where it was needed, and gave imperceptible guidance to those who were lost.

The priest who had been at his bedside the night of Percy’s death had left the Church, to dedicate himself more wholly to humanity. The people who prayed to Percy found their prayers never went unanswered. For many years, he continued to look out for the community, as he had done in life. At the end of that term, another offer was made. Percy still refused salvation, a source of some regret to God and Nightingales; so – unredeemed – he was cast into the fiery pits of hell.

Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone