Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Listening" to Music: More Than Sounds

Yesterday, as I was downloading pictures onto my Facebook album, I simultaneously went on You Tube and listened to music from the 90s, and eventually the 2000s (thus far). Later in the evening, as I looked back on it, I reminded myself that you need to discern between what is popular and what is right.

During her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in February 2010, actress Monique (Best Supporting Actress winner for her role in the movie Precious) thanked her husband "for showing me that sometimes, you have to forego doing what's popular in order to do what's right." Indeed, she was right. And indeed, there is a huge difference. Consider, when you listen to music, are you more in tune with what the song is talking about, or are you mesmerized by the "tune" (or style, or sound) of the song that you don't care about what their saying? As I was listening to music from the past decade, I found that many of the popular songs in, say, 2007, we mostly rap or hip-hop (many of which I've never even heard of).

Call me a cynic or a snob, but I'm glad I'm not caught up in the "popular" music scene. I say this not to be against the music scene. I say this to state that I am not one for mere escapist music, in general. (On the other hand, listening to classical music from composers like Bach or Beethoven can be escapist for good reasons.) The type of music that I appreciate and value is the type of music that is honest and speaks truth. I speak not only of contemporary Christian music and such, but of music from films soundtracks (e.g., John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Thomas Newman), rock (Coldplay, All-American Rejects, Beck), and acoustic, to name a few. I'd like to really hear a song that makes you think or that means something to you.

The late Tupac Shakur

Getting back to the hip-hop scene, one artist I will vouch for (although not entirely) is the late Tupac ("2Pac") Shakur. Before his death in 1996, Shakur was known for his honest yet often provocative music on thug life, the streets, and brotherhood, as well as family. (His endearing track "Dear Mama" is a good example of the latter.) One song that I revisited a week or two ago was "Changes," which skillfully crafts issues and themes of the times and of life. In fact, Shakur opens with the line, "I see no changes/Wake up in the morning and I ask myself/Is life worth living/Should I blast myself?" It's a near-harsh line, but also a near-universal one. Are we willing to wake up everyday and face the challenges the world hurls at us? Are we willing to make changes for the common good of our relationships, our jobs, and even the way we live? I applaud 2Pac for bringing to light these questions (depsite a few course words on the track).

In short, I am for music that makes you think, that gives you inspiration or optimism, that gives you encouragement from whatever challenges life throws at you. And it can or doesn't have to include words. Amazing how the heart and soul are impacted.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Still at the surfing . . . Yet . . .

What I mentioned in my last post applies to this current moment--surfing the Internet. Rather, I am surfing You Tube. I essentially spent the last few hours downloading pictures onto my Facebook album. At the same time, I listened to various music from the 90s, and eventually the 2000s (thus far). As I said before, sometimes I can get so caught up in surfing, that I loose sight of everything else and spend more time on one thing than the other (or another). At least I'm very wise about how I'm responding to certain music, thankfully. I'm glad I'm not caught up in the whole "popular" music scene nowadays, yet there are still songs that have a worthwhile quality every now and then, that I can't help but pay attention.

As I do with movies, I don't merely listen to music (well, sometimes, yes), I really listen to it. The same should go for all kinds of media viewing and examining. The next time you watch a movie or listen to a song, think about what kind of impact it has, for better or worse. Remember, the media and culture has more influence than you realize.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Random Thoughts: We Are Students

I just came to the library at the University in Platteville (where I'm currently typing this blog), and, on my way over, had a thought: Even though I've been a college graduate for about five months, I still feel like a student. For one thing, I still use the computers at the campus library from time to time, as well as at the Public Library downtown. I also, from time to time, visit with friends at the student center nearby (almost once a week, in fact). And, I have a bike. Okay, this last reason may not be a big reason for feeling like a student, but since I don't have a car (Yep!), it can count.

On the other hand (as I was thinking on my way over here), I think many of us if not all of us are like students. We meet people everyday and get to know them day by day. We watch movies and TV shows and listen to music; thanks to DVDs and Blu-rays, we have access to behind-the-scenes extras and documentaries on the makings of these types of projects, regarding the people involved and the intended themes involved as well. More importantly, and above all, we are like students in that we continue to learn more and more everyday. This has significant meaning in the different phases we go through in life, whether high school, college, grad school, a new job or career, or a new chapter as a specific type of family member (e.g., a parent, an uncle or aunt, etc.).

In accordance with this idea, I can honestly (and riskingly) say that I'm glad none of us are perfect. Because if we were, what more could there be to learn? What would our relationships be like? Who would we turn to for help or support or guidance? Regarding this latter allusion to the notion of omniscience, I can't help but recall the famous Bob Dylan song, where he sings, "We all gotta serve somebody." (Just a thought.) As I mentioned in my Ars Poetica for a Poetry class last semester, a personal journey is either one of two things: a straight road full of routine and convention, or a series of different roads of exploration and discovery.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The process/search goes on . . .

I am reminded how impatient and sometimes boring it can get while you're waiting for something to happen. I've mentioned this to several people over the last few weeks, but sometimes, in my opinion, you can't really take any serious steps until you know for sure how something is going to turn out.

I found out this afternoon that I wasn't accepted a job with a non-profit organization in Minnesota this coming fall. This is not to say that I was frustrated or mad with the organization. I am very thankful to have, at least, had the opportunity to be interviewed by and alongside so many wonderful people who are passionate about what they do.

The person who e-mailed me said that they were impressed with how I was and what I brought forth in the interview earlier last month. They also suggested I look into other AmeriCorps services around the country.

On a slightly different note, I spoke with a friend yesterday who reminded me to keep applying and to keep getting myself out there. (She's still searching for jobs, as a matter of fact.) So, it's nice to know, on one hand, that I'm not alone in this, in addition to where the economy is at (as I've been told by friends and relatives).

Basic reminders: Don't be discouraged.

As a friend once told me, "You didn't come this far to quit." I hope this is encouraging for those of you reading this, and for those who are in a similar situation.

Still here,