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Human Suffering

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a couple of days now. I just had this feeling that I had something to say. As I type this, I’m still not sure what it is. I suppose it will come naturally.

Recently I finished a very good book and watched a very impactful movie that brought to my attention struggles from the past I was unaware of. In school, I learned about several atrocities but just seeing these events unraveled in such detail really opened my eyes.

These peoples’ struggling hit me particularly hard and made me wonder about my own situation. These are my brothers and sisters going through a hard time. It made me realize just how fortunate I am to lead the life I lead.

I’ve never had to eat out of the trash to survive. I’ve never had to eat bugs to survive. I’ve never watched my mother or father die before my very eyes.

All these thoughts brought up in me a conviction. I felt that I had a duty to help alleviate suffering however I can.

We all suffer the same. Doesn’t matter what color, creed, or flag you are. Anyone suffering out there is a brother or sister in need. If I could help them in any way I’d be happy.

I guess that’s what this post is about mostly. I wanted to write about it so I wouldn’t become passive and go back to living my middle class life in a first world country.

I want to be of service.

A question. Why do people seek peace through violence? It seems that it would be common sense this is counter-intuitive but history shows it doesn’t come naturally to everybody.

Thank you for reading.

Can Album Artwork Influence Your Perception?

In the cover for Madlib and MF Doom’s collaborative project, better known together as Madvillain, you get MF Doom in his metal face mask reminiscent of the villain Doctor Doom from Marvel Comics. The notorious black and white helps paint an image of a real Hip-Hop villain. The splash of color in the right corner helps add a nice contrast.

So, can a album’s artwork influence your perception of a body of work?

I certainly think it can.

Some album covers give you an expectation. You may have already heard some singles off the album prior to listening to the full project but certain covers give you an over-all idea of what to expect.

A$AP Rocky’s At.Long.Last.Asap is a good example (great album by the way). In the cover we have Rocky holding his face with his hands but we see several different faces. We also see a face with a birth mark that belongs to his late comrade A$AP Yams. So, already you can tell this is going to be a trippy and experimental album and also that it’s in memory of A$AP Yams. You can already expect a shoutout or two.

Kero Kero Bonito, an indie pop group with bilingual lyrics often have covers like this with colors that “pop.” Get it? Pop music? Usually Sarah, the frontwoman for the band is featured, as it is mainly her vocals that appear on the songs. She often wears “cute,” “glamorous,” or “kawaii” clothing. This is fitting because their lyrics are filled with Japanese and the production is often a glossy, bubblegum, cheery, cutesy type of music.

There are certain album covers that make more sense after listening to the album itself. Take for example, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, a play on the book title To Kill a Mockingbird.

In this album, pictured are friends of Lamar from his neighborhood, shown here flashing money and holding liquor bottles. Even the younger ones in this can be seen holding money. This is characteristic of what Kendrick Lamar grew up with. Growing up he saw a lot of hustling and partying as well. If you notice, the White House sits in the background and what looks like a dead judge lays at their feet. This is a statement on the injustice African-Americans face everyday in America. The fallen judge signifies that they’ve beaten the injustice.

Lamar surrounded by his friends can be interpreted as, when Kendrick reaches the top, he is taking his neighborhood with him. The album talks a lot about race dynamics and politics. You might think the cover is just your typical “we’re taking over” rap theme until you reach deeper.

Some album covers are more blatant. Take Joey Bada$$’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$.

In this album, Joey criticizes the American government and speaks on the injustices and struggles many African-Americans face at the hands of an “oppressor.” The paisley American flag represents another side of America that’s often looked over. He states here that he is All-American and should not be ignored or suppressed. The play on the infamous name of racist radical group The KKK sandwiched between the letters that spell America also suggests there is going to be themes of race and oppression.

All in all, I think good album artwork is essential for a good album. I’m of the variety who like aesthetics. I think the artwork goes hand in hand with the music and has to make sense. You wouldn’t want a grungy looking album cover for a teen girl group. It would just leave people confused and is distasteful. I think it’s what makes music so multi-dimensional. Music is not just auditory anymore but you have the static album artwork and music videos, which is film and music combined, adding to the experience.

Thank you for reading this somewhat long post. Until the next one.

Silence, Stillness

How much do you value silence?

In this fast paced and ever demanding world, rarely do people stop to take a real breather.

I think silence, stillness, is powerful.

There’s beauty in just staying still and observing what is around you without so much as a word. Or also, just observing your mind. How many people know how to calm their mind to a standstill? Where the daily traffic of intruding thoughts and memos and reminders come to a halt? A daunting task for I’d say many. It’s something that still eludes me myself.

How more beautiful can a moment be in perfect silence? Even your mind is silent. You’re just being. How many people can appreciate this moment before they go mad or reach for their phone? Not many.

I remember I used to practice meditation for 2 hours every morning. For a while I didn’t think it did anything. Then I started noticing that I felt calmer, didn’t divide my attention up and could focus on things more attentively. I also just seemed happier.

See, they call a wandering mind “monkey mind.” The mind is like an ape begging for attention constantly. By taking time out of my day to watch and essentially give it the attention it wanted, I was able to calm it.

I’m guilty of falling out of this practice but today brought me back to the moments I spent enjoying absolute stillness and nothingness, just being. Singularity. Indeed life is very delicate in and of itself and when you stop a moment to appreciate it you become more thankful.

Perhaps I will reinstate this practice back into my routine as it is to my benefit.

Thank you for reading.

Vivre Sa Vie

Did I make an oath underneath that moonlight? The moon seemed to be a recurring theme for that night. Once when I was on the roof and I delighted in its super glory and again on the side of the beach. The moon was playing peek-a-boo with me all night, shrouded in the clouds. I’m glad that we were able to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature after a night of wordly affairs.

That night as I gripped a beer bottle, I had to wonder what I’m really about. What does it mean to live one’s life truly? I think I was beginning to understand it more.

That night I felt free, I was up for anything. It was a time of exploration for me in the old colonial city. Something that I’m all about. Maybe that’s what it means for me. I wouldn’t mind trying new experiences and loosening up just a little. I usually feel like the odd one out in these situations but I feel I may really be coming into my own.

Do I have more of a grasp of what I’m really about or is this just the effects of some alcohol and some fleeting excitement? This I wonder. Either way it feels good to have any sort of clarity… Vivre sa vie… my life to live.

Growing Up

Growing up I learned a lot of things the hard way. Rarely did I ever take someone’s advice as truth and applied it to my life.

Fast forward to today and I’ve made it to where I am now but it hasn’t been without its fair share of bumps and bruises. Sometimes I can’t believe I used to act a certain way or think a certain way. I guess even when I thought I wasn’t progressing forward I was still evolving.

I wonder if life has a way of pushing us along even when we don’t push ourselves forward.

I often think about how little life experience I have. About what it exactly means to grow up. As a kid I didn’t have any heroes, I didn’t look up to anybody. No role models.

I was more inspired by animated heroes on television than I was by real people. And while they certainly had qualities I wanted to emulate, I couldn’t really become the hero of a village or savior of the planet.

I needed something to aspire to, some mold to fit into. I’m still figuring out what that is. I’m wondering what roads to take. Taking everyone’s advice and seeing how it could fit into my life like a puzzle.

I’m hoping I can be a better man for tomorrow, but I don’t know what being a man really means or what it means for me.

I hope I can figure it out soon.