Escape Essentially

Someone made a comment to me the other day that made me realize how different people can be. People’s perspectives of the world can differ so greatly even if those people have grown up in relatively similar conditions, similar education, in the same city of the same country.

I find myself surrounded by people whose perspectives differ from mine quite greatly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when those people have a large influence on your life and exert some power over you those differences of opinions can become negative influences. I think this happens because people whose values and priorities differ can fundamentally not understand each other, which leads to disagreements, which leads to separation.

The silly thing is there is no better or more right way to lead ones life (well except for maybe extreme cases). Everyone has to figure out what is important to them and lead their life in line with those values, in a way that serves what they decide is meaningful.

So how to deal with conflict and negativity that can arise from misunderstanding when it seems to be surrounding you? Personally, I try to remove myself from the negativity, physically and mentally. Reading a novel that explores ideas I find interesting, listening to music that reaches some deep part of me, going for a bike ride to feel the wind against my face, driving away for the weekend to explore a near by city I’ve never visited before. Escape essentially. But escape in order to surround yourself with things that nourish your soul, things that matter to you. For me, I seek creativity, adventure, art, nature. These things make me feel rejuvenated and at the same time like I belong to something.

I think everyone has a place where they feel they belong, and most often it’s not the same “home” they’ve grown up in. The scary, and exciting part is finding that place for yourself.

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Begin Again – Film Leftovers

The greatest thing about Begin Again is its authenticity. Whether this is a result of great acting, great directing or the camera capturing real moments between actors doesn’t really matter. The chemistry and resulting bond that develops between Greta (played by Kiera Knightly) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo’s character) feels so natural; it sneaks up on you. The actors are so committed to their characters they evoke no memory of roles they’ve played in the past. Mark Ruffalo isn’t The Hulk or a sperm donor for a lesbian couple, he is a frustrated agent with a passion for music and a complicated family life. Kiera Knightley isn’t Anna Karenina or the fearless, swashbuckling star-crossed lover of William Turner, she is a young, innocent woman with a natural talent for making music who becomes lost in a new and unfamiliar world. James Corden is, well, James Corden with a guitar, but this is exactly what his role calls for, and he is fantastic. Adam Levine is a talented and (as a result) ego-inflated jerk, and the same can be said of his character in the film. Hah, sorry, I had to.

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Dan and Greta are two quite different people, but their shared interest in real, emotion-evoking music brings them together and in turn into each other’s hearts. This, I think, is what makes this film so special. The greatest movies take you completely inside the world of the characters and immerses you in the story. Begin Again achieves this and takes you to every street corner, subway, shitty apartment and cafe with Dan and Greta. It also takes you into their lives and struggles. The audience feels the chaotic energy of New York and the heartache, confusion and joy of the characters, yet it’s never overwhelming or calculated.

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Begin Again is storytelling as it’s most elegant and affecting. When you feel as though the actors you are watching are simply people, roles, scripts, sets and cameras fall away and you are left with the heart and soul of the story. I don’t want to spoil the film by describing any specific scenes or re-telling any specific conversations so the only other thing I will add is that this is a film for anyone and everyone. It isn’t just for indie movie lovers, music industry haters, Kiera Knightley adorers, Adam Levine fan girls, or big city dreamers, it’s for all of them.

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Begin Again is a film for anyone who’s every been confused, lonely, uncertain, in love or heart broken, or all of those things.

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Only Lovers Left Alive – Film Leftovers

Plenty of movies warn of the destruction cause by humans if their excessive consumerism and disregard for the environment continues. The film industry is rather saturated with dystopian films, even when only considering those made in the past ten years; Cloud Atlas, Children of Men, V for Vendetta among the best of them, The Purge, Divergent, and Babylon A.D. among the worst. And although they cover a wide range of genres it feels rather unoriginal to release another film about human society falling under their own corruption.

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Yet, here is a movie dark and dreary but never depressing, creative and clever but never over-the-top and so seemingly simple. Only Lovers Left Alive is so brilliantly acted and directed it seems to tell itself. It feels so natural and honest it’s hard to imagine it in storyboards or even as a script. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are both elegant and fascinating actors. Their dialogue flows as gracefully as their delicate body movements, both of which are undercut by the unobtrusive and humble camera work that guides the viewer through their story.

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The story of Adam and Eve, the story of humanity struggling to survive, has never been so uniquely and simply told as through this pair of captivating lovers. Their creator, Jim Jarmusch, creates an unforgettable story and, cautionary tales aside, a beautiful film.

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I personally have never seen a film more deserving of the description comedic, dark, sad, lovely and important. While the setting of the film, a forsaken Detroit and infected human race is hardly memorable, what is unforgettable are the characters’ love of life. Whether it is through their facial expressions after drinking the blood of a human or body language while playing or listening to music, the characters seem to recognize how precious life is. The raw performances in this film deliver this message more beautifully and with more impact than special effects or CGI ever could.

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What Kind of Future

The evening I started writing this was the evening I realized that we are responsible for ourselves and our lives. Doesn’t it sound like such an obvious statement? We are responsible, in control of who we are, what we do. It seems to make perfect sense. We make decisions in life and take actions that shape who we become and what our lives look like.

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But there is more than one way to interpret this statement. The first interpretation would be something along the lines of humans having the freewill to make decisions. So at any one point in our lives, we can trace back the choices we’ve made that have led us to that point. Of course, things in life happen to us, things beyond our control, but for the most part, or at least in large part, we make our own choices that govern the paths we are on and the places we go.

The second interpretation is related to the first so closely it may not even warrant a separate paragraph. It is responsibility, not in terms of past actions which we hold ourselves accountable for, but what we decide our futures to be. This, I believe, is the scariest yet most important responsibility. How can we know what actions or decisions to make if we do not have a vision of where we want those decisions to take us.

When we picture ourselves in even the nearest of futures, what are we doing, where are we and why are we there? I feel like all too often we don’t think about our futures in a really concrete form. We daydream, we think up future goals that sound nice under the influence of preconceived notions but real planning for real futures, how do we go about doing that? How can we expect to satisfy ourselves and our passions when we so clearly lack direction? Direction itself is so influenced by experience and knowledge if we lack in either of those departments we’ll have no hope of finding any direction whatsoever.

All of this rambling has led to what I hope is some sort of lesson. The lesson is this: the only way we can find any meaning in life is of course to do something we find fulfilling. But before we can even hope to know what that is, we need to experience things, try and fail at things and travel to find new and different things. If we reflect on the experiences we’ve had and the things we’ve failed at, then maybe we will find something worth while, some goal worth pursuing, some future we can actually picture. I don’t think we should worry about having a future to work towards, I think we should focus on having experiences and continuing to thirst for knowledge.

I don’t think humans are meant to do one thing, or that there is a right path to follow. Humans are full of so many emotions, passions and have so many different combinations of characteristics how could there be only one thing to which we are suited. Whatever path we end up on, no matter how untraveled or well-traveled, will have us discover what is meaningful and valuable along the way. I only hope to find a hand full of things I find meaning in so I can make them into a life. Humans don’t find themselves, we find ways to make ourselves.

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And we don’t stop creating ourselves either. There is no end destination, no ‘future’ we reach. We continue to travel and discover. It’s what makes life so exciting and worth living in the first place.

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An Exploration of Terminology – Live Music

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After some thought I’ve decided I really like the term “live music.”

My initial interpretation was to dismiss it with the perspective that music, whether hearing it performed by a live band or through speakers, is live or alive. It is a preservation of the sounds made by the hands, mouths and feet of a collective group of people or just one person. Even if a piece of music is a synthesized tacky-sounding drum beat with someone talking over top of it, someone sat down (okay maybe they stood up, I can’t speak for everyone) and created the tacky-sounding beat with their hands and spoke ideas out loud with their mouth and recorded it. Without delving too deep into this topic, I think this is the greatest thing about music, it’s accessible to everyone and it can be created in any form using any medium and shared with anyone.

My issue with the term “live music” was that no matter how you hear it, it sounds alive. Melodies sink and sway and move in a way that make you feel something. And that makes them ‘living’ to me.

 

However, after attending a concert last night I realized why the term is appropriate. Sound waves traveling from an instrument played by one human into the ears of another is a different sort of ‘live.’ This ‘live’ is an instantaneous experiencing of sonic art. And it’s more vulnerable because someone is sharing it with you in person.

The band performing in front of me last night was one of those bands that are completely in the moment and completely in love with what they’re playing. You can see it in their faces, in their movements. It’s in the way the lead singer closes his eyes and let’s his hand float towards the ceiling as he sings a slow peaceful melody and then open his eyes and brings his hand to the mic when the energetic chorus comes back in. It’s in the way the guitarist smirks when he catches the eye of the bassist as their instruments create a melody that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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When a band is this passionate about their music, you feel fortunate to be there to witness it yourself, in person, to be living the music with them. If this sentiment were to be captured in a two-word phrase, I think “live music” would serve the purpose quite exceptionally.

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Artist Inspiration – Donald Glover

Donald Glover in London, 2013

Donald Glover in London, 2013

There doesn’t seem to be much Donald Glover can’t do. Writer, stand up comedian, actor, musician, producer, all around artist, this self proclaimed outcast seems to have found his place in the world – doing whatever the heck he wants. Rarely has an artist ventured into so many different mediums and been successful in, well all of them. Now, I don’t want to talk about the struggles he’s overcome as a ‘black actor’, and I don’t want to critique his new album (though, fair warning, it has so many layers you might just lose yourself in them) and I don’t want to talk about why we’re “Clapping for the Wrong Reasons.” I just want to take a step back and realize how amazingly ambitious and creative this guy is. And it’s not just the fact that he’s pursued so many different types of projects, it’s that he’s done them in a memorable way; a way that makes you reflect on what you’ve seen or heard and comes back to you weeks later when you’re driving to work one morning. He breaks any mold the media try to put him in. I don’t know why they even bother.

On the set of Community, Season 1 (from the episode Introduction to Statistics)

On the set of Community, Season 1 (from the episode Introduction to Statistics)

On the set of Girls, Season 2, Episode 2

On the set of Girls, Season 2, Episode 2

"I put in work, ask Ludwig..." Ludwig Goransson, music composer for Community and collaborator on Gambino's Camp and Because The Internet.

“I put in work, ask Ludwig…”
Ludwig Goransson, music composer for Community and collaborator on Gambino’s Camp and Because The Internet

Performing "Outside" at Lollapalooza, 2012

Performing “Outside” at Lollapalooza, 2012

Confessional notes posted to his Instagram account (October, 2013)

Confessional notes posted to his Instagram account, October 2013

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A scene from Clapping for the Wrong Reasons

A scene from Clapping for the Wrong Reasons

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Wonder

I find people make a lot of excuses. Excuses for not going out, not trying things, not opening themselves up to something new. I make them for myself too. My usual excuse is that I don’t feel like doing something; my mood seems to dictate everything I do actually. This is just how I am I’ve learned. I’m quite a moody person. Not in that I’m sitting around sulking all day but in that, if I feel energetic I will likely stand up and do something to use that energy. On the other hand, when I’m relaxed I’ll probably make a cup of tea for myself and sit at my computer and I don’t know… write a blog. I think it’s good to be able to understand how your mood affects you because then you know what you need to make yourself happy.

The trouble arises when my moodiness prevents me from doing things I feel I could gain something from; even something as simple as attending a public lecture or running errands. You’re almost always better off going for something rather than downplaying in your head and rationalizing that it’s not worth it. What is there to lose? Time? Comfort? I wonder if that is the case for me. I am often happy in my personal comfort zone and feel reluctant to give things a chance. I do once in a while, and I realize it’s usually worth it.

Today I made a decision to do something new. It wasn’t something of impressive or significant proportions but it was enough to make me feel something I don’t know I’ve ever felt. And I think that feeling keeps us alive and really living. Finding and feeling new things is, I think, the best thing about life. There are so many things to experience and emotions to feel but we have to be the one to seek them out or if we’re lucky enough for them to present themselves to us, we have to be brave enough to let them happen to us.

This opening ourselves up doesn’t have to be a big commitment either. Just, once in a while, say yes to something you normally wouldn’t, or get out and go somewhere new. I find when our eyes get used to the same things, our mind’s get tired too. I don’t want to feel tired anymore, I want to feel excited and amazed at the world. I want that sense of wonder. It’s really not as far as we might think.

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