MercyMe: Lifer

This here is a brilliant album that you absolutely must listen to. Here’s why I think so.

I first stumbled upon MercyMe’s Lifer album in the wee hours of one random weekday morning.

It is quite common for me to be odd hours in the night (and early morning) nowadays, and sometimes, when it’s just me who’s awake while the rest are still snoozing, it can sometimes start to feel a tad lonely. So one of the ways I deal with this is by putting on some music.

Having previously already been a fan of MercyMe, I was happy to find that there was a new album to their name that came out this year and decided to give it a spin. I totally did not regret it.

To sum it up in just a few words, for those of you who love pop music, this one’s literally music to your ears. And even if you’re not one who is familiar with contemporary Christian music, it is likely you will hear something familiar somewhere in the musical arrangement of these songs.

There will those out there who would make parallels to the musical styles of these songs and pull out their secular equivalents for comparison. Or mentions will be made of the musical influences behind the tunes (which involve mostly secular artistes). However, I do not want to go down either path because to be honest, I believe Christian artistes are just as creative and original as their secular counterparts, hence such comparisons are unnecessary ūüôā

All I am saying though is that I believe you will still feel right at home with these tunes even if you’re not a current MercyMe fan or are new to contemporary Christian music.

To give you an idea of how much I love this album, let me say that it is one of those where I can literally waltz through every single track and not want to skip a single thing. There aren’t many albums in recent times of which I can say this, so I think this makes it rank pretty high on my list of Superb Albums Out There.

Right from the opening title track, Lifer, there is clearly a upbeat and very much uplifting vibe to the album. This continues right through the entire track list, although there are more contemplative, quieter moments thrown into the mix here and there. The messages of hope and joy and the promise of abundant life that is ours as believers in Jesus Christ shines through very clearly though. And that is as it should be, since this is after all a Christian artiste we are talking about.

From what I gathered through reading other online reviews and listener comments, most people really liked the songs Even If and Happy Dance. I have to agree with this view for Happy Dance, though I am not a huge fan of Even If, but that does not mean I totally dislike it either. I just happen to think it’s more of the stereotypical contemporary Christian song so it’s nothing that outstanding.

Personally, my favourite tracks were Lifer, Happy Dance and Heaven’s Here. I loved them for the lyrics as much as I loved them for the musical arrangements and overall feel to these songs.

I’m not sure what other ways I ought to use to convince you that Lifer is worth a good listen. I guess the best way is to leave you with this music video of Happy Dance to help you experience a small slice of the album for yourself. Hope you’ll like it as much as I did. Enjoy ūüôā

Content and contentment

I was just talking to a church friend¬†yesterday about blogging, and she was lamenting how most people nowadays tend to blog just so they can get¬†attract advertisers and get sponsorship or freebies. I guess that’s what the blogosphere has become.

Not to mention even blog services themselves like this one here that have started to limit its free users from accessing source codes and tweaking themes to their own liking, then¬†charging them before granting them¬†the ability to do so. That’s just… mean. In my opinion, anyway.

In another conversation that I also had yesterday which was¬†with my husband, we were talking about our blogging styles and saying that we were pretty similar in our approach. We both like to make our blog posts count and produce content we’re proud of, hence tend to blog less or until a brilliant idea strikes. This being opposed to the approach of most in the blogging community who tend to¬†post really frequently, with some posts taking on the form of what my church¬†friend had described.

Well, I suppose there isn’t harm in attempting to catch advertisers’ eyes and hoping to monetise your blog. Perhaps one day when I become a pauper (which may be pretty soon considering my income has less than halved now that I have turned into a Work At Home Mum) I will take on this approach too out of desperation.

But until then… I have mixed feelings about going down this route.

Having advertisers involved in the picture (however much in the background you think you’ve kept them) will undoubtedly affect your content because for everything someone else gives you in¬†the world of business (read: funding of any form or function), it is NEVER for free or WITHOUT a agenda somewhere that’s meant to benefit themselves financially. I learned this way back in business school, where from day #1 it was drummed into our head that the heart of business is making profits.

I don’t know, perhaps it’s just me being picky based on my bad experiences as a journalist that’s got me¬†thinking that everyone out there has evil intentions. But yeah, I’d much rather have control over my own content, thank you very much.

Even if it’s lousy content, at least I have creative license to present it however I please. And to blog as often or as infrequently as I like. After all, blogs were meant to be spaces¬†on the Web for personal expression. It’s sad that we taint it so much with a desire¬†to earn big bucks. Why not just limit such ambitions to .com sites?

I don’t really consider blogs where people are paid for writing¬†content as truly blogs. They’re just websites. But that’s just me, I suppose.

This is¬†probably because I remember a time back in my uni days where my friends and I used to connect through browsing¬†each other’s blogs and leaving comments on¬†the posts we read. As public as our writing was, it felt like a private community that was close knit.

It feels like nowadays hardly anyone reads blogs of those they know anymore. Unless, of course, it shows up on a social media news feed somewhere. Or some supporter of the blogger concerned goes and posts to promote the said blog and then it goes viral and then everybody around the world suddenly wants to know who the blogger behind that brilliant post is.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not just advertisers that have ruined blogging, it’s also social media. In general, social networking sites have propagated¬† a culture of using stickers and emojis, sharing videos and accumulating Likes, and in the process, have started a snowball effect of¬†original content becoming under appreciated.

I open up my Twitter feed nowadays and practically all I see are just tweets posted by corporations. This in exclusion of the sponsored posts. How come I can’t even see what my friends are posting anymore?

I don’t hate social media nor am I saying that making profits should be an activity banished from the minds of humankind, but I guess I’m just expressing my sadness at how much money making has clouded out the good things and the freedom of expression on the Web.

For me as a writer, it is especially disheartening because it feels like no one really wants to read anything anymore. They just want a list of funny things to laugh at, plastered all over the Internet on quirky sites with dubious names that can’t possibly offer you anything deep enough to¬†leave you with something to think about¬†long after you’re done browsing the pages on their site.

Memes. Animated GIFs. Short videos that are solely for entertainment and have no hidden meaning in their presentation or story plots. Photos haphazardly taken and uploaded a dozen a day without thought about composition or any attempt at all to convey a meaningful message. Just¬†an unending page of pictures of holiday destinations, food, we-fies, selfies…

This is what we have become on the Internet today. A community of people with short attention spans, with no voice of our own, only a collection of Liked posts to our name and endless streams of self indulgent photos and videos.

Keyboard warriors who are more concerned in voicing out our dissenting opinions and virtually bashing to a pulp anyone online who dares disagree with our views.

It seems like no one is reading or listening anymore. It feels futile to write anything. This is the climate I find myself battling each time I write a blog post.

But then I ask myself, who and what am I writing a blog for?

Is it to be read, to have my thoughts understood by another complete stranger trawling the Web?

Or to find my voice, to practice and improve my writing in preparation for writing that One Great Novel someday?

Or, could it be that I just want to express myself adequately and often enough that I feel satisfied to have sufficiently emptied myself of all alarmingly burgeoning emotions or thoughts?

My blog hosting subscription renewal due date is coming up. So these are the thoughts bouncing about inside my head as a result. I’ll mostly probably be renewing it. Just that… I feel I need a better reason to keep blogging but am not finding it.

I realise so much of how I post on this blog has become influenced by whether I think the topic I have in mind is interesting to the general public. And whether I have a suitable image to accompany my draft because well, nobody wants to stare at a page full of text with not pictures these days.

Since when did such things cloud my judgment? I am disappointed with myself for becoming this way. Why should I tailor my blog to suit the needs of a random stranger who cares nothing about my life or knows zilch about the person that I am?

This is why I still struggle whenever I blog nowadays. In fact, it’s not just for the blog, but just whenever I write in general. The value of honing a private voice seems to have been drowned out by the need to perfect a socially acceptable public voice.

But some of the most brilliant written works have been what was written in secret. While confined in some quiet, hidden corner of the world where no intruders could disturb the concentration of a writer freely articulating what was in his or her heart.

I feel as though I used to know how to get to such places once upon a time. I want to find a way to get back there again.

And I guess that’s what this is all about. Writing the stuff that matters. The honest words that someday, someone can reflect upon and feel nourished to the very core of their souls.

That’s the kind of fuel¬†I need to keep writing. And I’m discovering, to my dismay, that the Web isn’t¬†quite the place to cultivate such precious things, unfortunately.

A slice of Pi

Richard Parker & Piscene Molitor Patel (aka Pi)
What would you do if you were lost at sea?

In the past week, Deric and I went to catch the movie Life of Pi at GSC, thanks to some free tickets I received at work.

I was rather keen to see for myself how good the movie was as my parents – who very seldom make trips to the cinema for even the most raved about movies – surprised me when they informed me that they had in fact gone to see this one and had really liked it.

Here are some of my own thoughts and opinions on this movie:

Prior perception 

Before I had actually watched the movie, my expectations were that it would of an inspirational nature and that it would be in a format similar to that of Forrest Gump or Big Fish. I also knew that it was based on a book which has been in print for a number of years. (However, I do regret to say that I have yet to actually read the book for myself). I had also seen the trailer while at the cinema in months past, and what I do remember is scenes of epic proportions and glimpses of a tiger.

Overall impressions

I’m no expert in film, but I what I can say is that the depiction of Pi’s story was vivid and quite captivating. Even if you had no prior interest in a place called Pondicherry or the kind of people that came out of it, you would find yourself intrigued enough to want to know more about it all as you watch this movie.

The wide range of colours and themes exhibited in this film is also interesting, I find. There are a good number of memorable scenes which are distinct enough to be embedded in my memory for the longer term.

Besides that, natural phenomena which were depicted on the screen felt real enough to the point I felt I might drown soon into the depths had the monkey, zebra or even Pi himself kicked me off the boat.

Plot dissection

To be fair, I really ought to read the book before commenting on the movie plot. But on the basis of going in blind, I’d say it was a good story which raises the question: What would I do if I were in his shoes?

I don’t often cry while at the movies, but I did shed a tear or two for this one. The character of Pi was believable and very much down-to-earth that I imagine most members of the audience would likely identify with some of the traits that Pi had: a searching soul, an inquisitive mind, a resilient spirit, a heart anchored by home.

By virtue of this being a film, I guess it is somewhat limited in its ability to fully convey the feelings and thoughts of Pi as he undergoes the experience of being lost at sea. I expect the book may do a much better job with this, since so much more can be said in printed words than can be shown visually through the actions of Pi. That being said, having Pi read entries from his handwritten diary and listening to him narrate the rationale behind his actions and plans does help to give the audience some insight into what internal emotional battle he is waging.

Personally, I half expected some form of magic to permeate through the plot. For instance, I thought Richard Parker might actually be able to speak and reason with Pi while they were out at sea, and that in some manner, they would form a much more meaningful friendship than what can be typically expected between a man and a beast.

I also thought the island on which Pi had a brief stay on might actually give him an opportunity to meet someone else – perhaps of a divine nature – that could help him make sense of the tragedy that had plagued his life.

Another thing about the overall story line is that I felt it did not adequately resolve Pi’s thoughts on God and religion. I do understand that this is a sensitive topic to broach, but since it had been already present in the story, I would have thought I would be able to come away from the movie with some heightened awareness of God or some controversy to debate over with Deric, but none actually came to mind.

The final scene in which Pi asks the novelist which of the two versions of his tale at sea did he believe is nonetheless poignant. However, I am still left wondering what Pi meant when he responded, “And so it is with God” when the novelist chose the version with the tiger (aka Richard Parker).

I would have also liked to know more about the relationship between Pi and his brother, Ravi or even between Pi and his father, which was briefly developed but to me, not fully explored.

Another interesting angle would be how the story had impacted the life of the novelist after he had heard the tale from Pi. The movie ends as Pi introduces the novelist to his family, but it does leave me wondering what will happen next.

Lessons learnt

I find it quite thought provoking that Pi did not abandon his faith in God throughout his ordeal at sea. Even at his lowest point, he cries out, “I surrender”. Perhaps, as a Christian, these sort of reactions pull at our heartstrings, because deep inside, we know that this is how God would have us respond in our moments of crisis. I wonder what my reaction would have been if I should lose my entire family and life as I know it now in the blink of an eye, the way Pi had.

Turning my attention to the tiger, I’d say, there are most definitely ways to tame a tiger. Figuratively speaking, this could refer to any form of suffering or unwanted circumstances faced in our lives. While its presence, like Richard Parker, may seem on the surface to be painful and undesirable, yet perhaps in our attempts to “tame” it (or rather, live with it) we may find that there are invaluable lessons that it may teach us in return. And maybe, it may someday disappear just as suddenly as it came, the way Richard Parker leapt into the forest and out of Pi’s sight once he had made it back to safe shores.

I find it interesting to note also that there were several other ways that Pi could have died besides being eaten by his beloved Richard Parker. According to an article entitled 10 Worst Ways to Die, he could have just as easily died from starving to death, dehydration, hypothermia or getting devoured by the hyena. But nothing killed him. Makes you wonder what God had in mind by keeping him alive. Sometimes when we want most to die, God seems to disallow it. There must be a reason. Something worth pondering about. 

The inquisitive and open attitude that Pi had towards religion and God and his eventual personal journey of discovery also brings to mind the fact that perhaps it’s okay to let people find their own way towards God. Yes, we have our successful methods and such, but if God is truly God, no matter which route a person may take, ultimately it should lead them to the same conclusion about Him.

*     *     *

I’ve said quite a bit as it is. Perhaps this doesn’t really qualify as a good movie review, but I guess I just wanted to share how the movie had affected me. As an occasional poet, I generally like seeing the reactions of others towards a literary creation of mine and I presume film makers and artists would feel the same.

Well, I hope this benefits you readers out there. Do catch the movie, and see for yourself if it moves you in any way or if it triggers thoughts of God and how you may like to relate to Him.