Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Spirit Says So

I’ve battled with my spirituality for a while. It’s so funny what brings you to the point of having to question something I feel is so fundamental in the construction of a human being. It shows that life is never ever an easy ride. And what I find is that those whose lives run smoother than most usually don’t have much going on spiritually. I’ll elaborate a little later.

I was raised in a fairly conservative Christian home. We went to church every Sunday, always had gospel music playing, and prayed every evening. It was not uptight or strict. I was hardly ever beaten and was never exorcised for being demon-possessed or judged for sinning. I’d say for the most part my formative years were rather average – lots of love in a morally sound household.

With that being said, I don’t think I ever fully believed what I had been taught from a young age was true. But at the same time I found it difficult to question ‘the truth’. It’s like pondering whether the grass is really green or if it’s only green because you were told it was. Is God really real or is He only there because you were told He’s there? It goes deeper. If God is omnipotent, omnipresent and benevolent then why would He allow evil to occur, knowing the harm it causes, if He can prevent it effortlessly? Why is He so markedly different in the Old Testament than to the New Testament if He’s the same yesterday, today and forever?

These puzzling thoughts were difficult for me to process because they questioned almost everything I had been told about spirituality since the moment I could speak. More so, I knew in my, well, spirit, that I’d probably not turn out to be the Biblical ideal of a man. Granted, I was raised very well and I consider myself a sane man with good morals, I will raise and support my kids, give back to the community and be a generally good person, but I doubt I’ll ever be a devout church-goer and fanatic Bible-reader. I gathered that if God, who is omnipresent, knew that I wouldn’t turn out to be the person the Bible would like me to be, then He had all the power, since he’s omnipotent, to prevent me from becoming a person who does not fit the ideal. When I reached varsity and was surrounded with the plethora of opinions on God and religion, I think I gave up on the idea of God being in control of everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that God is very real. I believe that God is in everything. I believe that God becomes more real to someone the humbler he becomes. I believe that God is perceived differently by every single person, and that nobody is wrong for their perceptions. I also believe that the Bible, as with any other religious text, is a good source, but also not the only source from which to base your spiritual outlook and moral well-being. I believe that God knows no religion. Many people have been raised in different cultures to become upstanding and inspiring human beings. A Christian can learn from a Muslim. A Hindu can learn from a Buddhist. I think the proper term for someone who shares my views is a Deist.

I also believe the truth of God has been lost and corrupted by religion and human interference and intervention. I believe that whatever things someone might have told you about God could be as flawed as that person himself. I believe that God understands just as much as He loves. Whatever type of person you might be, God understands why you are who you are, especially since He created you. At the same time, one should always strive to be better than who they are. You should not be threatened by hell to be a good or better person.

I’ve witnessed how people’s lives are affected by terrible suffering and hardship, and it has made me wonder what kind of sadist God must be to allow them to go through such pain. As soon as I was put in an abyss myself, I found that at times the only thing I could hold on to was the idea of God being there every step of the way. The less I was, the more God was. In a way, God was the belief that things would be better and God was the strength I felt on the victorious side of trial. Because of this, I find it somewhat foolish to disregard God or His existence completely. I think it’s very easy to do so when you’ve always had everything you wanted, and life has always been easy. Like I said before, God becomes more real the humbler you become. What I will always strive for is humility in my successes, so I never lose sight of what I’ve gone through. I guess there’s some truth in this statement: ‘you’ll only know that God is all you need when God is all you have’.

Andrei Damane

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Face Of A Monster

I’m sure I am not the only one who sat in front of the TV in the summer of 2008/2009 and saw the Just Dance video thinking, ‘oh, okay’. The song was fun and all, but I was of the impression that it would probably be a one-hit-wonder and the last we’d hear of this Gaga lady. I, like many other MTV enthusiasts, was terribly wrong.
Then Pokerface came out, and again I’m not the only one who thought WTF when I heard the ‘muh-muh-muh-muh’ and ‘puh-puh-puh-pokerface’ hooks for the first time. I, like many others, thought it gut-wrenchingly annoying at first, not to mention taken aback by how raunchy and, well, kinda odd, the music video was. But, admittedly, the song was quite catchy and I found myself dancing like a fool whenever it played on Long or Edward Street.
That was the beginning of the meteoric rise (weak term) of the Gaga phenomenon. We all became enthralled by her crazy antics; like never wearing pants, tying her hair (or wig) in a bow, her cheesy choreography and her dodgy lyrics (if it’s love if it ain’t rough it isn’t fun; I wanna take a ride on your disco stick). But we still weren’t completely sold on her.
That changed when Paparazzi was released. To this day it is still my favourite Gaga track. It was complimented by a wonderfully colourful music video and a much unexpected performance at the 2009 MTV something-or-other Awards. It was a bloody mess, quite literally, but it made us all sit up and take notice. That, coupled with the half-dozen costume (not wardrobe) changes during the ceremony, made me start to question: is this girl being for real? Suddenly she went from being the new kid on the block to being a legend. And a freak. The “it”question changed from ‘have you seen this Gaga girl?’ to ‘what is she going to do next?’ Alas, she was still immensely intriguing. I was one of those who were waiting with bated breath for the next Gaga epic.
Then came Bad Romance, the lead single of The Fame Monster EP, and her biggest hit ever. The song was probably her catchiest yet, the video was the most provocative and controversial of the decade, with a Thriller-esque dance routine and imagery that was out of this world. This too, sadly, was when the music started singing back-up to the celebrity, and in my opinion was also the peak of her astronomical career.
Since then, while her celebrity has sky-rocketed, fuelled by dresses made of meat and captivating music videos with Beyoncé, her music has become increasingly generic and, well, boring. She’d effectively managed to fool the whole world into believing that she was an innovative musician of epic proportions but that is not true. Let me elaborate:
You can’t churn out the same emotionless four-chord songs on the same Euro-pop house beats with the same repetitive hooks and be called an artist. That shit gets boring and does so fast. I appreciate Speechless, though. That was beautiful. Telephone was fun and all, and it was cool seeing Bey dance like a white girl, and Alejandro was dodgy on every level, but both those songs gained public interest because of their videos and not because of their music.
I was one of those who heard Gaga sing the chorus of Born This Way when she accepted her award at the VMAs, and from the little we all had heard, I was expecting a second Speechless. The melody and execution called for a ballad, and when she promised that the BTW album would be the most epic of the decade, I was almost certain that it would be a ballad. I was one who contributed to the hype surrounding the song’s release and I was also one of the millions who sat back disappointed to hear a song that I had heard before. I had heard it in Alejandro, Telephone, Bad Romance, Paparazzi and Pokerface, as well as a number of Madonna hits from the 80s. Many who concurred that the song did not live up to the hype then commended the song for its message of empowerment, tolerance and acceptance, but I could hardly be fooled. The imagery that complimented the song (or rather that the song complimented) told a very different story. How could a heterosexual, white and privileged woman be the champion of the homosexuals, ethnic minorities of America and the poor? We have Ellen De Generes, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey in those respective roles already. Also, I can’t see how protrusions on your temple, cheeks and shoulders can possibly promote the idea of being proud of the skin you were born in. Loopholes, Gaga…
News is that the Born This Way LP debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart at number one, with sales of 1,1 million. That’s a very impressive feat, especially in this very digital age, but also not unexpected, judging by the hype the preceded the album’s release. I haven’t downloaded the album off DC++ yet (you can judge me if you want, but frankly, I wouldn’t pay for the album even if I had the money anyways) but from the reviews I’ve read, it falls terribly short of the claim of epicness that Gaga had implied. I think that even she knew it would when she heard Adele’s 21 for the first time. Usher’s Confessions debuted at number one by the same number of sales 8 years prior. Confessions is probably the best RnB album released in the past 15 years. The point I’m trying to make is that had Gaga not worn a dress made of meat and duct tape over her nipples, the music itself would not have sold a million copies in a week. Bitch please, remove the smoke and mirrors and the crazy wigs and you ain’t shit.
But alas, she has caused a revolution. I’ve heard more euro-pop in the last two years from the most unexpected artists (Busta Rhymes, Christina Aguilera) than I had in my life prior the summer of 2008/2009. Despite what I’ve said, I still find myself singing along to Born This Way anyways. That was probably her intention all along. Our favourite crazy white chick seems to be here to stay.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welcome and thanks for welcoming me.

So I've been talking about starting a blog for quite some time now and finally I got around to doing that. You know, I'm the worst kind of procrastinator. It's not as though I didn't have the time to start this up and start typing away...

Anyways, seeing as this is my first post and all, I wanted to say welcome to all those who are willing to peer into what goes in my mind, and also thank you for even bothering to come check it out.

This year hasn't been terribly busy, and as a result I have been able to do a lot of thinking, but not much writing. I plan to use this blog as a platform to express my thoughts to the world at large, and also to clear my mind up of all the things that just get stuck in there.

I'm a musician, so naturally I will write mostly about my take on music in general, providing critiques and reviews and the like, and as they start coming, post information about gigs and performances I might be doing. (That last bit may take a while.)

I've also been engrossed by many interesting things happening in the world, so I guess I'll be commenting and raising my opinion for those who are willing to listen. If you think about it, 2011 has been a very eventful year: social unrest in the Arab States, 'God-sent' tsunamis in New Zealand and Japan, Will and Kate getting married, Aunt Helen and Uncle JuJu continuing with their wonderfully entertaining antics, hotly contested (and often quite shitty, hehe) elections, Oprah ending, just to name a few. To think this year has yet to reach its midway. Hopefully society will give me much more to write about.

I don't think I'm very funny, but from what I've seen, throwing in a bit of humour helps somewhat. I'll try that too, but if it dismally fails, don't say I didn't warn you. What I do think I am is interesting. That might be a slightly conceited thing to say about myself, but who would honestly bother with a blog if they were boring? Besides, being interesting means that you are interested in other things and other people, which is a good thing, I'd say.

Oh, also follow me on Twitter, that's kind of like blogging in 140 characters or less. I don't know how but I'd like to link my blog and my Twitter account together so that if this blog goes anywhere, live tweet feeds would    keep you updated and yada yada... My username is @AndreiDamane (bland I know, but much easier to read and find than something like @TomAtoPr1nc3 or something). Nobody's ever complained about my tweets being boring so...

Anyways, to end off my very first blog post, I'd like to say quote something on one of my favourite Twitter followees' bios: Be as interesting as you are interesting. I hope that gives you a vague idea about where this blog is headed.

Andrei Damane