13 June 2015

Music Day - For Annie

Trigger warning: suicide.

It's quite nice when a rock band puts out a song that features a string section and even a bit of brass (tasteful brass -- not those Sheila Walsh-esque saxophone solos). Of course, I wouldn't want them to do that all the time -- if I wanted that I'd just listen to classical music -- but every once in a while it's a nice departure.

Here, the strings adds a poignancy to a tragic story that's replayed every day.

The song is about a young person called Annie. It details the loneliness and quiet despair she lives in until she decides to do something about it (which, of course, we've all been told to do through inspirational Facebook pictures, right?). Her solution:

Locked inside the bathroom
She grabs a jar of pills
The medicine that cures
Becomes the poison that kills...

The lyric climaxes here, with that juxtaposition of irony. Without even two measures to let you catch your breath, Greg Volz tells you straight up: it's too late for Annie. She's dead. She's gone. You will never see her again.

And now that they have your attention, they tell you the silver lining (if there can really be one in a situation like this): we each have the power to stop other people's stories from ending this way. There is another Annie somewhere, who hasn't grabbed the pill jar yet... and she could be sitting beside you right now. Your next words to her could be the last she hears.

What would you tell her? What would I tell her?

Title: For Annie
Artist: Petra
Album: Never Say Die
Year: 1981
iTunes here; YouTube here.

09 June 2015

Covers That Need To Happen #1

Can we just take a moment to talk about a cover that really needs to happen?

Okay. Russ Taff's song Higher. Seriously. Go listen. You have full permission to groove. (I should probably throw an '80s-music warning on this song though. Then again, this entire blog should have an '80s-music warning on it.)

And now, picture Freedom-era White Heart covering this. Tommy Sims on that bass, Gersh on the keys... and I can't even properly handle the thought of Rick Florian's voice over that.

05 June 2015

Music Day - Reach

Been thinking a lot, fighting quite a bit. And listening to a lot of DAS (well, music in general). There's a triad of his songs that seem to work together as a trilogy for me now: Reach, In Your Hands, and Slo Glo One (better known as Glory). Today I shall prattle on about the first one.

Reach actually took a really long time to grow on me. I always appreciated the chorus, but something about the song irked me; something about the execution of it. I never could figure out what it was, but apparently it's not an issue now because I can't remember what it was that bugged me (probably the tempo -- I'm still young enough to like my music fast and fairly complex).

I have a history of locking up inside myself ('history,' heck -- I'm doing it as I type), convinced that nobody could love me, even if they tried. I actually believed (and sometimes still do believe) that for somebody, anybody, to care about me was impossible. Depression is funny that way... it seems so obvious to other people on the outside that people love me and that I'm resisting their love, but depression is truly a mental illness. It actually blinds us to things like that. It's not a wilful ignorance of our 'worth' -- we actually truly cannot see it. We need you to tell us every single day that you love us because our diseased minds discard the truth mere minutes after you speak it to us. You can't rely on our 'knowing' you love us though you never say anything and you can't rely on thinking 'well, I told her that one time that she was pretty cool.' Depression is hell-bent on destroying those it infects. One offhand instance of 'You're pretty cool,' as much as you may sincerely mean something by it, simply does not stand up against my own mind telling itself it's worthless twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

For years people would get frustrated with me. They would always say to me, "Just let yourself be loved!" They tried to say it kindly, but there was often pent-up frustration in their voices. I could not wrap my head around this idea that they seemed to take for granted. Here I was figuratively screaming for somebody to care for more than five seconds, and you're telling me it's my fault? I can't let you love me if you're not showing any love for me to allow in. That phrase is still a source of frustration for me.

(End rant -- my apologies...)

But although Brian Healy uses the words, Let Him love you, he does not stop there, and that's what gives his exhortation more weight. He doesn't expect that vague, tired phrase to magically fix everything, and realising the weakness of language itself makes a huge difference in how one comes across because it does inform and change how you communicate. Healy continues his thought with Let Him show you... Let Him touch you... Let Him heal you. Reach out your hands... and take what He has to offer. It's a gentle invitation, not an outburst of exasperation. And ultimately it's not by my strength that I can reach out and take it anyway. Grace has to visit me in order for me to have the strength to take it. Taking and accepting love is perhaps harder even than almost anything I can think of. To give love is easy enough. Even when the other person doesn't want your love, it's relatively easy to give it. But to take love someone else is holding out to you... that's well-nigh impossible. There's something in my mind that still tells me it's not real, it's a facade like everything else. It'll turn out to be just somebody else trying to relive their guilt about not loving me by pretending to love me.

How do you surrender yourself to someone else's love?

Title: Reach
Artist: Dead Artist Syndrome
Album: Prints Of Darkness
Year: 1990
iTunes here; YouTube here.

03 June 2015

A Time Machine of 1/500

I used to do a lot of photography. And even back when I started taking pictures seriously around 2009, it wasn't really about art or money or making a statement (although later it did become those things). My photography mainly centered around two things: people and events.

I learnt about photography principles of course -- the rule of thirds, the power of a wide aperture/selective focus and of zooming in, what sorts of compositions work best, how to use colour and light to draw attention and enhance the mood. My photography grew lovely in its own right, and by now it's so second nature I often barely realise I have a camera in my hand. My Nikon is essentially an extension of my arm. But the subjects are still mostly people and events.

When I started taking pictures, my goal was to capture moments and keep them. It was mostly for my own personal record more than anything. To this day I'll stop to take a picture of something and whoever is with me will give me a strange look -- 'that? Seriously?' -- but because they know taking random pictures is something I do, they say nothing. After all, no harm done. And my friends and family have long since gotten used to me wandering around with a camera at all times.

And now, in the wake of three deaths, one cancer diagnosis, and two shattered marriages, all involving people I love dearly, I'm reminded why I started taking pictures in the first place.

It's like a mini time machine. I was looking for pictures of my recently-deceased young cousin (it was her birthday), and in my quest I found myself scrolling back through 2013 -- the year I discovered Daniel Amos and started college... 2012 -- the year we held our Father's Day party as a barbeque... 2011 -- the year we invited a lady from our church to our family Christmas gathering and our dance school staged Little Bo Peep... 2010 -- the year of my accident, the last family reunion... 2009 -- how tiny my sisters look! the year my sister began ballet classes...

I had forgotten most of this. I had forgotten how my sisters looked so young. It's funny to think how at one time I could not picture them any other way, but five years later I hardly recognised them. Their hairstyles are different, two are now wearing glasses, one has lost a drastic amount of weight. I'd forgotten how short my brother once was. I had forgotten the full brilliance of Brittney's sweet shy smile and seriously cool wardrobe. I had forgotten that once my aunt and uncle would laugh and once they would sit beside each other and hold hands. I had forgotten what my uncle's twinkling eyes looked like -- last time I saw him, only a few weeks ago, those eyes were so lifeless. He was a completely different person from the man who hugged me goodbye last Christmas.

There was a time when things were right -- when everyone was here who should have been, when people were healthy and happy and while there were always smaller problems and the occasional falling out, we were all here. We were together. We smiled and laughed and no-one was missing. I can't bring that back (how I desperately wish I could!). But for a few minutes I can return there and see it all laid out before me, re-insert myself in the space, hear their voices again, if only in my mind.

Maybe it's a waking dream. But it brings the missing ones closer to me.