Tag Archives: Spirituality

“CANVAS OF SKY” Review (✫✫✫1/2)

Paul Demer’s Canvas of Sky is a humble little soliloquy, a slight and pleasurable experience that takes you soaring through the clouds, into the heavens and then back to earth with more perspective on things than you’ve had before. It does more than highlight Demer’s talents: it makes him seem ahead of his years.

We open on a track that feels like it could be played in your car as you’re driving with the windows down: “Bound For Home,” which doesn’t waste time as it opens on a jamming rock ballad that just can’t help but make you feel like you’re in the ’90s. When Demer starts singing about a world beyond our own, you instantly know that he’s not regurgitating song lyrics. They’re personal, and they mean a lot to him.

“I still believe it’s true,” he begins at the chorus. “That every day we’re created new, and this life is not our own when we realize we’re bound for home.”

As the album continues, you continue to notice small glimpses of Demer’s values and of the things he holds closest to his heart.

“One year to 20, and I thought things would be different,” he sings in “Birthday.” “But my indifference is still turning a blind eye.” On “Open Your Eyes” he says “It’s hard to see the stars when your head’s down in the dirt, and when your heart’s ajar, the small things start to hurt.” He’s also admitted that he’s afraid of losing the things he values the most, saying “I get so scared of losing all I’ve gained, but the things I cling to keep weighing me down,” in “Soaring.”

The highlight of the album is easily Demer’s talents. If you look at the album credits, you’ll notice that Demer not only wrote and performed all of his own songs, you’ll also notice he did the instrumentals too, credited on most of the album as working on the guitars, bass, drums and even the viola. His voice also has great range, from his regular-pitched Adam Young-like voice to the higher pitches that he gives in the more impressive harmonies. Whether he’s jamming on his guitar or singing one of his own lyrics doesn’t matter. Every moment feels fresh, vibrant and new.

But it’s more than what Demer simply plays in the album, it’s also what he sings about, too. Throughout the album, you hear Demer constantly referring to a higher power that he can’t control, one that no one has ever seen but only some have ever felt.

It’s in “Maybe All Is Not Lost” where we most clearly understand who he’s referring to: God.

“You are turning this world around one day at a time,” he sings. “You are giving us eyes to see so we can find you.” He later says in the chorus that God comes to him when his strength is gone.

This is what I value most about the album: Demer can express his values and beliefs and it not be in your face or ham-fisted. It’s humble, serene and sweet, like he’s talking to a childhood friend and just modestly, but strongly, expressing what he believes in, not lecturing someone because they don’t believe in the same things he does.

There are a few instances where some decisions were made on the production side of things that didn’t quite make sense. In “Bound For Home,” for instance, there’s one moment where his voice track is significantly toned down for effect, and then it just suddenly juts into the regular levels in the middle of a lyric, instead of waiting for the verse to end to make a more effective transition. The album’s last track “Run” is mostly flimsy and forgettable, making me wonder why he chose to end the album on that track rather than “Constant” or “Open Your Eyes,” the album’s stronger tracks. The worst track, however, is easily “Neutrino,” where the instrumental track is as complacent as elevator music.

Overall, Canvas of Sky is a very noteworthy album. The small technical faults are there and the production can be better, but Demer has a gift that most other musicians do not have: genuineness. You can feel genuine passion and emotion behind the things that he sings about, and you can also feel that he genuinely believes in the things that he talks about.

Canvas of Sky does more than give you a good listen: it tells you that everything is going to be alright, and it will be.

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The Best Valentine’s Date There Is: You

I was 19 years old when I kissed a girl for the first time. I was about ten when I hugged one. I was six when I told a girl “I love you”. I’ve never been in a serious relationship.

Yeah I know, boo-hoo me, right? I’ve been in this song-and-dance routine long enough to know how this game goes. Yes, I’m single. Valentines Day translates to me as “Single Awareness” day. You tell people your sad romance story, people go “aw” after your confession, and you go about your own way so you can sulk about. Right?

Well to be honest, I haven’t felt like that in a very long time, and its strange because growing up, that’s the only way that I’ve ever felt.

It all started back in high school. I was attracted to one of my pretty brunette friends that sat in my English class with me. This is the kind of girl that you need to take a snapshot of and save it on your phone. Her hair was long and silky, and spread down her back like a river over a waterfall. Her figure was fit and voluptuous, looking more like a sculpture than a human body. She had this perfumey aroma that was both sweet and addictive. Saying that she was beautiful didn’t do it justice. She was spellbinding.

But physical beauty isn’t enough to make a fitting partner: she needs to be beautiful on the inside as much as outside. And in regards to her, I didn’t know which was more beautiful.

We got along well. Very well. We shared the same taste in movies, books, and television shows, we had the same interests, we both went to Church, we both believed in the importance of family and spirituality, and most importantly, she believed in being happy.

So what happened? Well, despite our friendship, I wasn’t a sociable person back in high school. Quite contrarily, I was a creep. I’ve struggled socially speaking to people all my life, and it was even worse when it came to girls. When it came to my advances, she was instantly intimidated and swatted any of the notions out of the way.

I was devastated, and for my first few years in college I sought a filler for this empty spot that laid in my broken being. Long have I struggled to find the answer until one day it was just handed to me.

I was at lunch with a few of my fraternity brothers. We were all laughing, talking about hot girls we would hook up with and what teacher was the worst at his job. All laughing stopped, however, when I got a message from one of my brother’s girlfriends, saying that she was going to harm herself if he didn’t call her back.

I panicked and showed the message to my brothers. One of them called another friend to try and mediate the situation while another sent a message to her, saying he wanted to reach out. The message was long and endearing, but the part that hit me like a train was this:

“Your happiness can’t be dependent on another person. People can encourage you and be your companions along your journey. However the decision to be happy is up to you.”

I looked at this message long and hard, trying to understand the meaning of it and how I could apply it to my life. Finally, I stopped thinking about it and decided to start doing it: I was going to be happy.

It took a long time, and I’ve had some bumps in the way, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can be independently happy without someone else’s influence. Happiness doesn’t come in a relationship. It doesn’t come in a kiss, or a hug, or even in the words “I love you.” Happiness comes in a personal decision and mindset to being happy and being satisfied with who you are, even if you’re a flawed individual. Being in a relationship doesn’t add or lessen your happiness: it’s just an opportunity to share that happiness.

So to the single folks out there who are sulking about their situations, I implore you to think differently. Yes, you’re single. So what? There are thousands of other single people out in the world right now, and they’re in the exact same situation as you. I know that I’m the best valentine date there could ever be, and the best part about that is that its true for you as well.

Happy Valentines Day, everybody.

-David Dunn

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“LIFE OF PI” Review (✫✫✫)

A boy, a boat, and his bengal tiger.  

If there is any film that will stick out in your mind more than any other film in 2012, its going to be Life Of Pi.  How could it not be?  With spectacular visuals, daring execution, and a solid story, Life Of Pi may very well be one of the most memorable experiences of the year, even though that doesn’t strictly mean it is of the highest standard in movies.

Based on the novel of the same name by Yann Martel, Life Of Pi follows the story of Pi “Piscine” Patel (Suraj Sharma), a young indian boy who is a believer in many religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.  To Pi, all of these religions lead to the same path: a greater understanding and relationship with God.  In one wonderful moment of the film, he described faith like a mansion, with room for both belief and doubt on every floor.

Besides being a follower of many faiths, Pi’s family also runs a local zoo in India, an exotic place filled with vibrant species and animals of all kinds.  Most significant to Pi is a 450-pound bengal tiger named Richard Parker, who got his name after the hunter tha caught him switched the names around by accident, with the hunter’s name appearing on the sheet as “Thirsty”.  The name stuck on Richard Parker ever since.

Eventually, the day has come where Pi’s family can no longer support themselves in India and have to move themselves and the animals to Canada, where they can hopefully find a living and start anew.  But when the ship his family and livestock are on crashes and sinks into the Pacific Ocean, Pi ends up stranded on a lifeboat all alone with Richard Parker. Now, armed with little more than a life-vest and the clothes on his back, Pi must find a way to not only co-exist with Richard Parker, but to also find a way to tame him and stay alive in the lonely abyss of the ocean.

The best thing about this movie is its faithfulness to the original novel, in how it portrays Pi as a strange, introverted, religiously diverse human being but also a spiritually focused young adult.  Pi’s story is a unique one, with the film dwelving into his story with such emotional maturity and observation, that we cannot help but understand Pi and his spiritual connection to God.

I especially loved one line Pi said to a friend at one point at the film, but when looking at it through a closer lens, maybe he was saying it more to himself:

“Even when God seemed to have abandoned me, he was watching.  Even when he seemed indifferent to my suffering, he was watching. And when I was beyond all hope of saving, he gave me rest. Then he gave me a sign to continue my journey.”

I also like the connection Pi shares with this 450-pound man-eating animal named Richard Parker: dare I say they have chemistry with one another? Yes I can, because the tiger is rendered here with such precision and detail that he actually looks like a living, breathing man-eating animal, not just another CGI creation. The rest of the movie is no exception, as it takes us  through many wonderfully dazzling visual moments that are just as impressive as when we watched James Cameron’s Titanic for the first time.

Here is, truthfully, a genuinely good movie.  The score is settling, ambient, and beautiful.  The visuals are transcendent, amazing, and stunning.  And the underlying context Ang Lee adapts from Yann Martel’s novel retains its strength, as Lee knows how to balance emotional relevance with visual splendor.

Unfortunately, the greatest strength of this film is also its greatest weakness: it follows too closely to the original novel.  Thinking back to when I read the book back in high school, I remember a story that was ambitious, daring, creative, deep, emotional, spiritual, and unique all at once.  It wasn’t just another survival-fantasy-advenure: it was a spiritual journey that has as much to do with faith and God as it does with friendship and sacrifice.

The movie doesn’t reach into this idea as deeply as the book does.  That’s to be expected, considering books are typically more in-depth than their movie counterparts.  Still though.  Haven’t other book-to-movie adaptations benefitted moreover their novel counterparts when they branched out and embraced other possibilities the original writers didn’t?

I bring two other novel adaptations from earlier this year as an example: The Hobbit and The Hunger Games.  Those movies, unlike Life Of Pi don’t just retell their stories: they rework them.  They change it to better fit their narrative, and they expand upon the stories they are helping to re-create within their own cinematic universes.

Life Of Pi doesn’t do that.  It relies too heavily on its novel-based counterpart, it refuses to branch out any more than the pages of Yann Martel’s novel will allow it to, and it has one of the slowest beginnings ever known to mankind.  The scenes where an older Pi converses with a young novelist searching for a story were especially unnecessary: why not just replace thirty-minutes of exposition with a simple narrative voice-over?

Again, I will stress this: Life Of Pi is the most memorable film of the year.  That does not mean that it is the best film of the year, and that does not mean that everybody will enjoy it.  It just simply means that when somebody watches the movie, it will mean something to them.  Whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.

Still though, to have a movie that actually says something for a change is significant enough.  Take the ocean Pi is trying to survive itself as an example.  One could say it is symbolic to everyone’s spiritual journeys in life: there are quiet moments, and then there are chaotic ones.  But your journey is never truly complete, even if you do end up washing onto the shore.

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