Bearing witness to the Shoah: my experience visiting Auschwitz

Preface: This is not a post about movies, music, or anything of that matter. This past Saturday I walked through the infamous Auschwitz, a place I had heard so much about through literature and schooling. I felt it pertinent to reiterate this on my own blog (I also posted this on my study-abroad group’s blog website).

View of the tracks leading toward the remainder of the gas chambers in Birkenau

The morning of October 7th was a picture-perfect setting for the time and space it occupied. The clouds of grey beamed with lights of darkness, and the cool chills of the brisk, moist Polish air paved way for an eeriness that transcended its location’s horrors.

On this morning, my study-abroad comrades and I ventured an hour away; from Krakow to Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2: Birkenau. Yes, after years and years of hearing and learning about the Shoah through textbook and literature, I stood where unimaginable atrocities ensued.

What am I to say to that? What am I to say to that, as I comfortably sit writing, recognizing I was able to enter and leave (what about “recognizing I was able to enter and leave”?) Auschwitz? This question definitely packs an ironic punch to one’s heart. It helps formulate another question:

“Why did the Shoah happen?” or “How could God let such a tragedy occur?”

After a week of preparation and then actually walking through Auschwitz, there is only one answer that reigns true: we as the human race simply do not know. Last week, OC professor Dr. Charles Rix put it best: “There is no why.”

The “why” of this question turns more so into a “what” type of interrogative:

“Now that the Shoah is 72 years past us, what do we do about it?”

This “what” has an answer: we must bear witness. The human race, especially Christians, must never let the Shoah escape its cognitive grasp. We are a flawed people, and undoubted moments of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ make puppetry of humanity’s imperfection. These times seem to open the door for sadists and overall inhumane humankind.

Thus, let us lock that door forever by bearing witness to the tragedies that have come from that entrance. In World War II, the “Neu Ramp” (the name for the landing platform at Birkenau,  which signified an ending of life; with its tracks leading to the front door of its infamous gas chambers.

In a post-Shoah life, we can enter the boundaries of Birkenau and see the ruins of an inhumane attempt of extermination. By bearing witness to these atrocities, we can lay down tracks that lead to a brighter and more inclusive way of life.

View from the “Neu Ramp”




Jordan Peele helms impressive directorial debut with ‘Get Out’

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Social media occupies the lives of millions of people, and ever so often, there is always some sort of craze or challenge that appears. What does the most recent one happen to be? The #GetOutChallenge.

This challenge spawns from the world’s most recent horror/thriller phenomenon, Get Out. Packed tight with an ingenious plot, chilling cinematography, comic relief and thrills, the #GetOutChallenge doesn’t even scratch the surface of why this film has the attention of millions.

Since its release, Get Out has achieved some personal accolades:

  • It held a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes for its opening weekend and currently sits at 99%.
  • Jordan Peele is now the first black writer-director to earn $100 million in his or her debut movie (Independent).

Get Out tells the tale of a New York African-American man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who is going with his Caucasian girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to spend a weekend at her parent’s house outside of the city. Chris feels uneasy about all of this due to the fact that he is black and Rose hasn’t quite informed her parents of that. Swallowing his pride and locking away his concern, Chris and Rose drive to her parents’ beautiful home in the country.

To Chris’s surprise, her parents are very welcoming. However, as the rest of that night and next day continues, weird discoveries and events occur, leading to a huge twist and debacle full of chaos and thrill.

Get Out is not so much a horror film but more of a “social thriller.” There aren’t demons, serial killers or monsters, but there are jump scares and plenty of chilling sequences. The film forced me to be on my toes and grasping the end of my seat at all times.

What makes this film so great is the underlying theme and message within all of its content.

While it doesn’t take itself too seriously and features TONS of comic relief through satire and Chris’s best friend and TSA legend Rod Williams (LilRel Howery), Get Out is still able to serve a platter of messages and lessons we as a society need to hear.

Jordan Peele at Peabody 2014 (Wikimedia)

Jordan Peele created this film to give the world a glimpse of what it’s like to be an African-American man in an America where “racism no longer exists” (sarcasm).

In an interview with NPR, Peele proclaimed:

“It was very important to me to just get the entire audience in touch in some way with the fears inherent [in] being black in this country,” Peele says. “Part of being black in this country, and I presume being any minority, is constantly being told that … we’re seeing racism where there just isn’t racism.”

Once again, another 2017 film has instantly earned a spot on my list of favorite movies. The Brunswick stew of satire, horror and thrill that Get Out is makes me excited for what Jordan Peele has up his sleeve.

The world, especially the United States, needs to see this film. Not only is it exceptional but it also has a message that every person from every walk of life needs to hear.

Have you seen Get Out yet? If you have, who is your favorite character and why? I’d love to know! Shoot me an email at or leave a comment below!

In Him,



Life and a multitude of interests

Dreams. As humans, we naturally have them. We want to be the next big artist, movie star, athlete, etc.

Many solidify themselves to one big dream, one goal, one big interest. I myself, throughout my whole life, have bounced between interests, dreams and goals. There are so many different things that I love (hence the very scatterbrained blog).

It normally seems when high school comes around that people will begin making cuts on things to pave way for their main goal or aspiration. For example, I saw plenty of my friends move from playing three sports their whole life to focusing on just one. I was a football-only guy, so this was not the case for me!

I am very thankful for the high school I attended. It highly encouraged cross-platform involvement. Thus, I found myself acting as a singing and dancing, saxophone-playing offensive linemen.

Where am I going with all of this talk about high school? No, I am not making an ad saying that I peaked in high school. The point I am making is that having multiple hobbies, interests, goals, whatever one may want to call them, is healthy, natural and great.

Having lots of pastimes proves to be a great time. It provides a balance in life that brings peace and joy. Multiple investments in life prove a path to open-mindedness.

Having multiple interests and aspirations is great, but as with anything else, there are bound to be negative sides to it.

Being involved with different organizations, groups, etc. leads to overlap. Overlap leads to picking and choosing what rehearsals/meetings/practices to miss and thus, stress ensues!

Not only this, but you could find yourself being a little bit above average at everything you invested in. There lies the advantage with honing in on one main aspiration/goal.

Overall, I have enjoyed this somewhat scatterbrained life. It creates excitement, and I wanted to give encouragement to those who may feel hesitant to invest in more than one hobby. The human brain is a powerful machine and holds lots of space for many skills and many talents!

What is your greatest talent/skill? Let me know by leaving a comment or shooting me an email at!

In Him,



Young the Giant’s wonderful world of bass-lines

Painting of Young the Giant by the truly talented Kelly Condon (best gift ever!)

As I mentioned in my post about music education, I am primarily a bass player. Therefore, my ear tends to enjoy artists/bands who bring high energy and exceptional bass-lines. Young the Giant (YTG), who is in the running for being my favorite band for the past three years, has this formula down pat.

Originating in Irvine, California as the “Jakes,” Sameer Gadhia, Eric Cannata, Jacob Tilley, Francois Comtois and Payam Doosztadeh solidified to become “Young the Giant.”

YTG found the limelight with its debut self-titled album and hit songs such as “My Body” and “Cough Syrup” (as heard in Glee). The band hasn’t looked back ever since.

Fans love the chilling voice of Sameer, the great guitar tones of Jacob and Eric, or the boombastic beats of Francois. However, I am an advocate for Payam’s talent on the bass guitar.

Payam Doosztadeh is undoubtedly one of my favorite bass players. He knows how to make a song come alive without having to make too over-complicated or simple of a part.

Out of adoration and appreciation, I have listed my five favorite “Young the Giant” bass-lines!

Payam rocking out at Slossfest 2015 (my photography skills were lacking)
  1. “Eros”

“Eros” is a party. Payam’s mixture of slides, syncopation and funk all provide a jam that anyone could dance to.

  1. “Mind Over Matter”

Wow. When I first heard this song, I probably played it on repeat 10 times at least.

Payam’s laid-back play-style on this song really displays how much variety he can bring to the table. Without this part in the song, it really doesn’t stand out.

  1. “Silvertongue”

Like many of the songs off of Home of the Strange, “Silvertongue” is highly bass driven. It brings out a lighter, more party-like side to YTG’s discography and to be honest, it just works. Payam brings a more complicated part to the table that gets stuck in my head over and over again.

  1. “Nothing’s Over”

The one bass-line on Home of the Strange that triumphs over “Silvertongue” has to be “Nothing’s Over.” When I first heard this song, I immediately grabbed my bass and slaved over learning this tremendously creative bass-line. Payam brings a new dimension to his bass chops on this track, yet I couldn’t let it be my No. 1.

  1. “Your Side”

Ladies and Gentleman, my No. 1 YTG bassline is the underdog, “Your Side!” No “Young the Giant” bass-line can top this one for me. It has a riff that stands out as one of my favorite bass-lines of all time. It not only helped me fall in love with the band, but it also helped me fall in love with playing the bass.

All that I can say is: thank you, Payam.

Please give “Young the Giant” a listen! The band has a transcendent sound that continues to stay unique.

If you have listened to them, what is your favorite song of yours and why? I would love to hear you guys’ opinions! Leave a comment or email me at





‘Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?’ Throwing it back all the way to ’86

I mentioned in my first blog post that my favorite movie of all time is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. When thinking of a movie post to do, I decided: why not travel back to 1986 Chicago and recollect my favorite film of all time?

This movie has a special place in my heart. I could not tell you how many times I have watched it. I could continue rambling about how much I love it, but I’d rather get a move-on with talking about WHY it is so awesome.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off tells the story of a high school senior named Ferris (Matthew Broderick) who takes a day off from school (using the most elaborate plan imaginable to do so). Ferris convinces his actually sick friend, Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), and his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), to tag along with him on an exploration in the beautiful city of Chicago. Throughout all of this, the antagonist and evil principal, Mr. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), finds himself on a trail after Ferris trying to catch him skipping school.

In this adventure, the audience sees the ultimate friend trio go to various famous Chicago attractions/locations and see funny events ensue. It gives a perfect blend of stress, slapstick and dry comedy that never gets old.

Although I’ve only given a general overview to the plot, there are so many iconic quotes and moments from this movie. It feels as if though every teacher/professor on this earth quotes “Bueller? Bueller?… Frye? Frye? Frye?”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off features some revolutionary scenes, most notably Ferris’ famous opening monologue and Ferris’ interruption during the credits.

Among the great comedy and legendary quotes lies a beautiful coming-of-age story that many people can relate to. Bueller teaches the audience to enjoy the little and big things of life as one and for people to be proud in who they are.

Another enjoyable factor of this film is how beautiful it is. Watching this movie makes it feel as if one is actually in Chicago. Now that I have actually visited it, I must say that even the movie can’t do it justice.

My love for this movie will never be taken away. I annoy people that watch it with me because I quote things way too often. It will always remain the movie that I watch when I am sick.

I’ll leave you all with one of the best quotes from Ferris himself:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Have you guys seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? What is your favorite part? I’d love to hear your responses!

Leave a comment or shoot me an email at:






Music is fun, music is kind, music is smart!

One of my biggest passions in the world is playing/making music. I have been playing guitar since I was in fourth grade and since have become proficient in playing the tenor saxophone and bass guitar.

Young Mason with his very first guitar
Young Mason with his very first guitar

Large majorities of people in life, at one point or another, have the dream of being able to play a musical instrument. In an inception of sort lies a dream to become a rock or country star, yet so many of these aspirations falter. Why is that?

No doubt that some people may find that music isn’t really their thing and thus pursue other things. From my own eyes and experience, I have seen many people just become burned out on redundant exercises and repetitive song playing.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone find a new passion or hobby and take it seriously (especially in the field of music). Thus, here are three ways I have found to harbor a great music learning experience!

Buy a cheap but quality instrument

Me playing my Squier P-bass at a gig October 2015
Me playing my Squier P-bass at a gig October 2015

If you are wanting to learn how to play an instrument, be sure to buy one that has a good sweet spot of inexpensive but effective. As much as you may want to play a super-pink and pretty-looking guitar, it may be a piece of trash and make you never want to touch it again.

As a beginner, how an instrument plays is SO much more important than how it looks. Some bass and guitar brands I would recommend that fit this category would be Squier by Fender and Epiphone.


Find an exceptional teaching source

This may seem obvious, but VALUE YOUR MUSIC EDUCATION! Finding someone/something that is knowledgeable, personable and demanding can be very challenging.

I have gone through three different teachers, and I must say three’s a charm. My third (first and only bass) teacher, Aaron Branson, taught me more than just bass. He taught me about music theory and just life in general, helping me grow so much as a musician and person.

If it’s affordable, I strongly recommend finding a private instructor. That is a relationship that helps to make your growth personal and quicker. However, if you don’t have the time or can’t afford it, the Internet has plenty to offer.

There are TONS of great educators on YouTube that fit the description of a great music teacher. Here are just a few of many:

Have fun!!

This undoubtedly the most important tip of all. Have fun with whatever you are doing. This goes for anything that you put time and effort into.

If you aren’t having fun, what good are you doing to yourself? Finding what gives you joy is what makes life worthwhile.

I hope those who read this take these tips to heart and give playing a musical instrument a chance (bonus points to those who do and find a new passion)!

Have you ever tried to learn how to play guitar, bass, drums, etc.? How did it go? Please leave a comment or shoot me an email at






Chance the Rapper takes Grammy Awards by storm with ‘Coloring Book’

Chancellor Johnathan Bennett, a young man from the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, has taken 2016 by storm. Better known as “Chance the Rapper,” Chance found himself basking in an exponential growth of popularity thanks to the release of his third mix-tape, Coloring Book.

Coloring Book is my No. 1 album of 2016. It is a catchy hard-hitting rap album that exudes gospel-inspired beats and lyrics. It is the pure definition of happiness and fun.

After countless listens, every song still has not gotten old yet. Coloring Book brings a fresh new light to hip-hop and helped my love for the genre grow. Listening to it will forever remind me of the summer of ’16: the illustrious time of collegiate anticipation.

Grammy history

The 2017 Grammy Awards was a historic one. For the first time in its history, the Grammys allowed streaming-only artists to be nominated for awards, giving Chance and others to gain an opportunity at the Grammy winnings.

The rapper went above and beyond with this chance (ha), and earned himself seven nominations including three wins:

  • Best New Artist
  • Best rap Performance- “No Problem”
  • Best Rap Album

Along with these winnings, Chance performed one of my personal favorites “How Great (Feat. Jay Electronica and My cousin Nicole)” and absolutely left me and the rest of the world speechless.

A humble man of great talent

It is quite often rare to find an artist in today’s day and age that shows humility. Chance shows all of this and more.

Chance does his profession all out of love. He chooses to be an unsigned artist that passes out his music for free. In an article with Billboard, Chance proclaimed: “It’s not about the music being free. It’s about how it is displayed and made accessible and about artistic power… It was always about the artist-to-fan relationship.”

Chance uses his music and career to give back to the city of Chicago and those he loves. He proudly shines his faith in the Lord for all to see and yet does it selflessly and humbly.

I hope that Chance continues to be himself and to be an influential part of the hip hop/music community as a whole. Kudos to you, Mr. Chancellor Bennett.

Have you given Coloring Book a listen yet? Either if you have or not, what would you say your favorite album of 2016 is? Please feel free to comment down below and/or shoot me an email to