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The Death of The Album

Circa 2014, rock band Muse declared the album dead. One of music’s most lasting legacies since the emergence of recorded music, the longest format, with its relative simplicity, the band claimed, in the face of the digitalisation and ubiquity of music on the internet, had perished. 

They weren’t entirely wrong. A statistical study published on the website Statistica recorded the annual music album sales from the year 2007 to 2017 (with ‘album’ including “CD, CS, LP and digital albums”). Most years, total album sales fell lower than their preceding years. Between the years 2016 – 2017, album sales dropped by 9.4 million units from 205.5 million albums being sold in 2016 to 169.1 million in 2017. In fact, only in the year 2011 did album sales see a marginal bump up from its predecessor (from 326.2 million to 331 million, a rise of only 1.5%). Overall album sales had fallen from just above 500 million units in 2007, to under 200 million in 2017. With streaming today giving many people the choice between paying $20 for 12 tracks or $10 a month for access to a seemingly infinite music database, the shift is hardly shocking. 

In today’s age of digital music, where the number of streams and views on a song online is bigger news than an album’s garnering platinum success, the standalone single has emerged as the most popular format. It’s almost logical: give a time-pressed world a short three-minute catchy song with a video that looks good on YouTube (but perhaps not in your mother’s hands) and sticks in their head, and the world will reciprocate with its attention. It’s as simple a thing as giving people what they need. The radio will take care of the rest. 

Will it run for forty minutes?
Credits: thrillist.com

In today’s age, people want variety, entertainment and familiarity rolled into one, and they want it quick. 
The fifty-minute Length Play can hardly keep up with anything less than a traffic jam. The concentration asked of most experimental records won’t keep your eye on the road during your morning jog. And it’s no fun trying to keep up with something completely unfamiliar in rhyme or rhythm in the shower or on the dance floor. This is where the album, with its structure, discipline, and some may say, conformity, loses out in 2018. It’s also where your curated Spotify playlist wins. 

Listening to the modern chart radio reveals a few patterns.
 Either in the contents of the lyrics, vocal and tonic technique, baselines or drum machine patterns; something seems homogenous. Something sounds familiarly like the last fifty songs you’ve heard. Something in the song knows what makes your foot tap from past trials and is here to serenade you again. 
Out-of-breath crooners are back in fashion. Trance baselines have been in for a few years and stubbornly refuse to leave the charts alone. Acid bass drops get you moving. Minimalistic drum taps interfere the least with your dance floor groove. (As a disclaimer, this is all terminology coming from a rock music listener who’s spent way too many holiday car trips with the Tops 40’s radio.)
There’s always a story, either vocal or instrumental, that you’ve heard before  and it becomes easier to fill in the rest. 
But there’s always something almost obligatorily new: a synth melody in a new key, a different chord progression (Hmm, perhaps playing ‘A#-D#’ this time instead of playing ‘D-A’ will sound extremely novel), a new instrument thrown into the mix; something to make a case for your argument in favour of variety. 

What this sums up, to me, is a tired, wary society. We like our variety, in fact we’re wired for it, but only in micro dosages. We cling to familiarity and will take our blankets and pillow along with it. This is a generation that has seen more than its fair share  of experimentation and variety in life and wants no more hard surprises. Yes, you can dye the cat purple for all I care, maybe the colour will even look good on her. Just don’t let me know that I can’t afford my rent this month. Don’t tell me my student debt has doubled and that I’ll probably never be able to retire. Keep the papers away. Oh, and while you’re at it, don’t mess with my music. 

Pop music—historically short for popular music—is in this sense still quite a good reflection of society and its current mental state.
 Most of today’s adults the teens and preteens of the mid-00’s, a generation that grew up under the dominant reign of Disney Channel. This decade’s rise in (or perhaps, resurgence of) Disney artists in the popular music charts could well mean a generation of now-grown kids holding onto the last of their childhoods—a time when things seemed simpler, or were at least taken care of, and there seemed a lot more to look forward to in the future than they grew up to realise—through their childhood stars. 

So are we holding on to something that’s over and smearing its remains onto our music– a large aspect of our cultural lives and legacy? Does the ‘death’ of the longest format of music represent a breaking down of barriers, the handing of the reigns to the listener to modify their listening experience to their own comfort, the result of our collective wishes as a generation to find familiarity; or is it the death of music as we once knew it?

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Loosest Stuff I Could Piece Together: Anyone Can Write Deep Poetry Series

Come on over and write yourself the next chart-buster. Anyone can do it, no lie!

First up, welcome to the Anyone Can Write Deep Poetry series. 

Have you spent all day and all night, listening to Pink Floyd, obscure French music and frantically pulling up your old English notes from school searching for all the phrases and idioms that may have passed you by in twelve years of worthless education, and sit there scratching your head wondering where deep, meaningful poetry comes from?

Are you walking around town in low-waisted, ripped jeans with shades and a bedhead with a purpose, looking around for someone to pass you a few tabs of acid to unlock the sheer poetic creativity that sleeps passively in your soul?

Are you following all the latest yoga fads and rewatching every John Lennon interview in existence to find the meaning of life and finally turn it into that soulfully-worded song you know you should have written by now? (Come on, you’ve been searching for a year already!)

Well, fear not, for I have ended your woes!
Here is a step by step guide to getting in the frame of mind most fertile for sprouting pearls people will quote for years, read and reread to really grasp the inner meaning of, that people will cry upon deciphering. 

Basically, I’m gonna turn you into Radiohead. 

So let’s begin. Echoes 2.0 ain’t gonna write itself. 

What time is it? 
Did you just get back from work? Are you tired of the structured life, does the hypocrisy of society frustrate you?
Yeah well, you’ve already tried writing about it. 
And yelling, “down, down, down with the governmeeent!” clearly hasn’t helped your SoundCloud grow. 

Try the indirect approach. Orwell neatly shrunk society into a farm. Look at how many musicians quote his books. You want that, don’t you? 
What can you come up with?

Ditch the obvious! The LSD ain’t gonna help your head if it isn’t thinking!

Here’s a start: you think people shy away from self-contentment, don’t you?
Let’s find you something a level beyond “We’re all sad fucks.” 

What’s the least obvious thing that could represent fulfilment?

Yes, now you’re using your 3 AM brain, good work!
Cream cheese.

Why not? 

Satisfaction is cream cheese. You know it’s what Jagger wanted. But none of you can get it, you sad fucks, you’re afraid of getting it! 

What would shake up society more anything else?
That’s right, someone getting it! And not just getting it, but enjoying it!

Attaboy, my Dylan! You’ve got yourself a full verse already! Should’ve come to me last year, don’t you think?

So here’s your first verse. 

Cream cheese is good
Real good food
I put it in my mouth
Until it’s all gone

What’s more torturous than just getting, and enjoying good cream cheese?
Getting it again! And again! And again! You rebellious soul, what will you do to the planet!?

You loop it. You say the same thing, again, and again, and again. You drive your bloody point home. You’ve got some fucking cream cheese out there. And you’re gonna eat it, period. 

What a symbolic middle finger in the face of the establishment. 

Yeah, how’s your acid working out for you?

Freedom can be trippy. Make sure your listeners—and the damned Establishment—know it! 
Put the trip and the trap into your music: echoes, delays, fades, until you’re so high on your own freedom that no one can hear you anymore. 

You’re a quick learner.
 Let’s put that onto your draft now. 


Cream cheese is good
Real good food
I put it in my mouth
Until it’s all gone

Yeah, cream cheese tastes good!
Is real good food
I put it in my mouth
Until it’s all gone!

CREAM CHEESE IS GOOD, YEAH?
Good food, yeah?
See me put it in my mouth
And watch it be all gone!

YEAH CREEM CHEEZE IYYY OOODD
EEEZZZZOOOODDD FOOOODDD
PUUUIIINN MAAA MAAAAAUUTHH
TILL ITS ALL GOONNEEE

Now, you and your group break away: there’s strength in numbers! Free your mate, and free your girlfriend, free your neighbour’s dog! Give ‘em some cream cheese. 

(song continued)

And my mate likes good cheese
My girl says it’s good food
We put it in the dog’s mouth
Until my neighbour’s gone

How’s that for emancipation of the people, sir? Could the establishment have an answer to that? Now all you need is to seal this with a kiss. 

I rise up, raid the pantry!
We rise up, raid the factory!
Wake up, eat up, 
Wake up
Wake up!

Who’d have expected that? You’ve got the critics in tears, reviewers raving; you’ve put together something nonsensical enough for the radio, deep enough for the underground, heady enough to score you that dream collaboration with Post Malone, you star!

Take a look at your final product and be proud. 

Cream cheese is good
Real good food
I put it in my mouth
Until it’s all gone

Yeah, cream cheese tastes good!
Is real good food
I put it in my mouth
Until it’s all gone!

CREAM CHEESE IS GOOD, YEAH?
Good food, yeah?
See me put it in my mouth
And watch it be all gone!

YEAH CREEM CHEEZE IYYY OOODD
EEEZZZZOOOODDD FOOOODDD
PUUUIIINN MAAA MAAAAAUUTHH
TILL ITS ALL GOONNEEE

And my mate likes good cheese!
My girl says it’s good food
We put it in the dog’s mouth
Until my neighbour’s gone

I rise up, raid the pantry!
We rise up, raid the factory!
Wake up, eat up, 
Wake up
Wake up!

Now, about the music, jeez, aren’t you exhausted? This song’s already a chart buster, why don’t you send your A&R guy to sample the neighbour’s dog pissing? It’s so meta, I can’t even. It probably even sounds good on record. About the actual rhythm section? Scratch some pads, man, anyone can make music. 


(In case the point was lost, this was pure sarcasm. If you actually do write a song about cream cheese, and if it actually does hit the charts, I want in.

This is not a generic attack on lazy songwriting, and is neither a diss on any of the songwriters mentioned above. 

Except maybe Post Malone. But whatever.)

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A Midnight’s Dilemma

To write or not to write- that is half a question
To go over in the mind asleep;
Slings and arrows of wakefulness
To surface from its sea to consciousness
Or suppress them, end them. To sleep, to sleep–
No more– and by a sleep to say release
Let go of a thousand and more thoughts
That the mind is heir to- ‘tis euphoria
Devoutly to be wished. To sleep, to sleep–
To sleep, perchance till twelve. Ay, there’s the rub,
Of an eye, for ‘til the fresh rays come,
The thought has left this mortal coil.
This gives us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long and dark a night.
For who would bear the glares and ticks of time,
The spacing out, the offended glares,
The pangs of a body hungering for sleep, and its arrival’s delay
The sleep deprivations and the spins
This patient merit of th’ body takes
When he himself his bed made,
With bare hands? Who would fardels bear,
To fumble in the dark, for the light switch
But the dread of losing that thought,
It’s departure to new-found lands
From where it never returns, puzzles the will
And makes us pick those quills we have
And have them fly over flapping sheets
Thus does the clock above make fools of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
To shut the eyes tight, and ward off all thought
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of another thought
But enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard, their currents hasten
But sleep must lose the name of action– Sleep-deprived you now!
The fair inkiness! Black, In thy testament
Be all my sins remember’d.

 

P.S. as you can probably guess, it’s that time of the year again.

Test time.

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Bohemian Lament

Exams draw near, and it brings out the worst in me.

In my defence, I get bored.

 

Is this a real pile? Is it just fall-acy?
Caught in a landslide
Of books sliding down on me
Open your eyes
Look up to the ceilings and see
I’m just a poor boy
Pile of books taller than me,
Knowledge easy come, easy go
Little high, little low
Any way the wind blows,
The answers seem to blow with them
Away from me

Mama just killed a man
Just the turn of a page,
Now he’s confused and filled with rage

Mama, the lesson’d just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away

Mamaaa ooooooooooo
Didn’t mean to make you cry
But I won’t be done with this by tomorrow
Grind on, grind on
As if nothing really matters.

Too quick
It’s time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Eyes shutting all the time

Goodbye everybody
I’ve got to go
Gotta leave the world behind and face the books

Mama, oooooo
I don’t wanna die
And sometimes wish I’d studied a bit before

I see a little silhouette of a book
Scandium, scandium, can you be less scandalous
Thunderbolts and lightning are just electrons flying at you
Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Galileo Galileo didn’t see this coming,
No-o-o-o-o.

I’m an unpaired electron, nobody loves me
Unpaired and Lost from his metal was he
Spare him his life of unfulfilled valency
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
Let him go!
Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let me go.) Will not let you go
(Let me go.) Will not let you go. (Let me go.) Ah
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh mamma mia, mamma mia) Mamma mia, let me go
Bismuth has an orbital put aside for me
For me
For mee!

So you think the plain ground state was made for I?
So you think I’ll just keep spinning here till I die?
Oh, gaining, velocity baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right out of here

(Put down the book, and)
Nothing really matters
All the prep there can be
Nothing makes the difference
For me.

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Cycle of Life

I was reading an article on how the population equilibrium on the planet will be maintained- a cycle of events that supposedly take place, that ensure a balance in human numbers on the planet.

Very roughly, they cycled as follows:
At first, there was a medium-ish population, and a small, hand sowed-and-reaped produce just enough to feed it.
If the population increased, the food supply was the limiting or checking factor, maintaining our population size.

Then came the mechanisation.
All of a sudden, with industrialisation, machines were reaping more crops than ever.

For once, an increasing population had enough, and even surplus food in store. (Cue: the Great Depression of the late ’20s, where the grain produce was so much, it had no more value in the markets.)

With this, and advances in technology and medicine, the so-far tight check on population growth loosened, and what began was the third phase of the cycle: something we call the population explosion.

In this stage, life conditions look relatively hunky dory, people live, live, and keep on living.

We’re accelerating too much, the problem of today.

Well, here’s what the cycle says.
This is where a fourth phase in the cycle kicks in.

There will then follow a stabilisation, wherein, with lower mortality rates and more longevity, humans will start reproducing less.
There simply won’t be a need for people to have as many kids anymore.
[Also, I may add, the lack of a libido, as seen in the Japanese, and the introduction of AI into the sex sphere, may play big roles in bringing down the very need/urge for human sex, and indirectly, reproduction.]

Now, I’m not economist or researcher. But I have another theory.

The human race will advance further in the intelligence sphere, and we’ll soon be delegating our intelligence to algorithms.

We’ll progress to the point where we’ve become far too comfortable.
(And trust me, we’re on our way there.)

The human body was designed for action. We were predators and prey once. Now we prey on the supermarket.
We use to be on the move.

Heaven knows we may adapt to inactivity. But mostly, I think that would fall apart.

Soon, non-movement-related illnesses would begin to take control of the human race, and human numbers will fall, because most likely, we won’t be able to reverse the damage.
Lifestyles mostly only progressively change, not regressively.

Now birth and death rates will balance out, and for all you know, despite improving technology, we may not have the problem of food surplus, because of the growing importance of (and money diverted to the production of) medicinal precautionary drugs, etc. in the human diet.
We come back to Step 1 of the cycle, i.e., balance. (Birth = death ≤ food supply).

There is another way, though.

Human beings’ strongest claim to the top of the hierarchy has always been their superior thinking ability. We’ve outsmarted and ousted almost every other dominant species on the planet. We call it civilisation.

But, of late, we’ve been handing over the reigns to the Golden Age bearers; with a machine to do everything a human can, the human needn’t work anymore. We have submitted to the idea of the Reigner Supreme: the now preferred machine.
Soon enough, the machine takes over the thinking aspect as well. Like a rusting machine, the now-useless human brain rots away in wastefulness.
No longer the well-oiled machine it once was, the evolution of the human brain stops.
With our front running claim to the top, our biggest weapon blunted, we will slide lower. Rationality and logical thinking will be lost, one bad decision will lead to another, till we’ve effectively dwindled down to the last human.
Ain’t that hard to kill the last dodo, is it now?

At last the cycle will end, and the winners, created by the ones they destroyed, the Reigning Machines, the victors, would stand tall, perfect and purposeless.

Hey, I’m only a science fiction writer, but who’s to say that dolphins won’t rule our planet one day?

 

Sweet Dreams

Man, I miss the old days of nursery and day care where part of your day was just curling up for a nap.

I’m at work right now and tired out by stuff I’ve been doing since morning. Of course I’m too self conscious to sleep. It’s not something you do at work.

But imagine if sleeping was in fact a part of your workday. Some new-fangled study claiming that it boosts productivity and miraculously, ensures bug-free code (nothing ever ensures bug-free code).

This would be the next big thing in quotidian work lives.

Now, people fuss over their hair and clothing, cuff links and ties, formal leather shoes and a neat haircut.

Authoritarian look, good language, a firm handshake. Sharp briefcase. All the things we focus on because we’re allowed them at work.

Clean wallpapers, work-filled laptops.

Now bring sleep into the foray.

Imagine IKEA rolling out its latest collection of chic yet work-friendly pillows. Pillow cases and pillow stands for people with their own office rooms. Foldable pillows that fit into your briefcase. The artist’s work-pillow. The boss’s work pillow. The intern’s work pillow.

The big question to be asking a successful CEO in a ‘look into the life of’ interview: what sort of pillow do you prefer?

How does the sort of pillow you carry affect your job interview? GQ articles on the most subtle yet effective pillows to bring to the workplace.

Adverts showing approving colleagues watching the smartest pillow-carrier sleep:

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they while on Impressionist Pillows©™ slept
Were toiling upwards all the while

Impressionist Pillows: Making marks… even in your dreams!

Of course this is going to be more about the pillows than the sleep itself, or atleast until Memory Foam decides to enter the scenario.

It probably won’t happen, but oh well. I can dream. And get back to work.

Pro Tips

I just realised something today. You can actually measure your level of distractedness by the number of tabs you need open on a browser. The more tabs open, especially those you feel you cannot close, bam, you’re ultra distracted.

I often go from working on a page, to doing my research for that work on a second page, to having a third tab redirecting from something interesting I found on the second tab and can’t afford to close the second tab for. Then I’ll read something that will lead to a nagging question popping up out of curiosity and leading me to google on a fourth page. Then when I finally hear time stop tapping her heels indignantly at me and choose a more direct route of action: a whack on the head and back into reality, I’ll keep those tabs open for break time and head back to my work.

At break, I’ll probably want to check out listen to a particular song that’s been stuck in my head and then I’ll check my phone for texts and someone would have said something that reminded me of a scene from a SpongeBob SquarePants episode, which means I’d just have to notify them of that fact got sending them that particular scene. A sixth page opens!

Post break, I’ll remember an important part of my assignment that needn’t be started until I finish the current part, and will open a new  tab and begin a search. After half an hour of working on that, I’ll realize I will probably not get too far if I don’t finish my groundwork.

Then I’ll look up and scroll through the ten or so tabs I have open and think, sheesh, this must be slowing down my laptop. I’ll pop down to laptop activity to see if it’s (unsurprisingly) taking as much of my power as it should. Woo, it is!

Back to work.

I’ll look for my first tab and think, what a mess am I. I should close one of these tabs.

Ten minutes later, I have so successfully argued out why I need each one of these that I could easily quit my job and become a lawyer. They stay, this case is closed, and the work continues.

Fifteen minutes of work later, it strikes me that this probably means I’m quite distracted. I think to myself, what a find. Everyone should know about this.

And so I head over to WordPress to share my little musing.

008836B0-B20E-4BDE-956A-F11E3531F40B
Lo and behold. The power of a distracted mind.

In the end though, we’d have finally reached puffin documentaries.

Drills

Fire drills at work are 75% needlessly dropping my facade of pretending I’m busy doing work and 24.5% awkward socialisation, and 0.5% remembering the last horrific time there was a fire drill, more of a false alarm really, that happened to occur only on the day I had a really bad case of diarrhoea.

Needless to say, I don’t like fire drills anymore.

 

Behind Enemy Lines

I hate the people behind the counter.

Yeah, you know the smug guys on the other side of the barrier, showing you how clearly and plainly they have not picked your side in this war. Them of the tired, weary looks, and also them of the indistinguishable, incomprehensible drive-thru voices, but they’re a different story.

It’s them of the “Next, please” that I am onto today.

(And also, this has nothing to do with the little yellow guy who’s biggest ambition was to stand before a table, pen and in hand and say, “May I take your order, sir!” Just so we’re clear.)

So I went to buy my a sandwich, which is a very ordinary, Adult™ thing to do. Nothing fishy here.

…I occasionally stop by to buy food, because I don’t want to cook for myself.

And given my cooking capabilities stretch across the vast expanses of egg, bread, cereal and milk, who am I kidding, I’ve bought me more food from outside this month than I have in the last nine months combined.

So I go to Tim’s, and ask for a sandwich.

Hi, could I have the xyz sandwich?”
(No, I’m too mad to recall which one it was)

“Sure thing!” Says she, because why wouldn’t she say that?

I say, cool! Sandwich for dinner and then straight to bed for the tired adult kid who stayed up till 4 last night. I’ve only half a good reason, and that reason was SpongeBob SquarePants. The other half was work.

What, logically, should have been the next thing for her to say?

Maybe “to go?” Except everything in Tim’s is wrapped.

“Napkins?” If you’re feeling judgy.

Or, “Have a nice day!”, because you’re Canadian.
Okay, no that’s too nice, even for a Canadian.

The correct answer is, you ask, “debit or credit?”

And guess what she asked?
“Debit or credit?”
—NOT!

She asks, “Would you like a combo?”

No, I would not like a combo, I just want a sandwich.
… what’s in a combo?
Well, I just want a sandwich.

Somewhere behind enemy lines, a siren rang out. Soldiers gathered in formation and blared their trumpets, cocked their guns upwards, and sang the national anthem. They summoned the very fathers and mothers, and going back far enough, apes, velociraptors and cockroaches, of this land and poured their very animal spirits into their souls. Then all together, they looked towards the enemy approaching on the horizon, with a look of hope and new found confidence, as they prepared to begin their march for victory.

Whatever all that above was about, this lady seemed to sum up, within milliseconds, with a smile.


The end of the day arrives, The soldier takes a break. Trying to walk back home is great for the adrenaline, not so much for a backpack with a laptop on a back for an hour. At least I don’t need to make me food.

The hand dips into my bag for that hard earned loaf, and wanders to the side pockets of the bag.

Defeat is bittersweet, and I mean it.

She had me and my social awkwardness at the eyebrow raise. You can’t take a word back. You can’t take a question back. The aftertaste of the question is bitter.

Good for me that I have this whirlpool to numb it down.

DFB23982-8DD1-470C-85E1-D09892A20FA9.jpeg

It smells like vanilla, but this stinks.

Lockdown Adventures

I already know the layout of the fire exit.

Yep, I am not even two days old at my internship, and I already have the layout of the fire stairwell memorised.
Adulting is in motion, and has been going swimmingly so far.

Day 2 of being a Real-World Adult™ has been an eventful one.

Now a proper member, I have a badge.

The thing with being an intern is that, you’re temporary, and last priority.
So I went to collect my official Employee Stuff, and was being taken around by someone a lot more permanent than me. So we go up to a different floor and I collected my needs. I figure out how to configure a few networks I will need for work. Then I collect my things to leave.

See, the building is connected across floors by a stairwell and elevators. The doors to everywhere are restricted-access and you need to swipe yourself in and out.
So the so other guy swiped me in, and on leaving, I was free to check out the wondrous pride a beeping piece of metal can be made to give you.

Now my badge is on a retractable string, and being a fidgety person, I was dying to give it a pull!
So I open the door and get into the stairwell and practically hustle to my floor door.

Pull string!
Badge face up? Check!
Scanner running? I mean, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be my problem so much as theirs, but check!
And sling! Pull it forward, and scan!
Now for that sweet green light.

Beep!
I get red, blue, green, purple.
Purple? That’s a scanner colour? Also, the blue was pretty.

Whatever. I try the door. It’s still locked. I try the handle more properly (I’m learning that I have a problem with turning the keys all the way at home sometimes. It doesn’t help that I often have other things on my mind when I’m leaving in the mornings), still locked.

The SpongeBob in me kicks in.
Oh well, looks like we’re just gonna have to swipe again! Baahahahahahahahahaaa.
(Swipe)
Oh, not yet? Guess we get one more chance, to feel the pride, the importance, the glory…
(swipe)
…the, the,
(swipe)
utter…
(Beep beep beep!)
sheer…
(Boop boop boop)
impo–
(Ka-ching boop beep)
impotence,
(boop boop boop)
im.. impudence…
(Poop poop poop)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!
It won’t budge!!

By this point, my face had begun to follow the scanner: red, green, blue, purple. So I decided to go back up.
Let’s say I had a nice long conversation with the door.
After that, I ran like bonkers checking other floors, but hey, if I don’t have access to my own floors, what are the favourful, flavourful odds that I’d have access to other peoples’ floors?

But stairwell-trapped me didn’t think too much about practicality. What I did think was, there’s gotta be a way out of here!

I ran down two floors till I was in the basement.
All those instincts that had taken a nice long nap hibernated, were waking up and kicking in like a Thor coming back into action after a long, beer/Fortnite-fuelled vacation.
(Okay, not having water is my poison, and my goto game is Pokémon, so I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.)

If those guys were waking up, this was turning out to be some internship alright.

I was like a soldier underground right now.
All I wanted again, was to see the sun. Get out of this trap box!

In the basement, the unlikeliest place of all, I see my choice. It’s the emergency exit. And it leads out! My way to freedom!

But if there’s one thing school has taught me (apart from, hey, coding will take all night), it’s that freedom has its own price. I haven’t seen an emergency exit that’s a free way out in a long time. Most of them are equipped with the most sophisticated psychological attack ever: you touch me, I scream.

Too many kids at orientation, too many tired all-nighter kids at libraries, too many instances I’d seen of people setting off the alarms by opening the wrong door. I still had to work here you know. This was an exit, not a get-out-of-jail-free heist.
I needed them to not think me a sociopath and let me come back and finish my shift.

So I opened the door to the basement and stood at the door that led to a passage that led out.
Through the glass windows on the top half of the door, I watched freedom stand a hundred meters from me. So close, yet so far, unless I dared to get kicked off my job on only day two.
So instead, I turned around and ran the other way. A T from the staircase meant I had a second option to explore. I stopped by a layout of the building in the walls in the corridor.
And now you know where this episode gets its first line from.

Well, it led out to the basement parking. From there, it was just a matter of finding the elevator to go up. No, I wouldn’t actually see the light until I got to my desk again, but figuratively, this was enough.
I made the triumphant ascent on the elevator, trumping one floor at a time, got out at the second, and sweet victory, I was home.
Well, not home, because I could’ve just taken the fire exit and run home, but you know what I mean.

I won. I was back. You couldn’t take me out of the game that early, I would survive day two, and with all my Internly grace.
I then promptly got myself locked out of the door again.

The receptionist let me in and taught me how the locking-wiping system really works, once I’d explained my little adventure, minus a little emotion because I don’t think an office is up for the high-adrenaline thriller that I can sometimes inadvertently make out of my life, but you know what I’m thinking?
This little orientation would’ve been a little more handy before I’d locked myself out.

Let’s call it a draw for consolation, but then, under her watchful eye, I proceeded to go out at swipe myself in.
Tap.
Wait.
Click.
Boop.
Beeep!
Turn… and,
Ka-chik;
Success!!

Hooray for sweet greens!

After that was all done, I pretty determinedly worked till I had worked my determination away and finished the day with this being my biggest contribution of the day:

F7E7BA6C-5365-4579-9F9A-72A2FDD19268

I’m gonna be such a pro.


This post is being posted on Day 5 as the hero, the intern was out faster than bacon on broccoli night somewhere within twenty seconds of reaching home. 

Adventures of A Real-World Adult™

So I begin today.

Your wildchild is entering the real world. Setting out on a new journey, equipped only with a bad sense of direction and a faulty Google Maps.

I’m off to work.

Really, it’s only an internship and so under the adamantium shield of Intern I get to make every mistake in the book, and get away with it, but it doesn’t make things less real, and I say that because I’m sitting in office.

Before you ask why I’m sitting in office, on day one, and typing up a blogpost, I’ll specify I’m sitting in the reception. The wait begins.
You know, it’s diplomatic strategy. You make someone wait, and then they seem more important. Well, I’m handling that game really well: it’s blogpost time!
You’re probably just glad I am not drawing a comic in here.

So far, my journey’s been great. I misread my watch this morning. In the dim morning light, my watch seemed to read 6:55. I said great, I’m up before my alarm.
You know that sweet, sweet feeling when you get up on your own, and see that there’s some time left before you’re scheduled to drop out of bed? Yeah, it’s even better than waking up on time, because you feel like you’ve snatched away those five extra minutes of sleep, never mind the fact that had you not woken up then, you’d have scored them anyway. Heck, by setting your alarm to 7:05, you’d earned them the night before!
Well, guess who thought they’d earned 20 extra minutes.

I don’t know about you, but once I’m awake, the anxiety that my alarm will shoot off, “any minute now”, is very real. It’s awful, and it doesn’t let me sleep again. It’s nearly pointless, I don’t get those ten minutes back!

So I lie there, waiting for the drill sergeant to scream. I used to have a siren as an alarm once, it was proven to be the most effective, yet it gives me absolute shoots in blood pressure, the cold sweat, the entire package.
At least I know I’m bodily ready when a real emergency hits!

So I lie to acting for what seems like forever, and nothing rings, there’s no sound.
My first thought is, shoot, the alarm isn’t working!
My second thought, shoot, I missed my alarm?
My third, and finally, action driven thought, let me check the time.

It’s 25. Shoot, I was scheduled for 7:15!
… but wait, what’s that? 6?
It’s 6:15?!

And then I lay waiting for 7:15. Turns out, I’d misread 5:50 for 6:55. That’s an hour and 20 minutes of my sleep I’ll never get back.
But I’ve mostly been on schedule since.
Then I got pranked by Google Maps this morning. As I stood at the bustop, I was texting a friend, and two seconds later, Maps shows me, with an A-OK in green text colour, that my bus was on time and had departed three minutes ago.

Okay, I was talking it was semi-important, but did I just let my bus pass me by? I was trying my damndest to be early too.

How early, you ask? Well, I live about ten minutes from work, and I begin at 9 AM.
I left home at 8:18.

But something tells me, my not so asleep senses aren’t wrong today, no bus did come!
I stood there panicking, almost considering walking the whole way, and I’d have done it too, but my footwear stopped me. I’d have looked quite a sight, stomping and struggling my way to work in a shirt and 0.05 mm heels. I’m really bad at this.

So I waited, and a bus did come. But before it did, with me at the stop, Maps tells me, “you are scheduled to arrive in one minute.”

Yeah right, smart mouth.

The bus I did get on came smack in between the two scheduled timings. So now I don’t know if I was late on my bus, or early on the next.

And now I’m sitting and waiting, for formalities, casualties (me), and forms—oh god, forms!—must be filled.

And as I sit here and wait, I can hear a high-end meeting beginning in the room next to me.
They’re discussing Pokémon.

Applications

After months of filling forms, your doctor’s appointment will begin to read like your latest college application.

Name: Mr. James Owen
Age: 18 years old
Sex: Male
Date of appointment: Freshman, undergraduate, 2019-20
Reason for visit: Ever since I was a young child, I have wanted to visit the doctor. This selfless man with the white coat and the stethoscope asking me to take a seat as a four-year old on Christmas morning with a Thomas the Tank Engine play-set stuck in my mouth, shoved in with Thomas and a few of his mates intact (or maybe not) in pure excitement of the sort only a four-year old high on Nesquick on Christmas morning could be, I was enraptured by this man and his love for his art, and the enigmatic pearls of wisdom he occasionally sprouted.
He spoke seldom, and when he did, it almost wasn’t ordinary human English.
“Aaaah”, he said, and while that should have made no sense at all, somehow, I understood the man. His command over his subjects was complete, his composure and dignified mannerisms subtle, yet screaming.
He nodded ever so slightly and passed me an ancient puzzle, a few scratches on a paper. Once again, while none of this made any sense to me, mum seemed to understand, he was universal; she nodded, although I felt her body relax for some reason, as in defeat.
I—

‘Oh shit, I think I’m close to the word limit, I gotta end this!’

*scratch, scratch*
“—That incident left a very deep impression on my younger self, and for the last fifteen years, I have only had one thought every night that I go to bed: I would like to study medicine at Harvard.”

‘There we are, now we just sit and await that call.’

Ten minutes later, a nurse walks out holding a clip pad and a wearing a concerned expression.

‘Mr. James Owen?’
‘Yup, that’ll be me. Tell me, did I make it?!’
‘Mr. Owen, it’s alright, I’d like you to come with me.’
‘Definitely!’

‘Nurse, where are we headed?’
‘We read your profile, James, and there may be a slight problem,’
‘Oh dear! Would you need an additional portfolio? Recommendations? My thesis from summer research?’
‘No Mr. James, you’re really sick, and just to make sure you’re not a hazard to yourself or anyone around you, we want a little check up.’
‘Nurse, you must have made a mistake, I’m perfectly fine! Take a look at my athletics! I played for Junior Varsity, I’m very fit indeed!’
‘Don’t worry kiddo. It’ll all be okay.’
‘No, no, what does that mean? I’m perfectly fine, I told you, I’m not crazy! Are you rejecting me?!’
Nurse smiles sweetly
‘We only wish the best to you now, and in all your future endeavours. Come with me.’
‘What?! Nooooooooo!!’

Social

Sometimes, you just have nothing to say. I’ve often had nothing to say, I’ve just hung around wondering how people talk so much.

Then they turn and hit you with the s-bomb. You’re so silent!

Yes, well, if all you can talk about is the last wedding you all were at and all the food you ate there, there is no way in a million lives I can contribute to that chatter.

I’ve realised of late that my way of coping with this, anticipating that dreaded blow, has been verbal diarrhoea: oh you wanna talk food? Allow me to divert and rant about how spicy this was, and then hijack the conversation and start talking about the history of spices and why all countries in the world wanted to set sail for India back in the set sail times (hint: thé answer is spices). Then I plan to dart and run away before you can throw any kind of bomb at me. I’m out.

Or you can be nice and give me the wifi password and we can avoid this whole mess. Keep me leashed, I guess, if you value your sanity.

And yeah, of course you’ll probably end up in one of my comics. That’s the sole reason why artists exist. We love annoying you.

Leading Line Adventures

 

Where do these lines lead? What lies beyond the bright point? What’s that blue blob? A door? A portal?

I find it interesting how you’ll never know. I do know, because I took this picture, but to you, the very same picture is, and will remain, an utter mystery. A supposition, at best, an educated guess, a figment of your own imagination.

Can you imagine a character running towards the light, arms outstretched, trying desperately to reach that portal and escape to some imagined safety? Do you see a lost traveler wondering how on earth they got into this underground labyrinth, feeling the brick walls as much as to feel its texture and feel some warmth, some assurance, some hope that they’ll ever get out alive, as for some direction? Them, feeling their way along the long, low corridors, fervently wishing for some sign of life to appear… As they make their way down, they see a door. Then another door, hidden in an alcove. Which one might lead to escape? Oh dear, there isn’t time to go exploring, and there isn’t time to waste around guessing!

It’s now or never, they must take their best shot!

The hidden door, that must be it! Freedom can’t be that obvious, right? Here goes, swing, and in!

Swish!

What’s that? Carpeted floors and low, concentrated light. Where is our hero now? They look in front of them: another door? What on earth? It’s too late to turn back. Swing this one open too!

Weeeeoooooeeeeoooowwwoeeeeoooooweeeoooeeeoooo!!

Siren! They’re done for! What sort of trap have they triggered now? What lies ahead for our protagonist?

Our hero sees movement: there are living beings here! They slowly turn their head and look at our befuddled hero. They don’t look happy. In fact, they seem almost… gruntled?

Our hero takes a step back in panic and confusion. They grip the strap of their backpack. So down they must go. Well, they’ll go down fighting!

Sweat droplets begin to form on our hero’s forehead in spite of the cool night air around. Their fist clenches, their muscles tighten. They silently promise themselves that if they make it out of here alive, nothing is going to stop them from going home. They will go home.

Slowly, they take a tiny step forward. They suck in a breath. They open their mouth to say something, but they’re still shaky from the wailing siren around them.

And the figures in the light, they don’t seem to like the wail either.

As they’d figured two minutes ago, “now or never”, our hero whispers through their parched throat.

Just then, a larger figure appears! Her silhouette descends from a higher level and comes down to stand before our hero! As she does so, she blocks the blinding light before them, and our hero’s vision finally begins to come into focus.

With the alarms still blaring around them, our hero really sees the scene they’ve landed themselves in for the first time.

The figure… she seems human, just like our hero! Her brows are furrowing on her forehead, and she adjusts the glasses on her nose. Is she from around here? Will she be able to help me find my way home, and out of this fearsome place? Or is she one of them? What do I do?

At that moment, the woman—for woman she seems to be—begins to speak.

“Sir, I’m going to need you to enter through the other door.”

Our hero simply stares at her in confusion. A-what now?

“Sir, do you hear me? Are you alright?”

Our hero looks up and meets her eye. “What?” they ask.

The lady shakes her head and sighs. “You don’t look like you’re in any shape to pull an all-nighter. I suggest you go home and rest.”

It made no sense, but one word resonates with our hero. Home! That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do all this while: get home.

“I don’t understand,” they reply slowly, the confusion beginning to climb up their chest.

“Kid, you can’t enter the library after 9 PM through this door, don’t you know it’s an emergency exit? It says so on the wall. Now you’ve disturbed everyone around. I understand it’s finals season and tensions and emotions run high, but you need some rest, look at you! If you really have to study in here right now, I won’t stop you, but I highly recommend one thing: get home, and get to bed!”, the librarian gushes.

The librarian?

Our hero looks around as the other faces come into focus. Human indeed. Or maybe almost human. Finals season zaps the humanity out of every studying soul and turns them into zombies. They don’t look happy to have had their preparation for that big final worth 40% of their grade interrupted. Now one of them gives up and leaves to go to the washroom. Curses, now they can’t focus and need a break.

Our hero stands there with their mouth hanging open as they watch the kid leave, taking it all in at once. It’ll be a few more minutes before they can remember who they were and what’s really happened in the last half hour or so. Did they fall asleep in the corridor, or one of the classrooms it leads to? Were they really home? Are they just another student taking finals season badly?

For the truth, as you shall now discover, is that this is an underground passage connecting two of our residential buildings on campus. There is an underground entrance to the library, which comes in very handy during cold wintry days. And during finals season, almost all libraries are open twenty-four hours. It’s a blessed necessity.

Now of course I knew that. You only did a paragraph ago, unless you’re also at my school or just made a brilliant guess, which like I said, is only a brilliant guess.

So there you have it.

Also, if this reads a little weird, I’ll put it out there that I have never written a gender neutral character before. Never used these many “they”s in the same piece. Pick your own adventure, I guess.

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