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?
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.
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
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.
‘Oh shit, I think I’m close to the word limit, I gotta end this!’
“—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.’
‘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!!’
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
To be honest, I’m probably more of a panel number two. Who wants to deal with real people anyway, right?
Wait, you’re telling me they exist and I’m hurting their feelings? What?
Anyway, there are probably even more stereotypes, but I only get so many square inches of napkin.
You ever sit around wondering how on earth could anyone be enthusiastic about something as dull as a “reunion” with people you mostly don’t know? Or rather, people who ask you if you remember them but you could swear you’ve never met them in your life—but of course you remember them don’t you? You met when you were two years old!
Well, call me a silver-liner, but here’s what I just realised: reunions, or any gathering with a lot of people, are happy hunting grounds for material. So much material. And so here’s the outcome: new material!
What other stereotypes have you seen at gatherings? (Yes, you’ve been to one and had to stay for five hours, don’t hide it. And you observed too. You were too bored, so spill.) Did you run into my characters? And were you the life of the party, or me?
People are always complaining about how things have become so much tamer. People aren’t wild enough. They don’t take enough risks. They don’t step out of home, or their comfort zones.
It’s ubiquitous enough a complain, but it really seems to roar louder in the world of rock music. There are reasons for this.
Since the demise of the grunge movement following Nirvana legend Kurt Cobain’s death, the entire rock music scene lost momentum and spiralled inwards. By the end of the nineties, only the bands that survived the chaos of the younger half of the decade would go on to make it into the next era. The others would be lost, and so would their fans.
As a kid of the aughts, bands from the zeros seem closer and more familiar to me, but on the grand timeline, it could be argued that they were definitely more obscure than rock musicians have been in past decades. For those that did prevail though, the set of problems they faced were a little different in nature than their predecessors.
Of course, those who grew up in the ‘golden ages’ of the sixties, seventies, or even the nineties, claim that they don’t make it like they used to. The nature of showmanship has changed. The faces of venues have changed. Artists’ demeanour is more closely scrutinised than ever before, and they’re everywhere, all the time.
This is a big change. Earlier, the only exposure you’d have to your favourite artist would be through an interview they did with a music magazine, or an MTV special on the late night telly. You’d hear from them when they dropped their music, and of course, in their music, where they’d always be with you. None of these have changed, although as a compelling article in SpinMagazine argues, the interviews have become rarer, and the music has broken itself into smaller and smaller pieces: from albums to singles, and singles to snippets and breadcrumbs (a phenomenon I recently explored and outlined in this article).
What has changed though, is that in addition to this, you can find your favourite bands on YouTube, their personal Instagrams, Twitter, and for younger artists, even Snapchat. Like every other person, they find these platforms ideal to express their own thoughts and opinions. Of course, for a fan what this means is that your favourite stars are now living in your face, having comfortably nestled there after building themselves a little fire and drinking hot chocolate.
Metal exposed to free air for too long begins to rust, and the same is true of your interest in your favourite musicians. The tabloid has exploded, and everybody can be a reporter; heck, the artists themselves can do it. As you scroll through your news feed in infinite scroll mode, there’s too much stuff to catch your eye, and soon enough, the fifth reposted promotional picture of favourite artist becomes boring. You cast a momentary glance at a gothic, high-heeled, heavily made-up picture of that band you like who would swear to be so strictly folk rock that their getup would be otherwise shocking. But then you move on, because you just saw another picture yesterday.
Rock music was built on the social foundations of ‘rebel and shock’, but what used to shock people is either seen so often that it’s just not shocking anymore, or it’s simply unacceptable.
If Iggy Pop were a rising musician today, he’d have had a tough time.
Iggy relied heavily on the effects of the shock he could have on people, and do it more subtly than contemporaries who would proclaim themselves rebels. (See: MC5)
In particular, Iggy used to cut himself up with a blade live.
Today, he’d probably be cast as having mental health problems. He’d be told, it’s okay, everyone has darker days, and it’s great that you’re putting it out there for everyone to see. Self-inflicted harm? Total sign. Do talk to someone though, please!
And he’d have been a mental health advocate, broken by the stress we all face, a product of that system, with all our respect and our sympathy.
Rebels don’t get your sympathy, and that’s what endeared young rock and rollers to him. That’s what shocked people, and what made him a rebel. It simply wouldn’t work today.
In the face of this, the Noel Gallaghers of the world say that bands simply don’t have it in them anymore, that they’re not dangerous enough. They don’t wake up stoned or turn up drunk onstage (au contraire, only a month ago I witnessed a bassist down seven cans onstage). Artists do what they do. Only the implications of their actions have changed.
Of course, this also makes a band like Coldplay so likeable. In short, Coldplay are anodyne rock and roll: maybe a gateway band to artists more rock and roll, but also a band that you, your mother and your puppy can bond over. They aren’t out to offend and mum and dad won’t hate them. They won’t be in the news for the wrong reasons. In fact, all Coldplay have done to iff anybody is make more mainstream, pop radio-friendly music, and that seems to piss you off more than it does your mum.
But they’re hitting the charts alright.
This is something you’d see showing up all over the charts. Softer pop rock and more mainstream friendly artists are dominating the rock airwaves. Imagine Dragons, Coldplay and Twenty One Pilots are the biggest things rock on the charts. Oh, and probably Billie Eilish.
So is this the changing face of rock music? Has it become so mainstream friendly that it’s no longer friendly to those who created it in the first place? (Case in point: Greta Van Fleet. You either love them, or you love to hate them.)
The short answer is it’s not the end. The rock music scene was always stronger underground. A quick glance at Billboard’s archives tells you that rock music seldom dominated the hot music charts. There were moments when artists shone bright before being replaced by hotter tracks. The limelight was never meant for endurance, only an upthrust. And all legends are written in hindsight. Maybe we’ll be looking back on something we may have missed in our Instagram feeds and think it an incredible display of rock and roll showmanship.
In the meanwhile, do us all a favour and hit your local club, or a bar. There’s tons of good music buried under the unassuming air of carefreeness there that’s just itching to be discovered.
Tip: If you are looking for new music right now, here are some artists I could suggest.
Looking for some laidback surfside Cali blues, and generally a good time? Check out the Beach Goons. In their own words, they hate the beach. San Diego based surf blues-with-a-dash-of-Mexican-rock and roll, they’re my age.
Looking for something with the punk attitude but with catchier tones? I’ve said this before, but check out SWMRS. They’re also a lot better live than their records suggest.
Looking for some old fashioned indie rock? Come on, there are tons of bands out there, I won’t even try. Just go to a club, for goodness sake.
Looking for some hard hitting garage rock? Do, do, do check out Phono Pony. It took me forever to remember their name right, but it’s all worth it. British Columbia based duo hitting it in the vein of the White Stripes. Also, in the words of their drummer, “We’re not the White Stripes”. As a bonus, if you happen to be in Toronto tonight, hop down to the Horseshoe Tavern, they’re playing a midnight set.
You were expecting comics, weren’t you? I have many, but I call this a social experiment.
Isn’t the very essence of a comic but the excitement, the suspense, the thrill by the time you reach the last panel?
Well, just a drawing can sort of do that, only it’s sort of only one panel and no words.
But I’m not making excuses to show off my pretty dragon.
Would you agree that there’s action writ large over this one panelled, unintentionally worded but actually wordless comic, with the dragon’s paw (paw?) raised, poised to make a big move, those wings, ready to expand and fly, the fire already escaping those ready nostrils, those eyes, looking right at you?
Don’t you think there’s drama in here, leaving you wondering, “what next?!” Isn’t there suspense in the fact that you’ll never know what happens next because there is no second panel??
Isn’t there extreme thrill in seeing that I can finally draw a dragon properly??
… oh, hi mum.
Anyway, you got a few panels less than you’d bargained for. I hope a pretty dragon makes up for that.
Alright guys, suit yourselves. Look who’s back here, especially when I said I wouldn’t do this here. I’m around kids quite a bit these days—kids of every kind, including a little pupper—so I’m kind of used to dealing with people putting their foot down here and around. The only way to win is to give them what they want, while getting what you want. Subtle. An art. A master move.
And so I’m back to posting these here.
I suppose most of you guys are more familiar with this blog, and I’m too lazy a bean to update you guys with links to every comic I post over there (FYI if you actually are suddenly in this weird position where you’re craving napkin comics, head over to Origin of the Pitchforks, in spite of the name, I promise you the site doesn’t bite. It’s actually quite a pretty blue colour. That came about after precisely four hours of a CSS colour code nightmare. It’s pretty) so the comics have come home.
Don’t you cheer in that corner, you’re promoting anti-lazy behaviour. Boo.
Anyway, speaking of lazy, here’s a lazy Sunday morning comic, because I don’t get to read the newspaper on most other days now.
What do you think of it? Would you have spent any time looking at that dashing Lolex model? I imagine he’d be a tad bit disappointed if you didn’t.