Green Thoughts

There’s going to be a generation of kids to come who are going to hear the word ‘eco’ and never think it means “ecosystem” or “ecology” or even “economics”. The first thing they’re going to think is “eco-friendly”, and it’ll completely be our fault.

Detuned And Totally Unprepared

Clichés are clichéd, awful and annoying. So I’m not going to begin this with the customary “it’s been a long while since I last blogged” and am going to entirely avoid addressing the elephant in the room (text-box?). Or maybe I will. I’m still alive, if you’re wondering. It’s good to acknowledge that!

I’ve been preparing for university. Most of my time has actually gone in procrastinating preparing for university and in trying to accept the fact that I’m eighteen, an adult, and can legally drink in the UK. (Although, UK or not, I am a soon-to-be uni kid who has read too many books—and has a lot more of those to come!
Who needs legal drinking age limits, I’ll probably graduate and never have had the time to drink… and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how you hype your beginning university.)

In truth, my academic progress is hovering pitifully above zero, and I just embarrassed myself with my terribly slowed down calculating powers working on my little sister’s basic high school physics yesterday.  [And of course, “yesterday” being two weeks ago, because that’s how much I procrastinated finishing this post. It’s never like this when I write on paper!]
Did I just call high school physics basic? Change (and tons of rain) is in the air.

I have to admit, I really admire people who can keep up their hobbies during their off-periods. When I was a kid, I used to wonder how busy adults managed to fit in fun stuff into their work-filled lives. I’ve come to realise that when your mind loves to wander and you’re the Ace Pro of Procrastination, blogging in the middle of your chemistry finals preparation is really no big deal. Consistently blogging in the middle of the lazy May summer break? I’d buy you a trophy. To be honest, my mind isn’t really working enough to recognise that I can be blogging about things I’d jump to my phone for during the mentally active periods. Maybe I’d be glad once university begins, so take my future whining with a grain of salt!

My latest preparation for college was thinking it would be a cool idea to have a harmonica on me on campus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not abandoning my guitar. I’d take it everywhere with me if I could. But I have learnt through experience that that’s not a great idea. It’s also kind of cumbersome. I mean, mum and dad have ruled out carrying my electric guitar and amp with me, at least for the first year. I can’t be walking around stations with a backpack, a suitcase, an amplifier in hand and two guitars slung over my shoulder. So well, ouch. I was sort of hoping a harmonica could fill the void (it would also mean I’d probably do a reverse Dylan– I’m ditching rock and roll for folk and the blues… indicative, ’cause if you see me in a few month, you’ll probably hear me admitting, “I got the blues”). Besides, a harmonica could fit in my pocket! I mean, I do have a policy of always having a pick on me at all times—just in case!—but you can’t really do much with a pick alone, and most people’s incidentally-lying-around guitars happen to be dusty, rusty to the point where you fear a tuning peg would snap if you turned it, to say nothing of the strings, but that’s all in a guitarist’s day’s work. Problem is, they are all right-handed. I am freaking Tantalus.
A harmonica on me would really be neat in such trying times!

So I dragged mum into the nearest music shop because I failed to do that to dad. I may be legally eighteen, but when product prices start exceeding what you can hope t earn in your adolescent dreams, you resort to the trusted method you’ve used since you were five.
In my defence, it got me my first guitar.
So we stepped into the shop.

Now, I’ll make a confession here. I actually don’t like music stores that much. You’d think I ought to practically live there, and I’d have thought so too. But really, they freak me out a bit. It’s a constant challenge from the very second you enter. There’d be that one eager salesman who’s out to prove that he knows more than I’ll ever study.
Hey, I’m still a student too, and in music, the learning never ends. But this guy really is the Master of everything music, and what he doesn’t know probably isn’t for real.

He’s so knowledgeable.

He’s so skilled.

Man wears a backward hat.

He knows a freaking pentatonic scale and keeps playing it over and over again.

He’ll tell you that the PRS he’s playing is probably the best in town. [But his store sells freaking Gibsons on order!] He’ll talk about how he heroically quit everything to pursue hid dream (of being a music salesman?), then he’ll throw his head back and rock it sideways with his eyes closed as he plays the A# pentatonic scale again. And when he opens them again, there’s a clear challenge in his eyes.
Part of me cannot resist the challenge, but oh, for goodness sake, I only came for a guitar belt!

Breathe. Sometime, I’m going to remind him that Stratocasters are heaven and he will forever be a disappointment for this store not stocking one.
But beware that if you ever try out a guitar and play something, he’ll be there behind you, smirking. What does suck though, is that he gets to smirk anyway. Remember I’d mentioned Tantalus? I’m awkward holding all guitars on display, of course. They’re all right-handed. And then, just for variety, Soulful Salesman tells me that he too is left-handed in truth, but learnt to be comfortable playing right handed, for t’is the Right Way.

I guess that’s the real reason he has a three paragraph-long rant in his name.

But anyway, this time it was for harmonicas. I’d heard people refer to harmonicas as mouth organs, so I wasn’t sure what to tell them. On a whim, I went with the second.

“Could you show me some mouth organs?”
There. That was all it took to have triggered somebody.

A man turned to me to inquire if I’d ever played anything in my life, and why I was looking for this particular instrument.

I told him I was a guitarist and was simply interested in trying out a new instrument.
Big mistake. He immediately took me for a commitment-phobe and proceeded, over twenty minutes, to demonstrate, on both the guitar and mouth organ, what a difference commitment could make in a player.

“And, my dear child, it is a harmonica, do not call it a mouth organ!”

He didn’t work at the store (he repeatedly stressed on this point). He was eighty-four years old, an engineer and a hobbyist luthier who had a shop of his own in a nearby town. He showed a number of styles of playing, emphasising what practice could do for me, talking all the while, and all I could do was nod. In between explaining me why I shouldn’t go for a SEYDEL harmonica, being an absolute rookie, just like I wouldn’t begin driving lessons with a Ferrari (I had only wanted a look) came the story of his kid’s birth and the autobiography he was writing, and a pretty neat quote from his book. I just can’t remember what it was at this moment. The book though, is still under construction.

In the end, he told me I could drop by the store anytime, and remember, he did not work here, but they had his number and I could get in touch with him for any advice, and now I should just say “Thank you, sir”, and it was time for me to leave. And well, that’s exactly what happened.
I never actually got to see the harmonicas.

This is why I am not yet ready for college.

LCD

Born of home soil
And raised in a clay pot
That was lined by concrete and spiral screams
Grew up in the CRT
Surrounded by dots of LCD reality
Always dreamed of warmth
But I lived on a cloud
Red flowin’ love pipes mystery in shrouds
Learn to believe the overworked voice in my head
That from the retina burning blue light read
And learnt to live life when life means you’re dead
Optical fibres to my nerves and I’m well fed
Crumbling earth is the land never tread
When to shoot through the ceiling’s for what you were bred
The flapping noises of yellow a haze from the past
All I’ve known them for is to gather dust
Pull out the plug for there’s no one to trust
Locked the heart vault, now the key’s crumble rust
All I live in, my mirror screen
All I live in, my mirror scream

Facing the Blues

I think I’ve finally figured out why I dislike Facebook.

Since the age of eleven, I’ve been on it and come off thrice, and every ‘on’ period has lasted three days.
The longest one was fifteen days, and gosh, I thought I’d finally gotten over my Facebook distaste then!

I’d always thought it had a little bit to do with the interface.
Horrible, I hated the blue.
While most apps have gone on to use deeper, more vibrant colours, there’s Facebook, with its dull, faded blue. Argh. (Actually, is it still that blue? I haven’t checked it in… three years.)

I also thought it definitely had something to do with laziness.
I can’t imagine the effort it takes to maintain a Facebook account. To just have an account where you’re scrolling through stuff you aren’t actually even looking at, and one where you just watch two-minute impressive life hacks that you know you will actually never try yourself just seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it? …I will justify my having a YouTube account by saying that it’s linked to Gmail, which I do use, and without which I may not have been here blogging about it!
And yes, call it ironic, here’s a blogger talking about being too lazy to maintain an account.
Heck, I’ll just butter y’all and say I’d prefer devoting my energies here than to Facebook!
Actually, I may not be screwing around about that. It’s true.
But I really do think I have immense respect for anyone who’s able to maintain an actual, live Facebook, at least one where the content doesn’t seem redundant, or is for a business. I’m talking about a personal account.

Today, I think I figured it out.
The internet has really made our lives so strongly webbed, hasn’t it?
I read the book Silas Marner, where after having his entire world come crashing down on him, Silas decides to move to a new town and start afresh, and eventually, does end up rebuilding his life to be a beautiful happening.
It’s not cowardice, I’d say.
It’s one thing to stand up and face any mess that’s thrown at you, but there is a line, and a time when you have to admit that there is nothing more that you can do. It’s another thing, then, to look under your feet and see that the line’s been crossed, and you’re too far away to be able to make it back.
And at that point, it’s alright to pack your bags and leave, try again.
It’s not cowardly, because it takes strength, I think, to be able to start all over again and rebuild yourself from scratch.
Not only are you leaving the messed up, the troubles behind, you’re also leaving behind everything you built for yourself all the while.
You’re pulling the foundation you painstakingly laid down right from under your feet.
That takes something.

And many of us do it.

So when my family moved cities, while for the first few months my energies were only focused on somehow going back, all by myself if I had to, and returning to my beloved city, I eventually came to see another angle: it was a blessing in disguise, a chance I’d got to finally begin all over again.
No longer would I have to hide from those who spent their childhood bullying me.
No longer would their faces bring back horrible memories.
No longer would I have to freak out if the backdoor was locked.
This was it, I was free. They were no longer a part of my life.
There was no one here who knew me, knew my past, no one could mock me for how easily I had let myself get pushed over, I couldn’t possibly be the focal point for everybody’s dark creativity to emerge and bloom, because no one knew anything about me!
I could be who I wanted to, I could show, this time around, that I was a lot stronger than they back home had thought me to be, no one could accuse me of crying.

(Okay, that was a huge tangent. I’m sorry.)

Point is, that is why I hated Facebook. I was happy knowing that these folks were out of my life for good. I was happy knowing that this was my new life, and it was a lot happier. I could forget the past, and just let my present be my reality, mixed with lessons I’d learnt, invaluable experience I’d gained from the trials from so long ago.
And then, there came Facebook.
I did not need these people’s faces popping up on my phone, I did not need to be reminded of them, their ways, and my old self- and I couldn’t allow myself to slip back into the past, whether in memory, or behaviour.

My mother often marvels at the power of Facebook. It has reconnected her with long-lost school and college friends from over twenty years ago, and she says there, your friends will always remain friends, because Facebook has lessened the distances between people so much. There are no more boundaries. You can cherish your friendships forever.
Maybe distance is not always such a bad thing.
Most of us must have had days when we’ve wanted a break, just a temporary distance from a friend, just to allow yourself to recuperate (and it may not even be your buddy’s fault), give yourself a little space.
That’s alright too.
So boundaries and distance may not always be bad. You don’t owe it to anyone.
We’re not into self-torture. And there’s nothing wrong in walking away.
So I come on, and drift off. And then, may want to connect with someone, come on for a day, for five minutes perhaps, then forget that account exists altogether.

It does bring me to crossroads, though, as I roll through my last year of school.
When it’s all done and dusted, there will be people I’d definitely want to keep up with. There are friendships I wouldn’t want to die.
There will be a decision I will have to make.

Will I let my past keep haunting me, and in the process miss out on something that may not be half as bad as I feel it may, or will I steel and face it? Will I find out, the line was crossed, and who, what really defines the lines?

Could Something Good Come Out of Our Self-Created Tempest?

Currently, the world seems to look like a nightmare ripped right off an Orwell novel, with everyday becoming a dystopian worse, to a point where one could actually accurately predict what is going to happen the next day. Imagine the worst you can, and sleep over it. Aladdin couldn’t have had it any easier.

For most of us, looking at the picture across the globe seems like an instant depressant. We look from the western horizon to the eastern, we find little hope, or I daresay, sanity. From brainless mops of hair to hypersensitive freaks, ready with a new sensation at the drop of a hat, we wonder, what good could ever come out of this?

For a long while, I’d been theorising, this is how it’s gonna end. Devolution. The human race was going to dumb itself to death. We’d get stupider every single day, with hands around our own necks, and one day, climate change, stray asteroids, the Big Freeze or a Heat Death will be the last things we’ll be worried about: we’d have taken ourselves out of the equation before it ever got to any of those.

When I was in the sixth grade, we’d had a chapter in school with an introduction to history. One part I remember well, was something about history not just being about dates and wars. Despite what we’re taught in school, history is all about the why and how, rather than the where and when. The book had said, we learn history to learn from our ancestors’ mistakes, so we don’t repeat them. Yet, just getting about as human as it gets, our history repeats itself, and I realised that bizarre events, and people being swayed by them into something they knew all along was leading them nowhere, and definitely to no good, has been happening ever since we learned to think for ourselves. So far, we’ve managed to slam the brakes at just about the brink of our nonexistence, so perhaps we can heave a private little sight of relief? Not really. Humans may remain the same, the pessimists and conspiracy theorists will say, but our technology is advancing. Could very well be that we’d kill ourselves before we ever realised how far we were off the edge.

That comes back to my question: can anything good possibly come out of this nightmare?

Perhaps, for one, if you had your doubts on the goodness of humanity, a glance on the street out your window could reassure you that we still have the thing that supposedly separated us from animals: compassion.

But there’s another little gimmick history has always seemed to have had. Everytime things started looking bleak, when the world (and particularly the United States, somehow) has been stuck in a rut, a sudden sense of purpose has developed in the people affected. There have been movements entirely based on world and political crises. Think the ’60’s Hippie Movement. Think the growing prevalence and acceptance of homosexuality in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Whenever life seems to have knocked out any purpose for our existence is when we’ve been the most inspired and purpose fuelled.

In the 1970’s, Britain’s economy was in perils. There was unemployment a plenty, and a sense of wastedness among the youth, and a general anger at those who had let them down, something that is very relatable after the shocks and disappointments that 2016 rained down on us. It was also in the face of this turmoil in the mid-1970’s, that a force began emerging in Britain, that encompassed all the rage that young Britain felt, and put it out for everyone to hear. They were angry, and were not about to apologise for it. A movement was growing, and this became the first punk rock movement of the ’70’s. (Or at least, this was the story on the east side of the Atlantic. Similar movements for similar reasons took place in America, and also in other parts of Europe itself, and in Australia, to mention a few.)

Anti-establishment was in, and the generation that was doomed to have “no future” decided to turn their wasted lives into something, turned their anger into energy, and put out one of rock music’s rawest, truest music, hitting them where it hurt.

In an interview a few years ago, John Lydon, frontman of the Sex Pistols, better known in that decade as Johnny Rotten, had talked of how his parents had felt about their punk attitude, on how they were openly attacking the conservative, shut-mouth society that was way overdue for change, (in fact, the change was happening and was in everyone’s face, what was left to happen was for old Britain to overcome its denial and see the truth for what it was: the world had changed, and Britain was changing too. The new was in, the old was out, and had to be buried.) “You can’t say that, Johnny! They’ll lock you up.” The frontman had laughed. “Well, they tried to lock me up.” the punk rocker, who turned 61 yesterday, had quipped.

And yet they said it, extreme situations bringing the angriest best out of them.

image.jpeg
A punk band’s poster from the ’70’s. The anger prevalent was at odds with the peace of the last decade’s flower-power hippie culture.

1990’s America saw a life that was becoming a bit too comfortable. Everything was out there, being flashed before their eyes, and they wanted it bad. The decade saw a rise in consumerism like never before. People were blindly chasing pieces of meaningless materialistic rubbish that they did not need, and what they achieved was a fake sense of satisfaction, and when the “achievement” was chipped away, it left a hollowness, and yet again, a sense of wastedness.

This time, it inspired an anti-consumeristic movement, causing a punk revival movement, this time around, led by American punk bands like Green Day, The Offspring, Rancid, (taking off from what bands like Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerk and Black Flag had been nurturing underground for the past decade) fuelled by the grunge movement, (bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) and politically charged rockers (Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy) telling things like they were, pulling the wool from a deluded, furniture-feng shui ikea-happy generation going nowhere, public emotion was on fire once again, everyone out to catch a lie, or tell someone that the life they’d been taught and conditioned to live was a waste, and the real energy was out there, where the movement was taking place. The fight was  in the streets. (Think movies like Fight Club, the main theme of which was the over-comfortable materialistic life we’d begun to get accustomed to and crave for, the movie took an anti-consumeristic tone).

image
Telling it like it is: Rage Against the Machine

Stagnation has always been energy’s enemy.  In the decade after that, bands that emerged continued to wallow in a fake sense of purpose, a purpose that had already lived it’s life and was now dead. The world had found a comfortable spot again, it was not to be shaken up and disturbed. The rebelling was against nothing now. The purpose that was being missed here was that of getting real for once, dealing with a world that was moving too fast for comprehension, and our general disconnection from everything real around us, even while the up and coming bands chose to live in a cause long gone, and ended up sounding fake. (This is not to say that everyone missed the point, Muse’s 2001 album Origin of Symmetry deals a lot with our plugging in, tuning out and being connected online while physically and emotionally drifting away from humanity.)

Rock music began dying out, coming off as something incomprehensible, something from a time long gone, that the current generation with its new set of problems was unable to relate to, nor did have the time to go back and explore in order to understand. As I’d said, the world was moving too quick for that. Not having that time for the frills and expanses of rock music, people began taking to an emptier form of music that spoke nothing to them but gave them the false comfort and delusions that come with every era of cultural stagnation: they turned to pop music.

But now, the bog is clear. Stimulus is here, and the world is angry again. It’s waking up from it’s delusion, an ideal that everything was alright and we’d learnt from history,  we’d make things better and head towards utopia (an ideal that I personally believed in). It’s the right time for a new movement, one that rages against what we’ve become, and one that threatens to take it all back, anti-establishment all over again: to demolish all the ancient fears, distrust we’ve been nursing and all the misinformation we’ve been fed, to tear the borders down and bury them for good, to take the stage again with that anger and sense of purpose that’s been missing for too long.

If one good thing can come out of our misery, it’s a chance to channel our inner rage, get out of home, away from the news on the phone, and pick up our instruments again. It’s time to get real again, to stand up for what we believe in, and rage against the establishment again. Let’s make human lives useful again.