Torch Bearer

The new generation will carry the axe to the finish line.

Staring into the eyes of those she challenged
She gently put her axe down
The vibrations rattled off its body
And seemed to make a different sound;

Their protective armour was studded
And hid in it legacy
But the history was now in the books
And their shell wore only hypocrisy

She came from a different land
With different way of tread
They looked upon her, questioning,
So she opened her mouth and said,

Those are your gods you talk of, not mine
To me, they’re but influence
They taught me how to stand up
But have sat down since

They taught me how to sing
And you, how to talk;
Their spirit flows within my veins
But I choose my own cause

I’m not out to topple the stars
I merely build on the earth beneath
But bearing the torch lit in last flames
There’s mountains to go before the peak.

 

Pride

Stride
All you like
With a glide
In your footsteps
And pride
Hold your chin up
High
Like you have somewhere to
Go
And purpose to show
In every pace you
Move
And they approach
Calm, composed
Silent,
With the briefest look in the
Eye
That doesn’t give away my
Lies
Push on
One step
Back to my back

To let it all out
In a jelly wobble.

Walking through new buildings looking for a study space is one of the most psychological experiences I have in a day.
I know most people are only trying to help, but when I’m in a new building and looking around for someplace I might want to plop and get working, I really don’t want you asking me, “Where do you want to go?”
Am I lost? Yes, I’m lost. Can you help me? No, because I don’t know where I want to go. Yes, you’ve been around this building for years and years and know every inch of it by the inhale at the start of the syllable it begins with, but you still can’t help me, and I don’t want to stick around and hear it.
I know you’re being nice, but I’m just feeling like there’s impending judgement. Just don’t acknowledge me. I’ll find somewhere to sit.

Apart from that, exploring new buildings is also admittedly one of the coolest things you can do, because as a student, you’re legally allowed to just walk into a random building and it’s not trespassing, and you get to live out your Dora The Explorer dreams.

I got me supplies, let’s go!

What do you find exciting in a normal day? And what terrifies you, even though it’s totally normal?

Weekend Expectations

It begins,
The anticipation
With every drag down
Comes the reactionary lift up
The almighty rescuer
Never far from mind
Dreams of the weekend
Breaking the falls
The rising mercury
In the internal units
One-man coolant

And then it begins,
Never explicitly announced
Merging in with the work,
The falls;
Losing awareness at long last
Or so it may seem,
Metered is out, analog is in,
Everything based on just the feel within
Blissful waves
What else?
And then you wake
To 11 PM.

Living for the weekend maybe be someone’s catchphrase, but it’s a lot others’ way of life and lifeline. But then it’s gone in the blink of an eye… I’m mourning the loss and passing of my weekend, and it’s only Saturday evening.

Curse DST.

Short Tails

“You two can keep squabbling over whether that’s a head or a tail.
All I know is, it’s two dollars, and a mint gum costs that much, and that’s just what I’m going to hop over and buy because you’ve been arguing so long, my mouth’s gone stale from disuse.”

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.

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.

Has Rock Music Changed?

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.

Kurt Cobain on stage, Ireland, 1991. Credits: Pinterest

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 Spin Magazine 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.

While we’re talking punk, check out PUP. Even Pitchfork seems happy with them, which either means they’ve all caught the flu, or we have a rare conciliatory two seconds before they’re back.

For a classic throwback, try Greta van Fleet. For some good alt rock, try Wolf Alice, or even Royal Blood.

Wolf Alice

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.

Then come back and answer me, is rock music dead?

Random Free Verse Rant

Assignments can be a little woozy sometimes
Especially at 4 in the morning
I get that
I also get sleepy
And I care, you know?
I’ll see us through
For sure,
I need to see me through too
And I have a strong back
And a stronger stomach
I’ll carry you
Sure I will
But not if you press down on me
And pretend you’re a hundred and four fucking kilos
And if you’ve a lot on your mind
Mine has blanked from exhaustion
And if I say, sure, I’ll take the heavier load
It means you take a load too, good sir
We learned in class
Of divide and conquer
That doesn’t work if the only dividing is between us
It’s slower if I need to look behind us
And go back to pick up the pieces of a mess
And when I say you get shit done
You get shit done, okay?
Because it might be my assignment too
And incomplete outputs might fail a test case or two
But I wonder what it’s gonna be like
When assertEqual returns an error:
“Expected return: True
Got “This method ain’t implemented cuz my partner didn’t do shit”.

This isn’t me, and I’m super thankful, but one of my friends is seeing a slightly less specific variant of this. It amazes me, and while I’m no one to judge how you’ve planned out your semester, why on earth would someone do that? It’s horrible. It’s disgusting. I try to imagine how many hours of my life I could’ve saved had I not spent all my weekend in a study space working on a problem set. How many more nights I am just not going to be able to sleep because we have an assignment due next week, and it’s big. It just irks me. It irks me a bit that I’m working. There’s no getting around it for me, sure thing. I’m not planning to. I’d feel awful if I did, and if I’m being honest, as hard as they might be, there isn’t too much to resent them for but time and the stress. I learn a lot from them. But someone absolutely shirking off their share of the work and still getting a grade, then flying high and coming down crashing after the final and then bitterly shitting on our school, that just disgusts the fuck out of me, it’s horrible.

And rant almost over.

As for my own case, I sometimes feel like my own assignment partners are more moral support than actual working partners. Some days, it just feels like I’m doing a proof or writing an algorithm or something, and they’re nodding along going, “yes, that makes total sense!” Sure it does, buddy, but can you also write the next proof so we’re done quicker? I really, really, want nothing more than an unbroken, undisturbed 11 hours of sleep. Just one night that I can sleep without planning for and booking off the first thirteen hours of the next day. Once.

Okay.

Rant over.

Now for the better stuff! I’m going to see Muse this Thursday! I’ve been waiting for this day since November, and after five years of absolutely adoring the band, I’m finally going to be able to go see them live, and I almost can’t believe it!

No assignment, not even the finals could have kept me away, and nothing will!

I am so pumped!

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