Happy Halloween! I’ve managed to be late to everywhere, and Halloween’s one of them too. At least it’s not yet December!
October’s not my favourite month. I’ve been skipping film club all month because I’m not very fond of horror films. Half the time I find stuff cheesy, the other half of the time it gets me thinking, but a little too much. It’s not like I’m afraid or anything, I just value my good night’s sleep. I’m a comp sci student at uni, there’s horror abound and I don’t feel a particular dearth!
Go ahead and laugh, I’ve got a very late comeback. Late. Haha. Halloween pun.
This should knock your socks off if you’ve had to sit through statistics/maths/physics or just generally want to be a-mu-sed.
Mu is the mean in statistics, the refractive index and coefficient of friction in physics, micro- units in measurement (10−6 anythings), just a fancy variable to impress your non-math friends, or to give your math friends nightmares.
I did a quick search to see if there was anything I missed, and the answer was a loud, resounding yes.
Mu stands for a lot of things, even within the same field, there’s an impressive list on Wikipedia!
“Matter can neither be created nor destroyed”, said Antoine Lavoisier.
Then explain fruit flies.
My room can be an almost perfect vacuum at times, (with a WHOLE lot of approximations, which seems good enough for physics and so is good enough for me cuz I’m hardly home) yet those things manage to get in, every week. I’m starting to suspect they arise out of the ashes of my dustbin.
It’s just pure putrid energy, gathering all the essence it can from its surroundings, slowly and gradually forming a tiny mass in its centre, solidifying black… and voila, all of a sudden there’s a new buzzer born. Sexual reproduction is overrated. Do it like fruit flies: just sheer, pure energy, willpower and thought. Lord supreme over those gigantic oafs, those brainless creatures they call humans, so weak, so needy, so dependent on another of their kind to reproduce. They vainly search for so-called advanced life on distant planets, and at the edges of their knowledge of the universe; pity the puny beings, they’d hardly know that the pinnacle of evolutionary perfection hovers under their very nose… and in typical mindless human fashion, they swat it aside. But pity the fools, for they know not what they miss; what they’re spending billions searching for! Haughty scientists, cloudy crystal ball-gazers; if they ever knew the truth… hehe.
They call us small, weak, say we live only upto 16 weeks; what do they know, for our kind, it is enough. We have perfected every art form they could not! Efficiency, a full life in sixteen weeks! They spend that long moping over their failed relationships in life. Locomotion, we’re not dependent on gas-spurting guzzlers to take us everywhere, neither will you see us cussing at a lamppost if our heaving bull refuses to move forward: the poor race, it’s not even the master its own creation! They look at acrobats and marvel, call it an extraordinary skill, when we have perfected daredevilry itself: the breathtaking trajectories, the sharp turns, we live on the the edge!
Ask any other species of animal (the categorisation their “civilisation” has spent centuries trying to distance itself from) who the most annoying is and that’s where the puny race really shines. Interfering, annoying, bumbling idiots! They use us in trial and haste: experiments indeed! Bzzzzing bzzzes!
(Sorry, we don’t normally give into the lowlife human penchant for cussing and stressing out over naught. It won’t happen again. Word of a true ‘civilisation’.)
Yet it seems we have outdone them: annoy the annoyance! They swat at us, and we’re certain it’s not out of joy. How quickly we elicit a reaction from them! Our shiny-eyed fruit fly-scientists have benefitted dozens from clocking their emotions: they get frustrated fast and give way to easy mistakes: the faster we get to our food, the more we’re making of our sixteen weeks than they ever will!
Sixteen weeks. They make it sound like such a tragic thing. We’re of the opinion that it’s actually good. It helps keep things in perspective. You eat, you live, you play, and then, with the sheer power of your superior mind, you leave your legacy to carry on for you, and then you die.
We haven’t much evidence that humans work that way: their little trinkets seem to get in the way. Their minds are so very precious to them: use it or lose it they say. They work so hard to give themselves meaning over their aeons of time, it’s almost a little heartbreaking to our kind. But of course, we understand, they must find some use for their brains, you see. Not every species can use its mind’s seemingly infinite power to create life itself.
Here’s a little mind chow: why do so many kids want dogs? I know it looks really good through a good quality camera in a sunlit picture with tons of grass behind, but here’s the thing: you probably have never seen a good quality camera in your life and have accepted your iPhone as a permanent substitute, there are no “sunny” days in the winter, and going by the climate reports, there isn’t much of that grassy plain left for you and the pup to roll in.
I’m serious, we’re more city-kid than we’d ever thought we were. For example, I had a little trouble digesting spring allergies, and it’s not because I never had heard of them before. Spring fever, hay fever, pollen allergies, they’re all fundamentally your body attacking spring because it thought it was something dangerous. Putting it this way, your body has no idea that spring’s just this harmless, temporary reprieve from the winter and reacts to it the way you did if you saw a flying dog in supers garb, i.e., undies.
… Just to be really clear, I meant surprise, shock, whatever. Something tells me a lot of first reactions would probably be to whip out a Real Good Quality phone camera and yell, “Awwww!!” as they film.
That’s probably why a lot of kids think a dog is a great idea.
I don’t have spring allergies though. I don’t think I’ve had enough regular, periodic exposure to spring, pollen, grassy smells or clean, non-city air enough for my body to recognise it and go, “Here we go again team, those damned seeds are back again! Lock into anti-seed mode; nose! I’m gonna need all the ammunition you can get! Call on Sinus and Lung for backup, hear?”
“Eyes, you’ll have to gain system attention, signal that idiot to get out of there on the double and back to safety indoors! No one likes casualties and we can do to avoid an unnecessary fight.”
“Sir, I don’t think that’s how it—” “Water!!” “Oh well, if you insist.”
“Pores, get ready! The bigger you appear to your enemy, the greater the intimidation. Swell up those arms and legs, soldiers!”
“Sir, I think you’re cooking up the wrong allerg—”
“PREPARE FOR WAR, FIENDS OF SPRING!!!”
At any rate, why I’m so familiar with them is probably because literally everybody else in my house seems to be a walking weather cursing machine.
I’d only really given that sort of credit to dust allergies before. That seems more up my run down city alley. *Cough, cough* *Sneeze!!*
So the dogs. God help you if you’re also allergic to them or their hair. That perfect photograph with the spring and the dog and the dust gathering on it must really be the perfect nightmare for you. Why kids want dogs, I cannot fathom. Dogs are too much like people. My cousins’ puppy runs away from new people in an explicit fashion that my own social anxiety finds admirable. Because if there’s one thing worse than having to talk to people, it’s both parties being awkward, and then you going the extra length to make it seem like you’re not awkward, only for you to realise afterwards that your trying too hard probably made your awkwardness more obvious and then you worry to death that the next time you catch a glimpse of them you’re going to remember the incident and will need to find a place to hide, but in truth, (in my case, at least) you don’t even remember who they are the next time, but they, my friend, remember everything. So much for your personal Annexe.
The other thing with dogs being so similar to humans, is that you, the kid, need to manage them. It’s like going through puberty while you’re still going through puberty. It’s like volunteering to go through puberty for someone else. Maybe if this ever became official a theory, schools and convicts would start counting dog-keeping towards their hours of community service.
That’ll be the day.
In the meanwhile, if you want a pup, try some PUP. I’m really just throwing in this link because I’m happy to not be looking at NYC or Seattle in videos for a change. And because it’s nice to see Toronto again.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 popularmusic—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?