“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.
Yep, I am not even two days old at my internship, and I already have the layout of the fire stairwell memorised.
Adulting is in motion, and has been going swimmingly so far.
Day 2 of being a Real-World Adult™ has been an eventful one.
Now a proper member, I have a badge.
The thing with being an intern is that, you’re temporary, and last priority.
So I went to collect my official Employee Stuff, and was being taken around by someone a lot more permanent than me. So we go up to a different floor and I collected my needs. I figure out how to configure a few networks I will need for work. Then I collect my things to leave.
See, the building is connected across floors by a stairwell and elevators. The doors to everywhere are restricted-access and you need to swipe yourself in and out.
So the so other guy swiped me in, and on leaving, I was free to check out the wondrous pride a beeping piece of metal can be made to give you.
Now my badge is on a retractable string, and being a fidgety person, I was dying to give it a pull!
So I open the door and get into the stairwell and practically hustle to my floor door.
Badge face up? Check!
Scanner running? I mean, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be my problem so much as theirs, but check!
And sling! Pull it forward, and scan!
Now for that sweet green light.
I get red, blue, green, purple. Purple? That’s a scanner colour? Also, the blue was pretty.
Whatever. I try the door. It’s still locked. I try the handle more properly (I’m learning that I have a problem with turning the keys all the way at home sometimes. It doesn’t help that I often have other things on my mind when I’m leaving in the mornings), still locked.
The SpongeBob in me kicks in. Oh well, looks like we’re just gonna have to swipe again! Baahahahahahahahahaaa.
Oh, not yet? Guess we get one more chance, to feel the pride, the importance, the glory…
(Beep beep beep!)
(Boop boop boop)
(Ka-ching boop beep)
(boop boop boop)
(Poop poop poop)
It won’t budge!!
By this point, my face had begun to follow the scanner: red, green, blue, purple. So I decided to go back up.
Let’s say I had a nice long conversation with the door.
After that, I ran like bonkers checking other floors, but hey, if I don’t have access to my own floors, what are the favourful, flavourful odds that I’d have access to other peoples’ floors?
But stairwell-trapped me didn’t think too much about practicality. What I did think was, there’s gotta be a way out of here!
I ran down two floors till I was in the basement.
All those instincts that had taken a nice long naphibernated, were waking up and kicking in like a Thor coming back into action after a long, beer/Fortnite-fuelled vacation.
(Okay, not having water is my poison, and my goto game is Pokémon, so I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.)
If those guys were waking up, this was turning out to be some internship alright.
I was like a soldier underground right now.
All I wanted again, was to see the sun. Get out of this trap box!
In the basement, the unlikeliest place of all, I see my choice. It’s the emergency exit. And it leads out! My way to freedom!
But if there’s one thing school has taught me (apart from, hey, coding will take all night), it’s that freedom has its own price. I haven’t seen an emergency exit that’s a free way out in a long time. Most of them are equipped with the most sophisticated psychological attack ever: you touch me, I scream.
Too many kids at orientation, too many tired all-nighter kids at libraries, too many instances I’d seen of people setting off the alarms by opening the wrong door. I still had to work here you know. This was an exit, not a get-out-of-jail-free heist.
I needed them to not think me a sociopath and let me come back and finish my shift.
So I opened the door to the basement and stood at the door that led to a passage that led out.
Through the glass windows on the top half of the door, I watched freedom stand a hundred meters from me. So close, yet so far, unless I dared to get kicked off my job on only day two.
So instead, I turned around and ran the other way. A T from the staircase meant I had a second option to explore. I stopped by a layout of the building in the walls in the corridor.
And now you know where this episode gets its first line from.
Well, it led out to the basement parking. From there, it was just a matter of finding the elevator to go up. No, I wouldn’t actually see the light until I got to my desk again, but figuratively, this was enough.
I made the triumphant ascent on the elevator, trumping one floor at a time, got out at the second, and sweet victory, I was home.
Well, not home, because I could’ve just taken the fire exit and run home, but you know what I mean.
I won. I was back. You couldn’t take me out of the game that early, I would survive day two, and with all my Internly grace.
I then promptly got myself locked out of the door again.
The receptionist let me in and taught me how the locking-wiping system really works, once I’d explained my little adventure, minus a little emotion because I don’t think an office is up for the high-adrenaline thriller that I can sometimes inadvertently make out of my life, but you know what I’m thinking?
This little orientation would’ve been a little more handy before I’d locked myself out.
Let’s call it a draw for consolation, but then, under her watchful eye, I proceeded to go out at swipe myself in. Tap.
Hooray for sweet greens!
After that was all done, I pretty determinedly worked till I had worked my determination away and finished the day with this being my biggest contribution of the day:
I’m gonna be such a pro.
This post is being posted on Day 5 as the hero, the intern was out faster than bacon on broccoli night somewhere within twenty seconds of reaching home.
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.
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.