I can’t imagine the hell it is to take a bus to school. Most kids do it every day and you can see it on their faces in class. The weariness that slowly fades from them as the day moves and slowly returns to envelop them as home time approaches. They dread it. I can see why, classrooms can be chaotic but they have a ruler, a leader, someone who will presumably call a kid on his wrongdoing and punish them. On a bus, though, it’s all survival. The only rule is stay on the bus. Beyond that is decided by the strongest or the smartest or the funniest kid. Or at least the one who has the most expensive phone.
That’s why I have Mason. Big Mace. Big Mac. That’s what we call him, my friends and I. Parents always seem to think driving their kid to school is a hassle, like they would rather fire the kid out of a cannon to the playground but can’t afford it. Mace loves it. Maybe it’s because he’s a brother and not a father, or maybe it’s because he’s awesome. I don’t think that’s it, I think the real reason is the looks he gets from the other kids as he drives past them. It’s teeth-chattering cold outside, they’re all standing there half asleep, half dead, folded arms, visibly shaking and he drives by wearing a T-shirt, warm from the heater going full to the point we’re practically sweating. The jealousy is palpable.
Big Mac, Mace, his job doesn’t start till midday. He has no reason to get up so early but he does, every day, just to drive us. Just to wait till the bus pulls out so he can overtake it at max speed. Just to watch the kids on board stare at his car, weeping internally, their eyes as green as their lips are blue. One of the kids mooned us, once, just pulled his shorts down and sat on the window. It was so cold I thought his cheeks might stick to the glass. Mace just laughed and put his foot down. He’s always so cool when stuff like that happens.
It was particularly cold the day we met Merv, every blade of grass was so hard with frost that walking across it sounded like gravel. Tiny little Merv. We were waiting, as we usually did, across the street from the bus stop. Joking around, mostly, asking Mace for stories of when he was in high school. He never told any, probably thought we’d try to imitate his behavior. He was probably right, too. We were about a half hour early which is a good five minutes before anybody else showed up. Usually, at least, but not today. Today there was a kid here. He was so thin and so frail looking, he could have walked over the frozen grass without disturbing it.
‘Oh man look at this kid, is he new?’
‘Shit he is not going to survive the bus, look at him, they’ll tear him limb from limb.’
‘That’s if he doesn’t freeze to death before it gets here.’
‘Hey shut up, would you guys?’ Mace piped up, and we went silent out of shock, or maybe respect. He sat there and watched the kid for a few minutes before putting the car in gear and pulling out to slide in next to the bus stop…
(To be continued..)
See that guy? He is The Doors. — Jim Morrison on Ray Manzarek (via cafeparaacordarosmortos)
the comfort of a warm night.
I was never really one for history, growing up. Preferring always to look ahead, to anything new and shiny, adorned by colours and adored by my friends. History was a foul curse, conjuring images in my head of black and white worlds full of horses, wars and men without gameboys, who could live such a life? What I liked most, if I look back to it, was finding something new before someone else got to it and learning everything there was to know, that I might be the one to show at school the great new thing. As I grew up and the internet became more prevalent in the homes of my generation it became more difficult to stay ahead of each other. As a result I found myself drawn more to specific subjects rather than anything new, video games, movies, music, the usual stuff. As I became more enthralled with a specific subject I would delve into it’s past to recover every bit of information available (before ultimately getting bored – that usually took about a week, but I retained the info.) So much so that, by the time I was seventeen, I had come full circle from always looking ahead at what’s coming to digging up the past for what had happened.
With this obsession with the past growing rapidly I became more ravenous for knowledge and understanding than ever before, to the point that now I find nothing in the world more interesting than people’s pasts. The way it shaped them and was shaped by them. Their stories, once the dusted pages of dilapidated books appear to me now as glowing tomes of secrets. So when I was informed that my grandfather, a man I had met only twice before (and had been entirely too young to truly comprehend at the time) was to visit, my excitement grew quickly. This man has a reputation in my mind, words used for him have included ‘brilliant’ and ‘genius.’ Terms that are handed out on street corners today, but were not so easy to obtain back then. Finally a chance to learn this man’s past and, in my own weird way, perhaps about myself.
Unsure what to expect or how on earth to prepare I settled for simply playing it by ear, charging in and seeing what would happen. He arrived at my work near the end of my shift, a short simple-looking man, slightly disheveled, with thinning hair (but, I noticed with absolute glee, not completely bald.) He had in his ear a bluetooth headset, this was my first clue that this could be very interesting: Here we have an eighty year old man, fully aware of the function of technology that confounds those half his age.
I said hello and, after rushing through the last of my duties at work, sat down with him and my father. It’s an incredible experience to be one of three generations sitting at a single table. I noticed similarities – the two older men share the same nose and blue eyes, all three of us with similar eyebrows and understated cheekbones. We shared gestures, all talking with our hands as much as words to some degree. We all, while entirely within each other’s attention, would absent-mindedly fidget with anything our hands happened to find. Though it was at first a little awkward, soon enough we found each generation helping another to understand a third, a dynamic that set itself so strongly it would allow us all to communicate almost effortlessly for what would be two and a half hours.
And talking began. I, being the youngest, with the most to learn and the least to tell, said little of myself preferring to listen and comment on the stories of the other two. What amazes me about the man, my grandpa, is how he uses and has used his brain to it’s fullest extent since day one. His common sense, his memory, his problem solving, none show the slowing of age, if anything he’s as sharp as I’ve known anyone to be. Going back to his knowledge of technology, he amazed me with his first hand knowledge of the very first computers and calculators. This is a man who was programming before that was really even a thing. Such is his understanding and love of numbers and technology that he told me he runs a computer with an operating system from the very early nineties. I asked why, to which he replied ‘because I’ve almost got all the bugs out!’ He told me a few of the simpler fixes, ones that would go unnoticed by me or most of my fellow computer users but not over this man’s head. Partly because, like myself, his hunger to gain knowledge leads him to the beginning and end of the things that fascinate him. Partly because, unlike me, when he sees a problem he tackles it with a methodical enthusiasm, finding the best and most thorough solution before moving on to a new project.
And he does love projects. Always busy calculating, he was a gifted accountant from a young age. He has never forgotten a number, he demonstrated as such with a series of important numbers that I would have forgotten instantly. Old licenses and the like. As well as an amazing knowledge of those numbers: One of which he loved because in binary it is represented as a series of only ones without zeros. He informed me that on his current trip, his car has been using eight percent less petrol because last time he had a passenger – his brother. That was no estimate, this was an example of the way his mind is endlessly working and working out numbers, patterns and mechanics.
What truly struck me was how this man showed none of the cynicism I had expected of an older person. He seems to have within him an insatiable appetite for knowledge, both gaining and imparting it, and an almost childlike glee in those acts. When he tells a story, and he does often (and quite well, the man knows a good punchline,) he enjoys every moment of it. I only wish I had more chances to learn about this man, if only to see if there’s a subject on which he isn’t inherently knowledgeable. The man is an inspiration and, I hesitate to use this word without irony, a bonafide genius.
Your eyes see the earthy brown of a tree
freckled by the speckled leaves of green
the caramel and apricot scent in the air
left in the wake of your fiery hair
your cheeks like great hills in your skin of soft sand
welcome with warmth the caress of my hand
No woman, man or sex robot could make me dance like Daft Punk does
You, stop scrolling, we need to address some things about Hyperbole and a Half writer Allie Brosh. Think calling her the voice of a generation is going too far? Bullshit. This woman is one of the most real, relatable, creative, funny, and vulnerable writers of all time. From the pants-wettingly hilarious God of Cake to the needed-to-said-but-everyone’s-too-afraid-to-talk about it Adventures in Depression, Allie’s posts have genius pacing and are fantastic at highlighting the wonderful idiosyncrasies that make her who she is. She’s willing to let us in to aspects of her life that she doesn’t even understand so that people going through similar things can feel less fucking alone in a world that vilifies and over simplifies the complexities of mental illness. Allie doesn’t smile for you, or hand you bullshit platitudes because that. Doesn’t. Fucking. Help. She’ll laugh when she’s damn well ready to laugh and she’ll cry when she damn well needs to cry, and you’ll do both with her because she speaks to the parts of all of us that we thought were too weird and too complicated to be understood.
Teeth worn and yellowed by time
Abhorrent breath’s foul stench did mime
the green growing plaque, grease, dirt and grime
skin of mud and hair of twine
covering a skull encasing her mind
which daily did discover
that every parting lover
grew weary her withered wrinkled behind
her accent, however, with sweetness of wine
drew customers in to her dwelling to dine
Let suck at the succulent sweet little death
her speciality, a sharp intake of breath
no church or god could nearly thrill
as much as multicoloured pills
In the needle, find Mary Maggies mirth
In her veins find her herald savior’s birth
aging Agatha in her cold prison cell
a dark reflection of her personal hell
chemicals did not cause this corruption
nor her somewhat successful seduction
blank blue eyes refuse to yeild
what parting lips to me revealed
the ancient, burning, breaking seal
a willing open soul to heal
To cure the bitten child within
the werewolf of her father’s sin
‘By fire,’ she did pledge to him
‘be purged you brutish, pedo crim’
so it was one winter’s night
a spark, a searing house alight
the screams rang high as embers flew
her soul attached, was flying too
So here she lays, on concrete floor
and iron bars, a cold steel door
her body bound and locked up tight
while deep inside her heart burns bright
(fun fact: for the last few days the word ‘abhorrent’ has been inhabiting my mind, insisting itself upon my subconscious, haunting my waking hours, the only exorcism available was to use it. To rid myself of it by transferring it to my fingers, to the keys, to the verse. Here is the result. That’s right, I wrote this entire story JUST top use that word.)
On a bright Monday morning as the sun reaches out, arms stretched, yawning sleepily with the rest of the world a man walks towards his car. Tired and sullen he turns the ignition, gazing hopelessly into the rear view mirror, the silver reflective pill gazes back and the two reveal to each other an image of dusted, wrinkled, aging apathy. He takes a long skeletal finger and with one last effort to find in the endless monotony a sliver of something new he pushes a button marked ‘play’
A beat begins. A hint of something stirs within him, a motion not felt for so long it appears new. The sound soothes and satiates a growing hunger, driving him down a Californian highway, caring little for the view save for it’s effect on his mood. The car, the man, the music come together as one while the highway takes on a new form. Neon lights blend together to form long streams of light on his sides while the surrounding trees fall back, receding into a background that blurs and pulsates with rhythm. The highway becomes a vortex of melodies upon which the single being travels not forwards or backwards, nor remains stationary, it becomes a timeless and omnipresent existence that simply is.
That is the sound of Random Access Memories, the intention and the result, to bring from the past and drag from the future sounds and memories and fuse them to create a timeless experience. To combine that nostalgic, almost heartbroken memory of what’s been and gone with the optimism and joy of discovery, of the unknown, is to celebrate the very essence of humanity. That’s what they’ve done here, the robots have discovered the heart and soul of the human condition and celebrated it with an enthusiasm as prevalent and seductive as anything on their past albums.
Known predominantly for defining and redefining techno and house music, Daft Punk are arguably responsible for influencing every well known Electronic Dance act of the last decade. Every few years when the creativity of the genre becomes a little stale, a little bland, they show up again to remind us what it’s all about: Having fun, feeling good, boogeying your butt like it’s the first and last night of your youth.
They’ve deviated so wildly here from the established sound, though, so much that it doesn’t just stand out next to contemporary EDM, it bares little resemblance to it at all. Make no mistake, this is not techno as we know it, it’s disco, it’s funk, it’s rock, it’s music as expression and it does it magnificently.
The album’s songs seem to be split into three categories: Mid-tempo dance tracks like the lead single, Get Lucky, laid back dance ballads in the vein of Face to Face or Something About Us from their seminal masterpiece Discovery, and a few experimental tracks where ideas are taken beyond their expected conclusion to new heights. The latter songs are, of course, much less accessible initially. Touch, in particular, took me a good few listens before I began to know how to react (FYI: The appropriate response is, rather obviously, to dance like nobody’s business) let alone form an opinion. As such the album as a whole can be daunting at first, and that’s before taking into account it’s lengthy run time. Over time and a few listens, though, you begin to get an idea for the album as a whole.
Yet every song has it’s own style, it’s own identity. Instant Crush is a late eighties – early nineties pop ballad if ever I’ve heard one, albiet one that utilizes the autotune of today and a guitar solo ripped from the seventies. While Fragments of Time is an unashamed disco track, drenched in a bubbly froth of synths, backed by engaging bass and live drums that beg to be boogied to.
The production is, as expected, near perfect without sounding clinical. The robots are perfectionists, taking their time not just to find the right sound, but to find it’s exact place within a song and place it there with a touch as delicate, yet decisive, as heavy or light as needed. The vocoder in The Game of Love is an early example, it’s smooth, warmed by a silken liquid lust, a nostalgic reminder of a love long lost that perfectly reflects the theme of the song’s lyrics. The closer, Contact, is perhaps the best example, for among it’s constantly climbing cacophony of sounds flutters the slightest flourishes only noticed on repeated listens, that is, when you have adjusted to the sheer force of noise enough to pick them out (one thing that doesn’t disappear is the way that noise elevates you into an untamed excitement - a definite pump-up track.)
The album has fallen under some early scrutiny, however, with many detractors complaining about the lack of dance anthems with the intense and addictive qualities of past hits, like the once omnipresent Around The World from their first album, or the simple, loud Robot Rock. What needs to be remembered is that there was a time when things were slower, when people moved with purpose to a beat just faster than that of a human heart – that’s what we have here. Weather it’s the chilled out, optimistic groove of opener Give Life back To Music or the Eighties beat of Lose Yourself To Dance the album’s intent seems to be to lift the listener from their chair and move them in a relaxed, almost sensual way. The latter song is so reminiscent of early Michael Jackson that you could be forgiven for thinking he had possessed the robots during it’s inception, and nothing says danceable like the King of Pop.
What’s most notable, and perhaps the biggest difference when compared to their previous albums is the lack of sampling. Taking a distinctive melody, hook or sound from an older song and crafting it into a new shape, changing it’s surroundings to allow it to be something nobody could have imagined is the way of the greatest Electronic and House artists. It can be a shock, then, to hear the live instruments be more to the fore than the samples, of which there seem fewer than ever before. It seems to be a natural maturation for Daft Punk, though, to now be the ones creating the sounds that will be sampled endlessly in the future. As time is cyclical, so is the nature of all things and Daft Punk seem to understand that better than anyone.
For all it’s ups and downs, it’s odds and ends, it’s combination of disco and funk with electronica, I think there is an overarching theme. That seems to be, simply put, a celebration of expressing emotion through music. And a damned fine, damned fun, damned fucking good one at that.
A little over an hour later the vortex, shaken, stirred, splintered from the sheer force of what has happened, slows to a stop. The being of neon light, whose essence was for a moment spread through the passages of history and hope for the future to become a luminescent fixture of time, becomes once more a man, a car, and a silent stereo. Forever changed, no longer an antique skeletal figure, the man turns the ignition off, steps out, and walks onward with a skip in his stride, a melody in his head and a blue sparkle twinkling in his old grey eyes.
The joyous jamboree
melancholy laden harmony
nostalgia dipped in disco
beauty that so resonates
with the soul
as to bring a man to tears
painless, pleasant, coalesence
rhythm radiates incadescent
tying past, future, present