Welcome to Darkside Daily

When I'm not writing about my experiences in this journey called 'life', I'm singing and uploading my own interpretations of modern music. Click on "Cover Songs" to hear them, or on the YouTube logo on the right to see my YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Laughter In The Loo

In my post "Land of the blind", I mentioned that I was looking for employment. Well, after sending out my CV to several HR managers from several firms, I finally landed an interview. Unlike last time, the company was not in the floral business, and in fact was quite a heavy weight in the health care sector. Needless to say I was surprised to get the call; I hadn't even inserted my photo in the CV to advertise my 'fabulous hair'.

So, a shirt and tie, a three hour drive and we were in Colombo. The address led me to a rather decent office, and the receptionist ushered me to the waiting room. Finally it was my turn, and I walked in to the interview room.

The interview went quite well, if I do say so myself; this of course means that I completely and utterly fooled him. I gave the man my best I'm-a-serious-and-confident-man-who-doesn't-have-time-for-pointless-blogs impression, complete with the 'furrowed eyebrows of concentration' and the 'I understand' nod. It lasted a lot longer than I anticipated, and after 35 minutes I believe I left the interviewer with a favourable and completely inaccurate impression of me. Mission accomplished; 007 couldn't have pulled off a better piece of deception. Seeing as I was now mentally relieved, I decided to make a slight detour to the loo on my way out to, well, 'relieve'.

Going by the interview, this was a serious company. They were involved in some major projects all over the island, supplying health care solutions to several hospitals. They didn't undertake private inquiries at all; they were solely involved in government projects. They brochure was flooded with names like 'USAID', 'WHO', 'UNICEF', 'Apollo Hospitals' and, the mother of them all, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health (gasp! applause!).

But I was pleasantly surprised to find that people still had a sense of humour there. For right next to the urinals, someone had hung a sign in an attempt encourage employees to show a little cleanliness at work, and not just on the job.

Forgive the picture quality, I took it with my camera phone in rather low light. Besides, the shutter sound that the phone made when I took the picture was a little embarrassing, so I didn't bother to take a better one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Between A Rock And A Loud Place

There are few things on Earth more universally annoying than the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. To some, myself included, just the thought is enough to make them cringe. I have often wondered at this; what is it about this particular sound that annoys one and all? Is it some kind of ingrained genetic programming that has been in all humans since the dawn of time, unknown to us? Or, if one stretches the imagination, perhaps a highly developed early warning system? Yes, something along the lines of “if you hear this sound, the end of the world is just around the corner”. That would make the invention of the chalkboard the most important landmark in human history. Yes, I quite like that.

Next to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, a close second in my opinion would be the sound of a bad vocalist killing a good song; which is exactly what my ears are being subjected to right now. My old school is holding a talent show, and my younger brother and his friends have decided to perform. My bro is quite a talented guitarist, especially taking into consideration that he basically learnt it on his own. His friends aren’t half bad themselves; no Joe Satriani’s in the making but decent enough. However their vocalist is, to put it mildly, abysmal. His voice is about as pleasing to the ear as the last cries of a dying animal. His ability to sing is comparable to an unborn infant’s ability to play the viola. If he’s a singer, then I’m pregnant. Well, you get the idea.

However, due to lack of options, and the unhappy chance that he was the only person in their group of friends who couldn’t play an instrument, he was designated as lead vocalist. And since we’re the closest home to school, the boys come over and bless our ears with their sweet auditory assault. Day in and day out they practice yet the problem remains; nothing on Earth could fix his voice.

Resigned to the fact that I was probably going to lose my mind thanks to this abuse, I started to recollect all the other misguided rock star wannabe’s that I had heard through my years in college. I admit, not all of them were as bad as the specimen I described above; in fact some were quite decent singers, though probably not good ‘rockers’. Which brings me the question: why does everyone want to be a rock star? Oh by the way, it’s true; everyone DOES want to be a rock star. It seems to be the recent ‘in’ thing to be; so ‘in’ that it isn’t restricted to the boys anymore. Thank you Avril, thank you Amy Lee.

Most have heard the lyrics of the song “Rockstar” by Nickelback; if not, they go something like this: “Well we all just wanna be big rock stars, that live in hill-top castles driving 15 cars, the girls come easy and the drugs come cheap, we’ll all stay skinny ‘cos we just won’t eat”. Could it be the money, is this the reason? But somehow most of the so-called ‘rock stars’ I’ve come across don’t strike me as the type that are looking to make a life-long career of it. The girls? Well, perhaps in the movies, but to be honest most of the guys I’ve seen on stage have taken extra effort to look downright dirty, matted hair and shit-covered shorts with rubber slippers; you’d have to sing the girls into blindness to score.

There is something about being a rocker that seems to appeal to our male egos. The image of a renegade, a rebel against society and its values, a revolutionary that isn’t afraid to scream out what he’s feeling to anyone who’ll listen. The world of music is full of iconic rockers, from Bono to Black Sabbath, Lynnard Skynnard to Linkin Park, Led Zeppelin to Limp Bizkit, The Doors to The Killers. Each of these groups has a legion of followers that are as faithful to the band as the band members are unfaithful to their spouses. And who wouldn’t want to have that power? Who wouldn’t want to be able to lead hundreds, maybe thousands of fans into song; especially if those songs are penned by you, describing your views on life?

But there lies the problem. You see, not everyone has that gift; the ability to reach out and touch people with their songs, or, if their singing someone else’s songs, the ability to give a performance of sincerity. Being a rock star isn’t just about screaming into a mike and head-banging. Many rock songs, if stripped of their guitars and percussions, turn into pure poetry. Look at any Aerosmith song, U2, Audioslave; just a few examples that come to mind. Some of my personal favourites are Alter Bridge, and the Foo Fighters, especially their big single “Best of You”, off their Grammy award winning double album “In Your Honour”.

I’ve got another confession to make
I’m your fool
Everyone’s got their chains to break
Holding you
Were you born to resist?
Or be abused?
Is someone getting the best of you?
Or are you gone and on to someone new?
I needed somewhere to hang my head
Without your noose
You gave me something that I didn’t have
But had no use
I was too weak to give in
Too strong to lose
My heart is under arrest again
But I’ll break loose
My head is giving me life or death
But I can’t choose
I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse
Is someone getting the best of you?

Unfortunately, it looks like our wannabe rockers of today just want something to shout about. Some go to the extremes of pretending they really are these rebels, these people with a voice, these stars with something to say; when in reality they’re just ordinary folks, with ordinary lives, trying to be someone their not just so that they’d fit the mould of a rocker.

My advice to you all; there’s nothing wrong in being happy with your life. Just because the likes of 'Staind' and other bands have parental issues and want to kill their dads, doesn’t mean we need to feel the same way. Rock is about expression, rock is about feeling; if you have no feelings to express, well, you’re kinda screwed.

As for my little friend across the hall, attempting to belt out Breaking Benjamin’s “Sooner or Later”, he’s just an amateur; I’m sure the only reason he wanted to get on stage was to score. The way he's singing though, he’d have a better chance if he suddenly transformed into a green leprechaun; only a pot of gold could make the girls ignore that voice!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Land of The Blind

As I’ve mentioned many times before, when I started blogging I had no real direction or purpose. I had no illusions of overnight fame or sudden world-wide recognition either. However, I must admit that somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I secretly hoped that people would actually LIKE what I wrote.

Yes, well, it’s safe to assume that those expectations have gone up in smoke. To date I have received numerous accusations, from the bizarre (“You need a girlfriend”) to the downright mean (“You’re so jobless, get a life. And a girlfriend”).

Not one to take such constructive criticism lightly, I decided to take appropriate measures to fix my flaws. After many failed attempts at acquiring a girlfriend (“Can we at least be friends? Can I just tell people that you’re my girlfriend? Please?? I write a blog by the way….”) I decided to attack the Sunday papers to remedy my ‘joblessness’.

Two hours, one crossword, several cartoons and a few magazines later, I reached the employment section. This is not my first time browsing through the employment section; it was through the papers that I landed my first job interview a long time ago. It was at an IT firm that was looking for ‘business development executives’. Despite my lack of experience in the field, based on the assurances of a ‘complete training’ by the ad and the fact that they actually called me for an interview, I decided to give it a shot. When I reached the address however, I found myself standing in front of a rather large floral shop. Convinced I had the wrong place (or that I was part of the most elaborate and original prank ever) I called the number from the paper. Well what do you know; the so-called ‘IT firm’ is actually located on the first floor of the floral shop, and in fact shared the waiting room (and receptionist) with them. So there I was, in my shirt and tie and shiny shoes, feeling like a complete idiot while being surrounded by anxious in-laws and even more anxious brides-to-be planning out their nuptials. When I was finally called up for my interview, the first question that I asked was which genius thought that this would be a prime location to attract IT clients. Apparently the founders of this ‘firm’ were also the founders of the floral shop. Talk about diverse interests. Amid assurances that it was a ‘temporary’ situation, we got on with the interview. It didn’t take me long to realise that they were slightly mad. It seems their idea of ‘business development executive’ was someone who would run the Kandy branch of their ‘IT firm’ from the Kandy branch of their floral shop. For a span of three full seconds, I envisioned myself as head honcho, running the entire branch, king of my castle; a castle of dandelions and roses. I couldn’t run away from the interview fast enough.

Needless to say, I resolved to be a bit more cautious while browsing the ads this time. Now, I’m not exactly a man with a host of qualifications. A degree, a diploma, no work experience but nice hair. Surely someone would want me. But evidently I was wrong. Most of the large firms and companies were looking for people to replace in key managerial positions, such as operations managers and technical and logistics managers. Such positions naturally warranted at least 5 years of experience, MBA’s, degrees in business and economics and financial management and god-knows-what-else. The technical vacancies were not promising either; apparently there is an insurmountable dearth of air condition specialists. Everyone from the Ports Authority to Pizza Hut was looking for one.

Not one to give up so easily, I continued on. After seriously considering joining the new Burger King in Saudi Arabia (“Free one way ticket included? Hmmm...”) I reached the jobs that did not need extensive work experience or a 101 degree’s in things I didn’t even know you could get a degree in. But here I was faced with a different dilemma; all the apprenticeships and trainee jobs were looking for school leavers! And this wasn’t just one or two ads; there was a whole host of companies offering rather attractive job opportunities to high school drop-outs. All of a sudden I find myself in the rather awkward position of being over-qualified. Me, over-qualified; who’d have imagined that?!

To me, this is just another example of the stupidity of the world. Instead of encouraging our rather retarded and jaded youth into educating themselves and trying to pursue a respectable and high earning career, we provide them with even more motivation to drop out of school by looking for people with ‘minimum GCE O/L pass’ and offering them titles such as ‘corporate sales / marketing executives’. Who can blame them for not wanting to finish 12 years of school when as long as you pass 10 years somehow you can get a job without a problem? How can you explain to a 16-year-old on the verge of earning for the first time that in the long run, having a proper education will be a better decision? All he can see in his head is a five figure salary and a playstation.

So despite not being able to find anything really enticing for myself, at least I can see where our country is heading in the next 5 years. All these teens will have years of work experience in their firm and also the inability to get a job anywhere else, as well as the inability to get promoted to a higher position due to their, you guessed it, lack of qualifications. The larger firms will be forced to increase their requirements to ‘persons below the age of 65’ and smaller firms will have to remain small. As for these 20-somethings without an A/L qualification, they’ll be forced to open their own firms and send out ads that will probably look something like this:

"Wanted! Helper to the General Manager. We are a firm that does cool stuff like buying stuffs and selling stuffs at higher price to other people so that we make major moneys. Should be able to type and count in English language. Will be nice if you are a girl under 21. If not then also its ok. Send your papers to my address, or go to my facebook profile. If you are girls send pics also, will be appreciate. Fat people, old people, ugly people and people without grade 6 pass need not apply."

It’s not all bad though, I mean, you know what they say: “In the land of the blind, the one eyed midget is king”.

Guess who’s suddenly ‘qualified’ to be the one-eyed midget….?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Price Bloggers Must Pay

After ending my last post on a rather unusually melancholy note, I was determined that the next post would contain as much feeling and emotion as that possessed by a mortician dissecting a corpse. Thus I sat prepared, waiting for some bizarre and preferably evil topic to blog about; the more evil and more bizarre the better. Usually inspiration hits me within a few hours; yes, it is no hardship to stumble onto such things in today’s day and age. There’s always some cross dressing celebrity couple, blockbuster movie launch or other miscellaneous nonsense to comment upon.

However, despite my best efforts, nothing came. My mind was as dry as one of my patented and pathetic pick-up lines, and as blank as the expression on the unlucky recipient’s face. I suppose it is to be expected; how often have we failed to do something that usually comes so naturally to us, simply because this time we’re actually trying!

Days flew by; nothing. In desperation, I even turned to Facebook and other people’s blogs to look for inspiration. Perhaps if I saw what everyone else was talking about, I’d stumble upon a direction to go. But that didn’t help much either; most people simply wrote about their life experiences, which on the whole were rather miserable.

And then, just when I was about to give up, someone tried to set me up on a date. Thank you GOD!

No, my gratitude to the heavens is not because I’m single and desperate. Far from it; I was just grateful because finally I had something to write about! Granted, I have already written a post about dating back in April (“My Reason for Blogging…!”) but this time around I wanted to dwell on another aspect with regards to dating; i.e., the setup!

Have you ever set someone up on a date? Perhaps you’ve been the one whose been set up? As far as I can recall, I’ve definitely not set anyone up on a date, and the one time that I was a victim to this ploy it ended in disaster! But we’ll get back to that later.

The entire concept of setting up two individuals, both of whom are usually your friends, on a date together just boggles the mind. How am I supposed to decide whether two individuals will suddenly develop chemistry together? What criteria am I supposed to qualify them for each other? Yes, one of them is a boy, the other is a girl; after that, well it’s anyone’s guess really. Similar tastes and similar outlooks don’t necessarily mean ‘love at first sight’, in the same way that ‘opposites attract’ doesn’t quite work either.

The main issue I have with the whole process is this; the match-making business involves reducing the people involved simply to ‘players’, almost like tokens on a board game. Allow me to illustrate. When I was a kid I used to collect trading cards of NBA players. Each card would have a player’s name, photo, and his career stats. Then using those cards you compare them with others, calling out one of the stats in which you feel your player is strongest in, in order to trump out the opponents. In that respect, if I owned a Shaquille O’Neal card, and I called out field goal percentage or rebounds, I’d definitely beat out Kobe Bryant, whose stats in those departments are lower, simply because he’s a good 6 inches shorter than Shaq and plays a completely different position. However, that doesn’t mean that Shaq would win in a one-on-one game; no statistic can express Kobe’s ability to get to the rim, his quickness, his reflexes or his athleticism.

The same is true about match-making. The fact of the matter is no person, no matter how simple he or she may be, can be summarised into a set of ‘qualities’. Besides, in spite of how well you know a person, there is no way that you can really ‘know’ him/her. The ability to gauge people’s character and true personality is a rare gift, and I’m sure that most of the match-makers out there are not in possession of it. Let’s remember that this is romance we’re talking about, not just ‘making friends’. Aren’t these type of relationships supposed to be spontaneous and, well, ‘romantic’? What happened to the chance meeting, the accidental coffee spill, the ‘oh alright I’ll drop you home, though I really don’t want to’, the shared smile, the stolen glance? Being set up with someone kind of eliminates all that, because now there’s expectation, which makes any form of chemistry seem contrived.

As for hooking up with friends, well, I for one do not see how two individuals who are friends can suddenly try to be partners in romance. Sure, we get along well, we’re of the same age group, we think alike; but heck, that’s why we’re friends! Just because it may seem like ‘a good idea’ doesn’t mean I can press the secret switch hidden on my right butt cheek, go into ‘romance’ mode and see what happens. This goes along the lines of every woman’s complaint about how they can’t be just friends with guys because we apparently expect ‘more’. However, these same women can be found all huddled together over coffee, trying to mix and match their friends together like some kind of human card game.

Bottom line: match-making doesn’t work. And even in the rare occasion that it does work, it shouldn’t! I would hate to be in a relationship with someone that happened because someone else thought it would be a good idea. That would mean

a) I’m not as deep and difficult to understand as I thought I was; which means I’m shallow.
b) I’m miserable when I’m single, which is why I was set up in the first place.
c) I don’t have a hope in hell of meeting good looking intelligent girls on my own.
d) The only reason this person met me at all was because of her friendship with our mutual friend.
e) That mutual friend is now sitting back and feeling like god.

But when my friend tried to set me up, I admit that it wasn’t the above reasons that got to me. The real sting came because she assumed I was single without asking. Apparently, only single men are jobless enough to maintain a blog.

A dagger in the manhood, that was. And I thought chicks dig bloggers. That date doesn’t sound so bad all of a sudden.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Scandinavian Road Trip : Final Day

“Every time you hold me, hold me like this is the last time… Every time you kiss me, kiss me like you’ll never see me again…”

I agree that leading off with the lyrics of an Alicia Keys song is a rather ‘different’ way to start a blog post from the Darkside. You must be wondering what this has to do with the Scandinavian Road Trip; well by the end of this final post all will be revealed.

The last four days of our trip were split into two; days 8 and 9 were in Sweden and 10 and 11 were spent in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of our return journey. Days 8 and 9 were the weekend, and we spent a good part of it on the island of Öckerö, off the coast of Gothenburg. Some old friends had invited us over for the weekend to spend the day and also take in the sights.

Öckerö is part of a large collection of islands off the coast of Gothenburg, which are accessible only by ferry. On average, the islands are the size of a small township; each island has its own church, supermarket and other stores for daily necessities. However, the islands are mainly residential, despite the fact that buying a plot of land here would make a considerably dent in your finances. As we got off the ferry and drove to the house, I took in the beautiful scenery which I had grown accustomed to during my stay in the country. True, instead of giant conifers reaching to the clouds there was the coast line, but in essence it was the same. It was one of the few times in my life that I have been able to sit through a road trip without the need to have some kind of music pumping into my ears; in this setting with this scenery, any form of loud music would be verging on blasphemy.

Our friends are a family of six; parents and four girls. I have known the eldest since I was five years old; officially making her the oldest friend I have, in terms of how long I’ve known her for. We last met in 2001, and it was refreshing to meet her and the family again. They gave us a tour of the islands, showing us the small harbour, the beautiful sea-side houses, and also took us to a rather unique viewing point; a giant water tower, atop which the picture shown below was taken.

The weekend went all too quickly; we spent a lot of timing just catching up, reminiscing about years in school and figuring out what everyone had been doing over the last so many years. Also, Euro 2008 was in progress at the time, so we all watched Sweden take on Spain; needless to say, I was the sole supporter for Spain. It was an interesting match to say the least; apparently watching football with four beautiful girls comes with a price. Instead of discussing football strategies or player skills during the pre-game build up, I found myself in the rather awkward position of debating the relative ‘hotness’ of the Spanish and Swedish teams. Hardcore fans indeed. After reaching the conclusion that the Swedish ‘hotties’ outnumbered the Spanish contingent’s, the next 90 minutes were filled with Swedish patriotic songs, comments about Torres’ hair (“How can a Spanish guy have blonde hair?!”), a few moments of theatrical swooning here and there and the odd death threat as Spain scored in the 89th minute to win 2-1.

After dinner on Sunday, it was time to head back to our hotel in Leerum, which meant the inevitable goodbye scenes. Saying goodbye has become somewhat of a common event in my life; I spent most of my time in college seeing off good friends among my seniors, my batch-mates and even some of my juniors. Despite my vast experience in the matter, the fake promises of keeping in touch and similar invitations to come back never fail to sting. I wonder if it is just a sign of the growing bitterness in my own outlook, or whether we now make these empty promises without even trying to sound convincing. There is an air of resignation when we part ways, almost as if we know that even though there have been significant advances in technology with regards to communication and the internet, the last handshake or hug really is the last. Despite the ingenuity of the rather retarded staff on Facebook, no amount of ‘pokes’, virtual ‘hugs’, ‘free gifts’ or ‘sheep’ thrown at you (“So-n-so has thrown a sheep at you. Would you like to throw a lamb chop back?”) can replace the human element of being in touch with someone.

You see, all this nonsense about the world becoming smaller is just an illusion. We have been lulled into thinking that just because we can write on people’s virtual walls, that we are somehow involved in their lives. But seriously, if I step out this weekend, party like a mad man, get married while under the influence (sound familiar?) run over some homeless people, crash into someone’s house, get shot at by the owner, arrested and divorced by Sunday evening, well, who’s the wiser? Because all I have to do is put in my status message “… is having a boring weekend” and I might as well have spent Saturday night watching cartoons.

Phone calls and video calls can only take you so far; trust me, I know. Emails and pictures only tell you so much. No matter how hard you try, once it’s over, it’s over.

As I sat in the plane flying back to Colombo, I realise that this train of thought has weighed on me so heavily that I was barely conscious of our two days in Copenhagen. Another tour, another set of old acquaintances that took us out for dinner, another goodbye followed by promises of staying in touch ‘this time’. I look out of the plane window, and I recall all the close friends I’ve said goodbye to over the years. Despite my best efforts, the inexorable passage of time has washed away the last remains of contact with most of them. Now there is only this ‘on again, off again’ relationship with them all via emails or calls.

If only I’d known then what I know now; that the words ‘goodbye’ really are final, and hold sway until we physically meet again.

If only we’d love, care, cherish and ‘hold’ those that are close to us every time like it was the last time.

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