Categories
Creative Writing Horror

The Faithful Gardener

The memory played in Alain’s mind. Over and over again. First like a silent movie. Then it took on sepia tones — I want to do something for you, he murmured with a glint of lust in his honey-hued eyes. But she blushed, and he knew that she knew what he really wanted to do was something to her.

What ensued was a pleasant afternoon of lovemaking, yellow and golden in its luxury just like the bourbon that the China teacup spilled into his mouth now. But that ended quite quickly, didn’t it? Wonderful that, he thought, as a salty tear took its time to plot a route down the end of his eye and towards his strong chin that was decorated with golden grizzle. It dropped into his teacup of bourbon liquid.

So he spent his days walking in his estate. He loved the green of his garden. Quite like absinthe. He called out a few words of love to his meadow flowers; parma violets; pink and white geraniums; purple Pyrenean lilies; and juniper bushes. He caressed the bark of the fir and holm oak. He adored the Mediterranean chestnut and beech. Closer to his little cottage, he grew pink hibiscus, bougainvillea, syringas, lavender, and an assortment of poppies.

And now he went to bed. Just a wee sip of rosemary-flavored tea, and he hoped that the bedbugs wouldn’t bite. No one but the bedbugs for company, he whispered bitterly into his pillow and drifted far away where worries were just unknown and alien.

As the crickets chirped, and the crescent moon hid behind a gossamer cloud, Bernard bumbled over a hedge and onto the absinthe grass. Whipping his tongue over his nicotine-stained teeth, and liver-colored lips, he walked stealthily towards the cottage that house a lone flickering candle on the dining table.

But he didn’t get far. His ears prickled as he heard a rustling behind him; the skin on his arms popped up with goosebumps; and his tongue lost its capacity to whimper. Instinct told him something was up, and indeed, something was — the pink bougainvillea flowers fell like rain as the thorn-riddled branches grabbed Bernard by the ankles and hauled him up.

What did he get himself into this time, thought poor Bernard. As the bougainvillea tree pierced his eyes, nose, lips and tongue, the lilies, poppies, geraniums and hibiscus turned their faces towards the dangling corpse. They lapped up the rivulets of blood with greed and thanks.

It was only when the sun shone brightly the next morning did Alain venture outside to yawn luxuriously. As he went about his business watering his beloved plants, he just simply failed to see how the pink bougainvillea flowers have now turned a beautiful yet insidious red.

Categories
Creative Writing Horror

So Alike

This little story features a bottle of red wine with a forgettable name, my wife, our mutual best friend of 18 years — Chris, and my two sons — Cameron and Brad.

Thank the good Lord for great friends, I slurred happily, and we all agreed and gulped down more wine. I look at my wife giggling at one of our best friend’s jokes; and then at Chris and his hazel eyes, dimples, and how he effortlessly raises his right eyebrow in a tease.

With the wine warming my belly, my eyes are forced to stare at Brad — and his eyes, which are a beautiful hazel, and deeply ridged dimples — as if they’ve forgotten what he really looks like.

It’s only when Brad turns to me and smiles, and raises his right eyebrow in an ironic arch do I realize that the joke has been on me for the last 18 years.

Categories
Creative Writing Love

Chocolate Cake With Rainbow Sprinkles

Is yours a sad love story like mine?

Mine took place on a Tuesday.

You see, he never came back.

It wasn’t someone else’s hand he left mine for.

I wish it was.

His birthday was in September.

I still bake a cake every year.

But he’ll never get to eat chocolate cake again.

I’ll never be able to lick his lips with a tongue freckled with sprinkles.

That day was his birthday.

That day he walked away for good.

That day 20 years ago.

Categories
Creative Writing Horror

Something Memorable

I wonder what she’s like, I thought. And just like that she came over to my desk, smiled, and plopped herself down unceremoniously on the frumpy chair in front of me.

We spoke.

We spoke about her requirement for 4G, and how she’s unhappy with the current list of data plans, and why her iPhone, which she bought from us, takes so long to charge.

I’ve always been fascinated with Customer Service. I get to see all types of people walk in and walk out. Inevitably they always walk out just a little bit unhappier. As a company we try our best to please, but it isn’t always so easy.

She rattled on, and with one ironic flip of my tongue, I managed to draw out a chortle from her. She has a pretty face with almost perfect features, I thought. She looked happy underneath it all especially when I managed to get her lips to eke out a sunny smile.

Our work was done, and it was time for the customary handshake. As our hands touched, I searched her consciousness. It’s something I’ve perfected for years, and through an ‘almost-osmosis’ sort of way, I visited her and sipped on her happy memories.

I chose two.

One was when she celebrated her 17th birthday with her mother; it was a memory that was made more precious and happier since her mother died a week later thanks to lung cancer.

The second was when she gave birth two years ago, and she named her little girl — Maria. What a beautiful girl. So strong and happy was this memory. After all, she did give her daughter her mother’s name.

As I completed the transference of those two happy memories into my own consciousness and owned it, I watched her smile fade along with the light in her eyes; no doubt her heart was feeling the void left by those two central happy memories.

Stealing memories is like a drug, you see. It’s so addictive. As she turned and trudged back towards the entrance — with her voice, eyes, gaze, and walk emanating a sense of real sadness — I felt something akin to a clot of remorse albeit quite tiny.

Maybe I shouldn’t have stolen her mother and her daughter from her, but that wisp of remorse left as another customer sat on the same sad chair in front of me as he smiled and started a harangue about his 4G connection.

All I could think of was how happy he seemed; I was looking forward to the moment when our business was done so we could shake hands.

Categories
Life

Here’s Why I Write Satire

It would be an understatement to say that I love reading, and that I also love writing. This post is about why I write satire and also why satire is important in a free and democratic setting. To put it succinctly, if there’s one regret I have in life is that there’s just not enough time to read all the great books that are out there in the world.

Francis drops this

There’s just one book I have given up on reading and that was 13 Reasons Why. I felt guilty doing so since it would be a waste not to read. It was a good call, though. (Francis Bacon would nod in agreement.) That book is a waste of pages. I realized that it’s better to give up reading a book if you don’t connect with it since you’re just wasting precious time.

But, Why Satire?

Like I said I love writing, and that alone should offer you an indication as to why I write satire. There’s this excellent article I read called 30 Year Thinking by Nat Eliason. It’s a great article about investing time and effort into skills that you know you’d never give up on, and what you’d like doing for the vast majority of your life. Writing and reading are free, and have a great deal of benefits, which go beyond cognitive and artistic benefits.

Growing up, I recall how writing along with art was, at one time, regarded as a dead-end job. Science was regarded highly. It’s great to see that this perspective has changed. I never chose writing as a profession because it would be lucrative, but, in this era, it has become exactly that. Just like anything in life, you need to practice and practice away at your craft, so that you’re good at it.

George Orwell uses satire to address the subject of the Russian revolution

So, why satire? Well, because it just goes beyond the creative aspect of writing. Satire is used to point at the stupidity of the world. It is a tool to help the reader analyse their own human nature and know where they have erred.

The novel Gulliver’s Travels written by Jonathan Swift was a satirical piece aimed at tackling the nature of humans. One of the most famous scenes in the story is when the main character interacts with the tiny people of Lilliput, satire is used here in the height of the heels worn by the men as a way to mock the Whigs and Tories of the British government.

Jonathan Swift uses satire to take about the nature of humans

In Animal Farm written by George Orwell, satire is used as a way of addressing the subject of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps one of the most famous examples of satirical literature in the world. In Catch 22 written by Joseph Heller, there are plenty of examples of satire throughout the piece. One of the most notable is the general ideal of the Catch 22, which the writer uses as a way to talk about the lack of logic often seen in bureaucracy.

Enter The Sunday Morning

I spent a great many years working at some of the top advertising agencies in Sri Lanka. It was a great time, and I managed to work with some excellent brands. But, in terms of having a rewarding experience I would think that it was working as a feature journalist and editor at a lifestyle magazine that made me most content. Covid-19 did away with the publishing industry, and I transitioned into the tech industry.

Feminism is not a man-hating hobby

The tech industry is proving to be a completely different ball game altogether; however, it is something that I’m enthusiastic about when it comes to learning. Life is short, and learning transcends the excitement that power and money can extend to you. That said I missed creative writing, which is why I was excited when I was invited to have my own column at one of Sri Lanka’s best newspapers.

Satire on the privilege of the patriarchy and the archaic roles that women have to adhere to

I may have started out as a creative writer, but I wanted to move onto other types of writing as well. I’ve done business writing and technical writing. I just want to have the bragging rights knowing that I can do it all. Writing is an experience, and it’s important to me that I can experience it all.

Satire on elitism, the rich and the new rich

This was why I jumped at the invitation to have my own column on The Sunday Morning called Colombo Confessions. It’s a column that has a light-hearted and satirical view of Colombo and it’s denizens. I admit that at times, it does take on a very caustic viewpoint, but then the subject matter happens to be rather heavy, too. How else is one supposed to talk about sexual harassment, elitism and sexual intrigue?

Satire on how a privileged few with their toxic masculinity use both men and women as objects of sexual gratification

Satire, I’ll admit, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but what a brew it is, and that alone is a good enough reason to write satire. Call it a curse or a blessing, but the fact is that writers are empathetic creatures. We observe and we feel. And most of the time, we feel too much. This desire to feel and extend our feelings onto paper is like consuming alcohol. There is that initial high which segues into a feeling of satiation that lulls you into a sense of bliss. This is another reason why I write satire. I’ve never done drugs (except for alcohol, which technically, is a drug) and never will, but, I guess, there is a thrill in chasing that high quite like chasing the dragon.

Satire Is Necessary

Remember that in a world where there is not much choice, to even think beyond the cookie-cutter norms that have been set up by the status quo is an act of revolution per se. Your voice matters as do your own individuality. This is why it is important to express generously. In what is supposedly regarded as a free and democratic world, our way of expressing is the ultimate challenge of the status quo.

Why I write satire is because satire is great in the sense that it has a complete lack of boring and reasonable moderation, and with the subject matter that is addressed, there is no other option either. As an empathetic writer who does possess a certain degree of sensitivity, the pen is that almighty tool used to create awareness of issues and disparities in society. Satirical literature calls attention to these issues and can make readers aware of something they had not been previously considered or understood.

Categories
Life

Why Are We Addicted?

Jake:
If it’s poison, why do you drink it?

Charlie:
Because there are things inside of me I need to kill.

Why do we drink alcohol? Why are we addicted? The above conversation piece from Two And A Half Men gives an insightful answer as to why. You see, there are demons in our subconscious that lie and lie silent. Lucky for you if you don’t meet them, but most of us do.

I was an alcoholic, and now I’m not. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a drink. I choose gin since it’s keto-friendly.

So, this thing with Addiction — is it something that is predisposed or a choice? It’s neither. It’s the result of our environments. Consider the issue of PTSD afflicting soldiers who survive war.

Addiction, you see, is an attempt at a solution; it is not a problem by itself. As per Gabor Maté, most of our trauma can be rooted in childhood. The subject on this is huge, but a child that is emotionally abused will overcompensate by being overly nice even if they don’t want to.

A child’s brain circuitry is developed while in the mother’s stomach. A stressed out mother leads to a stressed out child. Children when growing up are narcissistic by nature, and believe that they are the center of their own universe. When they don’t get the love and attention they crave from their parents, they carry such dysfunction into their adult lives.

This is the reason why stressed out parents bring up children who are stressed out. This is why children are more prone to autoimmune disorders like Multiple Sclerosis and even Cancer.

So, does the fault lie with parents? Somewhat, but the majority of this fault lies with the social, economic and political issues that we have faced throughout the years. For instance, both parents, in recent times, have had to work to bring in the finances thereby leading to their children being neglected with no mother at home. We know that our emotions and physiology cannot be divorced from each other. When one suffers, so does the other.

We are social creatures, and human connections are intrinsic, and looking for comfort in electric connections just won’t do. In fact, it would only lead to those who are vulnerable to resort to a variety of addictions.

Why We Are Addicted

“Nothing records the effects of a sad life as graphically as the human body.” – Naguib Mahfouz.

Most addicts aren’t afraid of dying. They are afraid of living. What does alcohol, drugs, food and shopping in excess have in common — they cure pain. The question shouldn’t be — Why is there addiction? The question should be — Why is there pain? Keith Richards in his biography talks of how he sought oblivion through his addictions. Why? Because he was not comfortable being in his own skin.

A truth bomb

We are addicted because whatever we are addicted to offers respite from the pain that we are feeling or because it gives us pleasure that’s available to us.

Let’s first define this whole concept of Addiction — it is any behavior that gives you temporary relief or pleasure, but in the long term causes harm, and you can’t give it up despite the negative consequences.

Drugs per se aren’t addictive. Many people choose their addiction, and it is all to do with Dopamine and Endorphins. As many addicts claim, the stimulus they are addicted to offers them warmth and comfort and a space that is non-judgemental. This is all an attempt at trying to fill in the void that exists within us. It all goes back to what we didn’t get when we were small.

The Meaning to Life

I wonder at times if addiction can be cured through science. The meaning of life is to distract ourselves from the
meaninglessness of life. Love is the highest meaning of
life. We pervert it and fail it a billion times over. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it satiates the spirit like nothing else.

Professor X is kind to those who are flawed

It takes courage and responsibility to be kind to flawed humans as Professor X has shown us. But it’s our highest calling. It elevates everything we do. Any sense
of value or meaning in an
objectively meaningless universe can only be the result of whatever sense of value we subconsciously project onto the world and some of the experiences within it, or in turn, whatever meaning we perceive when we look out into the world.

The very fact that people say — Find your meaning — means there’s no meaning to life. Rather we need to find our own individual purpose, and finding it means there’s a thin line between sanity and insanity.

Leave Well Alone

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within. Buddha said be a lamp unto thyself. The choice we have to make is to heal and be kinder to ourselves. The majority of us are damaged in one way or the other. Yet the only solution, as per Jordan Peterson, is to be strong.

And, if we do choose to move away from the hurt and grief we feel, we’ll realize that we made those first steps towards healing. In the grand scheme of things, you’ll realize that choosing contentment is possibly the only way forward. Once we do heal, the Faroese word — nøgdsemi — gives an indication of how we should live. Nøgdsemi means Life Is Good The Way It Is and it offers a way to accept life just the way it is.

Categories
Tech

The Social Dilemma Is Why I Left Social Media

Do you know why this post has a title that states — The Social Dilemma is Why I Left Social Media? Read on to understand why. Whether it’s eloquently stated by Tristan Harris, Yuval Noah Harari or Cal Newport, the evils of social media are well-documented. It’s true online toxicity is real, and so too is suicide. Ironic then how I went from being a Social Media Manager at a Digital Marketing Company in Sri Lanka to someone who left social media twice. That said I will state that social media has its place in any content strategy, but that is a different topic for a different day.

Have you noticed the lack of civil discourse, the misinformation present, fake news, and the division within relationships present on social media? The Social Dilemma attempts to raise awareness around important issues like design ethics and data privacy (like the Cambridge Analytica data breach), and succeeds.

Tristan Harris reminds us that — If the product is free, you’re the product. That realization never dawned on me until much later. The first time I left social media was in 2014 when the whole process of posting how fantastic life was just plain tiresome.

This will be the best documentary that you’ll watch this year

The second time was in 2020, and the social media landscape seemed more dysfunctional than the first time. Tristan Harris speaks of how Facebook is a social persuasion machine and is excellent at monetizing your attention. And with all the brands I handled working for the above-mentioned digital agency that was exactly what I was doing.

We hear of how social media companies use attention engineers to make these social media entities as addictive as possible. Profit can be maximised thanks to you giving attention and handing your data over. The University of Stanford talks of the Magic of Maybe, where we really do care about what others think of us — think Likes, Comments and Reactions. This is all a reference to the shot of dopamine you get. Some sources say that this shot of dopamine is equivalent to the levels experienced when consuming cocaine. Additionally there are ethical implications of data extraction even with the new products of Facebook.

Social Comparison Theory

Facebook Depression is a thing and can lead to mental illness

Showiness is often mistaken for reality. What you can gather from this is that more often than not, social media perpetuates that endless cycle of being fake. And I’m not talking about political fake news. Social Comparison Theory is something that is pertinent at this juncture. We have a proclivity to compare ourselves to people who have similar characteristics to us. This can boost or destroy our confidence.

Leon Festinger has a theory, which suggests that there are two types of social comparison — Upwards and Downwards. Upwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is less than or inferior to ourselves. Downwards is where we compare ourselves to someone who is superior or better than us.

The theory basically states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others they perceive as somehow faring better or worse. No surprise then that so many suffer from what is known as Facebook Depression, which leads to less life satisfaction and more sadness.

The Antidote To Social Media Is Deep Work

A truth bomb

Seth Godin makes a mention of how — one should not become a wandering generality, be a meaningful specific. That’s a pertinent thought for any individual or company. Social media is a waste of time, unless you’re a brand. It does have its place in crafting out a brand’s journey. And if you’re career-minded, it can assist unless you commit yourself to that heinous dopamine-driven feedback loop, which affects your cognitive function.

Cal Newport mentions how our attention is being fragmented to such an extent we cannot concentrate. The solution is deep work that’ll help you focus on rewarding work minus the distractions. We are all part of the attention economy, and social media companies are competing for your attention. But with social media morphing into more of a business than just a social interaction tool, it became an entity that could be best described as being nefarious.

Unsubscribe

All the moral panics are real. The Trauma Floor showcases the issues faced by Facebook moderators, and it is harrowing. More so are the issues with your supply of attention, which focus on your short to midterm goals being decimated. Chamath Pahaliyapitiya said it best — If you feed the beast, it will destroy you. And so, this is my conclusion, especially if social media doesn’t benefit you in a way that’ll help you becoming a meaningful specific (like an author): Unsubscribe.

Categories
Tech

Here’s Why I Switched To Android

Here’s Why I Switched to Android isn’t a tale about how bad iOS is. Rather it is a tale of boredom. Tolstoy defined boredom best — a desire for desires. Boredom does lead to terrible things like: starting a relationship, whoring around, busting up the last few thousand rupees on your credit card, or drinking a bottle of arrack while gurgling a melody in some ditch. 

Boredom: This is the Reason

Boredom can also lead to wonderful things like the start of something new like this blog. It’s fitting then that this is my first post. I would suppose it would be prudent to Thank God for modern capitalism, which has multiplied amusements and consumables. And, capitalism probably is the reasoning behind the statement — Here’s Why I Switched to Android.

I popped my smartphone cherry with a flagship phone (back when virginity was a thing). The first Android smartphone I had was a Galaxy Note 2 that ran on Kit Kat. One inebriated night, I slipped and the Amoled screen fell flat on its face and became a mosaic of shards. Despite a list of fancy vanity specs, there were hiccups like S Pen Notes crashing while typing important articles etc. 

Then I bought an iPhone 5S. This led to a 6S Plus, and finally an iPhone 7. There’s a reason I stuck with Apple products including a Macbook Air, which I bought in 2017. Everything was just better. And predictable. Any writer worth his salt will fall in love with Apple’s catchy terminology. The Apple Watch Sport’s glass is actually Gorilla Glass that had been used by many electronics for so many years. 

But trust Apple to serve up such plainess with a description promising goosebumps: “We used an alumina-silicate glass that’s especially resistant to scratches and impact. It’s fortified at the molecular level through ion exchange, with smaller ions being replaced by larger ones to create a surface layer far tougher than ordinary glass.”

Apple Music coupled with JBL headphones IS fat loss

Before I bought a Samsung, I’ll be honest: I was looking at an iPhone 11, but I was curious about what delights an iPhone 12 would bring. Yet, based on research, I realized that iOS 14, which the iPhone 12 would be powered by, is slated to offer the comfort of predictability, and not the chaos of excitement. Widgets are also on the cards, something that Android had since Adam and Eve romped around Eden. 

The Transition

So, what was the final deciding factor? It was cost. I trundled over to One Galle Face, checked out the iPhone 11, gave it a grunt and a look of derision (similar to one deployed by a Colombo 7 aunty from behind her Gucci spectacles), and went towards Samsung Lanka. 

The iPhone 7 cost me north of LKR 130,000 three years ago. The Galaxy Note Lite was just over LKR 100,000 with a JBL speaker thrown in; this purchase was made in August of 2020. When you have passed the 40 year old mark, you tend to be more pragmatic and conservative. The zeal to be cool is something that you resist (this is mainly because you are guaranteed to fail). It is this desire for pragmatism that leads you to research any future purchase with manic fervor. 

There are a few things that I miss about iOS like the buttery smoothness of the transition from app to app. I miss the privacy features and the industry-leading security that iOS offers. Apple Music is something that I use a lot, and this app crashed twice on the Note while playing Muse, which destroyed my sweaty rhythm on the treadmill. 

2 Reasons Why

Forgiveness can be extended to all these gremlins since the Note 10 Lite is a completely different beast powered by Android 10. Two important factors are key for me: 

  1. The incredible battery life thanks to a 4500 mAh battery and a 25W fast charger, which lasts close to 1.5 days with heavy usage, and 
  2. The ginormous screen at a price that the iPhone cannot beat. I’ve actually moved onto using the Lite for all my article writing much to the chagrin (I suspect) of my MacBook Air. 

I could go on about the camera, which is on par with the camera setup on the iPhone 11, but this is a redundant subtopic. Gone are the Instagram (ahem, foodstagram) days, and now functionality is what I’m after. I don’t hate iOS by any stretch, and I enjoyed how incredibly reliable it was/is. But, for now, the Lite as a midrange smartphone has got my vote. Speaking of midrange phones, the Lite behaves like a flagship, and I do think, at present, that midrange phones are the new flagships

The battery life on this thing is crazy good

Things have changed drastically in the smartphone world, even more so with our individual desires and requirements being all over the place. The best takeaway I can offer you today is that there’s a phone for everyone whatever the budget, and that Android and iOS are on par when it comes to most things.

Stuck wondering what to choose? Maybe a quote in Paco Underhill’s book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping may offer an idea; an idea that you could unbox like your next smartphone — “How you present your ideas and information is just as – or more – important as the ideas themselves.” 

I’ll Conclude by Saying…

It is after all the idea that you are subscribing to, which you buy. Both operating systems are great like the devices they support themselves. Android, for me, is all about flexibility, functionality, and freedom of choice — it’s the perfect mix of ingredients to keep the spectre of boredom at bay.

iOS, on the other hand, changes people into an audience that has good taste in digital products. If you do decide to transition, remember that there’s a great deal to love in both ecosystems. The level of difficulty adjusting is all based on how long you’ve spent in the comfort of one operating system.

And on a final note, remember that a smartphone (whether it runs on Android or iOS) is merely a tool to access your content that is happily residing on the cloud.