Greater Than Gods – A Short Story

July 17, 2009

FROM SAIL’S WRITING PORTFOLIO — Martin turned the key and opened the door to his new office. The day before had been spent furnishing his large new executive workspace beyond the standard fixtures that were moved from his previous office downstairs. The tall-backed wooden guest chairs that he had purchased sat ridged and uninviting on the opposite side of his desk. Gracing the walls were paintings of the countryside, of such a generic and bland quality to make any dentist office’s interior designer proud. Bookshelves sat on either side of the room, both stuffed with volumes upon volumes of unopened reference books and unread Modern Library Collection editions of great literature. An Egyptian marble cat sculpture sat coldly beside one of these bookshelves and stared at the door jamb with a piercing glare. In the corner, upon a stout glass table, an orange plastic bowl of assorted candies sat, waiting for the day his niece and nephew might visit.

He paced quickly across the room, as if some very judgmental person was watching and would think him indulgent if he were to admire his new office for too long. Martin crossed over to the back of his desk and sank into the office chair, spinning to face the large window behind him. He was perched atop the nineteenth floor of a twenty story building. It was his hard work that had brought him to this nest, and it was his hard work that he had to thank for everything he possessed. Martin saw a reflection of himself in the rising sun that was being slightly obscured by the clouds on the horizon. He saw the symbolism in how, no matter how the cloud tried, it could not fully black out the massive and bright sun. He knew that he was the same way, a rising star that would never fail to triumph over those who wished to snuff him out.

Martin looked below at the already bustling business district and was reminded of how far he had come. He had made himself at age eighteen when he was accepted into Harvard University. His very low-income family could definitely not afford to pay for the school, even with scholarship grants he received, but agreed to carry the student loan debts for him. He worked tirelessly through every class on every subject, especially his Team Management and Development class that he begged his roommate to tutor him in so that he would able to graduate. He steadily and confidently climbed the corporate ladder as the executives he made friends with recommended him for promotions.

And now he was here. Here, sitting atop his mountain of toil. Only the four-and-a-half foot layer of steel and drywall above his head kept him from rocketing toward the zenith. The glass window before him disappeared and he felt the urge to leap toward the blue heavens where no human could bind him.

Martin heard a rap on his door and a click as someone entered the room. He spun around to see a small, somewhat plump woman moving towards him.

“Martin, we have business matter to discuss.” The woman pulled up one of the tall-backed wooden chairs to the desk and sat. She continued to speak as she uncomfortably shifted her weight about the hardwood seat.

“Under normal circumstances I would have simply emailed the documentation to you so that you may make a decision, but this is a special case. Our laboratory and research team has stumbled upon a breakthrough.” She paused a moment to allow for a reaction to shatter across Martin’s stony face. When none showed, she reiterated, “I came down here personally because I feel that this a matter that we needed to discuss in depth before you and the others make a decision.”

Martin was annoyed. Had he not rightfully been given this position? He was more than capable of making any decision that needed to be made. He had gotten here under his sole manpower and did not deserve the condescending attitude that this woman was giving him. But this irritation with his boss did not show on his face.

“What is this breakthrough?” Martin asked.

“Well,” the woman began excitedly, “they have found a new material that can be used in solar cells that has the potential to convert sunlight to electricity at eighty-percent efficiency.” The cool calmness that Martin had maintained up to this point in the conversation finally broke. His mind instantly went wild with images of his success: The scientists that he hired winning the Nobel Prize and all the publicity that would bring him, the build team that he hired developing this technology for use in the product and all the profits that it would bring him, the success of the corporation he works in and the promotion it would bring him. This was what the product was of all his hard work throughout his life. Through thankless years of his own toil, this was what his backbreaking autonomy had brought finally him. This was what would take him straight to the zenith.

“This is incredible!” he exclaimed, “This is absolutely incredible.” The woman appeared satisfied at finally having made an impact on Martin’s emotions.

“Do you realize,” he continued in his raving, “what this will mean for us, this corporation? We are immortal, Henrietta! God himself will elevate us to the status of Archangels!”

“God?” The woman chuckled hesitantly. “We’re talking about people, here. Think about what this could mean for not just you and the company, but humanity as a whole. This means a revolutionary line of cars that cause zero emissions but still can be driven long distances and even tow trailers. This means we have a technology that will solve humanity’s dependence on coal for electricity generation. That’s why I came to your office personally, because I think it would be wrong to simply patent this and exploit it for profits when it could be shared with the entire scientific community for development and improvement. To do this would make you a savior! What we have stumbled across here is the thing that every human on this planet has been waiting for.”

“Humans?” Martin asked perplexedly, “I’m not sure what people have ever done for me.”

’21st Century Breakdown’ doesn’t do much new

June 20, 2009

greenday01FROM SAIL’S EIGHT-TRACK PLAYER — Listen: I am swamped with schoolwork right now. This weekend alone I have to compile a 16-page document on various political topics, finish the first draft of a short story that I have no ideas for, and begin a 10-page paper on education reform.

But instead, for your morbid amusement, I’ve decided that I need to sit through Green Day’s new album, 21st Century Breakdown, in order to be able articulate exactly why I don’t like it.

The reviews have been outrageous. Kerrang! somehow compares this incredibly clean and radio-friendly pop-punk sound with NoFX’s dirty and in your face political thrashings. AbsolutePunk, a source I’ve generally come to trust, admits that the record is nearly identical to their previous one, American Idiot, while still giving it a glowing score of 91/100. Similarly, Rolling Stone gave it 4.5 stars out of 5 while also saying that the music sounds like they’re trying too hard. My own school newspaper compared it to London Calling.

Fuck. I guess I’ve gotta hear this.

10:05 pm – Six tracks in and I’m regretting this decision. It’s not the ear-bleeding brand of terrible, but it’s exceedingly mediocre and unoriginal. Also, [bassist] Mike Dirnt’s playing is ridiculously mixed out.

Miss you, Dookie.

10:14 pm – It’s like Billie Joe has become a parody of himself. He took the idea that people think he writes songs with cheesy lyrics and no more than four chords… and then actually did it.

10:16 pm – “Peacemaker” is actually kind of interesting.

10:22 pm – Too many of these songs sound exactly the same. Or exactly the same as songs on American Idiot.

10:26 pm – Some of this guitar playing makes me seriously doubt [guitarist] Billie Joe’s skill as a musician. I mean, I know he must have the potential, but he’s really just not using it. Tre isn’t an amazing drummer, but he’s always been good enough. I’m disappointed in Mike’s bass playing on a few songs for being a lot more simplistic than usual, but I’m more disappointed about how hard you have to listen in order to hear the better stuff he’s doing.

“Restless Hear Syndrome” is another interesting track. Everyone who likes this album seems to be talking about how much more “mature” it sounds, but I’m really just not hearing it at all, aside from this and “Peacemaker.” And two tracks out of 18 isn’t enough to call a record mature. If anything, this music strikes me as more obnoxious and immature than ever.

I’m going to have to listen to some major Operation Ivy to cleanse my ears after this is all over. Remember when Green Day sounded like OI? Yeah, me too.

10:51 pm – Verdict: A definitive “ick”.

Some may define this record as Green Day’s growing up, and that’s fine with me. I’m not one of those people who is going to bitch about a band or artist changing their sound or getting more popular. Usually, it’s a better thing for everyone involved if the artist doesn’t feel restricted to make the same music that made them famous. But 21st Century Breakdown is just a plan poorly executed.