Teenage fandoms revisited,

Or how to unleash the inner fangirlĀ along with the million drones

I grew up with a vague impression that every normal person has a favourite band that they’re a bit obsessed with. With a slightly metalhead mom and the context of the early 90s, when MTV was starting to sneak into post-communist Romanian households, I guess that’s not so weird. Fast-forward some years until one day my 13-year-old brain exclaimed eureka: THIS, my friends, is MUSIC. It was thanks to Hysteria, the gritty, grungy, claustrophobically haunting single from Muse’s third album Absolution, a track that, to this day, still makes all my feel-good neurotransmitters light up like the city center at Christmas time. Now, given that the band didn’t apear at all in the video, and my lack of interest in that thing called internet lurking in the corner of my room, I had zero clue who these people were, or what they looked like, or where they were from. So there I was, stalking all the music channels hoping to chatch that song again. Or any other song from that band.

The other song from that band that followed was Supermassive Black Hole, also found via MTV about a year later. It burned my ears and eyes and glued them to a glittery psychedelic telescope dug out of a dusty drawer from a dark nightmare only to show me pictures of my own mind at the other end. (It’s probably fair to say it was that video that sparked my interest in film and visuals in general, but that’s another story). By then my interest in the thing called internet was starting to develop, and all fandom hell soon broke loose. Muse seemed to morph all my teenage angst into the highest form of rock elegance. Some sort of grandiose divine custom-built for the ears and souls of atheist science geeks, with calculated, contained fury carved into guitar riffs and falsettos coming from distant galaxies. A symphony that gave me not only peace, but also a kind of mirror in which, if I looked hard enough, I could recognize and better define some of the building blocks of the the future adult I was becoming, wrapped up in imagery and themes that were going to shape my tastes, my interests, my curiosities about things like astronomy, space colonization, neuroscience, transhumanism, geopolitics, or the writings of Stephen Hawking, Michiko Kaku, Brian Greene, Carl Sagan or Kathleen Turner, or dystopias, or Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, or Rachmaninov, or the glorious parallel universe that is the visual art of Floria Sigismondi. Or my need for some sort of mathematical harmony in basically everything. Or, let’s be honest here, my lack of fear of the word pretentious. For my teenage self, Muse was not just a band, it was Sagan’s Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known all glossed over in pop culture. And so my notion of fandom was forever linked with encyclopedia-like universes waiting to be devoured: the more to dig for, the better.

To top it off, it was lyrics like This is the last time I’ll abandon you / And this is the last time I’ll forget you / I wish I could, or I have had recurring nightmares / That I was loved for who I am / And missed the opportunity / To be a better man that gave early hints of pretty much what “it’s complicated” means. It was lyrics like When you’ve seen, seen / Too much, too young, young / Soulless is everywhere / Hopeless time to roam / The distance to your home / Fades away to nowhere that were blasting through my mind and earphones as I was covering the Cannes Film Festival as a journalist at age 19, just as much as several other titles from Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry, Hullaballoo Soundtrack, Do We Need This, Absolution, Black Holes and Revelations are now forever linked with crucial episodes and places of my teenage days, since every addiction-prone being of my generation had the luxury to shut out the real world with earphones and add a soundtrack to their life. I even have an inside joke with myself that 2007 was the black hole and 2008 was the revelation.

I’ll forever have the sappy story of how Muse came to town in 2007 just months after probably the darkest times of my life so far, as if the universe was pulling a prank to show off what I could have missed. It gets even sappier if I dare mention it happened a second time years later. I see a pattern here. But I digress. I sometimes mentally debate whether it’s good or bad that I still have the same favourite band I had when I was 13 – did I not evolve at all as a person? did I just have good tastes early on? – but then I calm the fuck down and remember it’s only natural to cherish stuff that played such a big part in your youth. Especially when you have a sense of drama that just calls for Into + Apocalypse Please when you’re leaving home for school at seven in the morning. And especially when you still genuinely like said stuff.

Fast-forward to 2016, when the nasty ol’ days of my teens seem light-years away. Good ol’ 2016, when only Muse can make me defy poor health and hellish Bucharest summer and voluntarily stand for hours in a mass of hundreds of sweating bodies crowding in front of the stage. Well of course the chances to hear The Groove, or Recess, or Con-science, or Darkshines, or Uno, or Hyper Music, or Nature_1, or Micro Cuts in the age of Drones are slim to none. Of course they’ve grown and changed. Of course I’ll have my first ever ntz-ntz-ntz-kids-nowadays moment queueing at the gates when I hear teenage girls gossiping about the guys’ love lives (bitch please, I was reading Orwell thanks to them when I was your age). Of course there will be people around me in the front row who only came for the big concert vibe. But who cares? I’ve heard some of the most important theme songs of my life so far played live, I’ve seen fantastic visuals, and their older music is still there when I need it. My only regret is that so many people around me got to catch drum sticks and guitar picks at the end of the show and I didn’t. Darn poor reflexes.


The angry science geek rant

As I’m reading Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe I recall an article on io9 about how vomit-inducingly (that’s not really a word, I know) misused has the word quantum became – now unavailable, but you get the idea here and here. The cutting edge mental framework of science to become an umbrella term for touchy feely woo really is vomit inducing. I decided a couple of years ago to never tell anyone I don’t really know that well I have an interest in quantum physics ever again after I realized how much enthusiastic pseudoscience is thrown at me with gleaming, smiling eyes screaming “oh, you understand me!”. No, I don’t, actually. I have yet to find a reputable science book that explains in detail, with verifiable, experiment-based evidence, the secret connection between quantum theory and the magical empowerment of your pathetic little soul. What I find instead is world-class scientists humbly stating how far we still are from truly understanding all the mysteries of quantum theory. How giving quantum theory to twentieth century science was more like dropping a laptop in a 1950s household than like finding the holy grail of cute motivational pictures. Now don’t get me wrong, I ain’t no expert, but there’s plenty of serious science out there explained for the masses. Books that put the complicated in simple terms and the abstract in relateable, everyday examples that any layperson can understand. If they want to. Now excuse me while I get my science from Michio Kaku, Werner Heisenberg, Stephen Hawking and the like instead of Some Spiritual Person On the Internet.

I do agree there is something deeply spiritual about even thinking about all the intricacies of the laws of physics. Astrophysics, quantum physics, any physics. About the vastity and the randomness that we just find ourselves in, and how far we still are from making complete sense of it all. But please admire it as it is (read: get your ass to a book store first), and marvel at the great unknown, and don’t you dare sell the great unknown as the ultimate answer for the ultimate healing of the ultimate bla bla. There is no answer, that’s the beauty of it.

And now, completely coincidental but somewhat unrelated tbh – keep in mind the 12th logical fallacy in Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit, but bear with the stream of consciousness for a bit – this book I’m reading comes at a time in my life when I happen to spend a lot of time more or less unwillingly eavesdropping on dozens of strangers’ more or less private converstions (legally, in a public space!). And I happen to hear a lot of little bricks in the wall longing for some affection, “relaxation”, “reconnecting with the self” and shit. Aimless folks who played it nice and did what they were told only to wake up one day that they hate their lives. Who chose life (in the most sarcastic Trainspotting sense, of course) and crushed it instead. Who are willing to throw money at the first false prophet claiming to sell back a tiny fragment of their innocence lost. Lost on their way to more money, or to where their parents told them they’d find a good career, or to where the peer pressure herded them and they never had the courage to say this is not me. It’s those who seek to find their soul again who squander it the most, throwing it around at anyone selling an “everything happens for a reason”, or an “everything is connected” or a “god doesn’t give you more than you can handle”, or a chance to kid around like they’re in kindergarden again or anything else of the like. There is no reason. There is no connected. There’s only you, and the here, and the now, and the choices you make. Deal with it or shut up. There is no mystic quantum healing to save you when you don’t own your own life.