‘Revision’ By Alistair Ogden   

Stanley Figgins sat hunched over a faux-wood desk, fiddling with a pen. His apartment was dull, mustard-coloured and tiny, but it was all he needed.  A humble abode meant less could go wrong. Organization was easy and streamlined. Stanley himself was hardly more conspicuous than his room. He was thin and mouse-like, and his fingers were constantly pinching.

In the center of Stanley’s desk lay a large folder of papers. Pencils and pens were lined up on either side. As he repeatedly straightened each writing utensil, he muttered to himself in a sing-song voice.

“Three pens, three pencils. Ink topped up, one of each colour and sharp sharp sharp…”

This process lasted for two minutes, and then finally, he took a deep breath and opened the folder. Numbers and figures looked up at him. For the next few minutes, the only sounds that could be heard were the gentle scratch of a pencil and Stanley’s occasional murmurings.

“So with twenty-five, no, thirty percent in additional revenue… We’ll have… Yes, of course… Splendid”

Almost immediately behind Stanley was his bed. It had a simple wooden frame and a sturdy mattress covered in plain blue sheets and a duvet. In the otherwise drab bedroom, the duvet stood out. It was adorned with a curious swirling pattern. Hues of blue and white gave it the illusion of great depth.

Not one to stand for mistakes, Stanley always checked his work thoroughly. He had a routine: initial work in pencil, revisions in red pen, and final drafts in ballpoint blue. It was all completely unnecessary, but Stanley loved predictability. He had been on an error-free streak for years. If today’s work was as faultless as usual (and Stanley had a hunch) this would be his 499th straight perfect report. Stanley smiled to himself as he reached for the pen. He liked prime numbers.

Suddenly, there was a quick tap of plastic on hardwood. The pen cap had fallen and rolled beneath the bed.

Stanley immediately hopped off his chair and crouched down, sweeping his hand through the darkness. The cap was out of reach. Sighing, Stanley got down on all fours and peered beneath the bedframe. The cap was nowhere to be seen.

“Huh?” Stanley grunted. He swept out a searching arm to no avail. Equally frustrated and curious, Stanley began to wedge himself beneath the bed, all the while waving an arm across the floor. The pen cap seemed to have disappeared, but there was something else under the center of the bed. Stanley felt his fingers sliding into a gap between the flooring. He shifted himself further under the bed, creeping his hand down the hole. The bottom was out of reach. Intrigued, he shifted his entire body beneath the frame of the bed and moved his face up to the gap.

For a moment, all he could see was bright light, and then as his eyes adjusted he took in the scene.

Stanley realized he was looking down at a familiar bedroom. A desk was up against the wall, a stove in the corner, and a bed covered in blue sheets and an illusory duvet.

Stanley scrunched up his face, confused. He’d thought his duvet was one-of-a-kind.

“Oh well” he whispered. At least the pen cap problem was solved.

He began to extricate himself from under the bed. He could’ve sworn it had sunk down a few inches.

When he had squeezed himself out and picked himself up, Stanley sat back down at the desk.

“Ok now, where were we?”

He picked up the red pen and resumed the examination of his work. The equations were as correct as ever.

When he had approached the end of his proofreading, Stanley put the red pen back down beside the folder. It looks so… out of place, he thought. He needed that cap back.

Stanley fidgeted for a moment, and then stood up. He grabbed his coat and began to put his shoes on.

“It’ll be an excuse to say hi” He muttered to himself. “I’ll just go down there, introduce myself, and ask about their duvet. Perfect.”

As he finished tying his laces, he snuck a final glance beneath the bed. Other than the tiny light emanating from the hole, it was as empty as ever. He glanced guiltily back at the incomplete work lying on his desk, scanned the room to make sure everything was in order, and then opened the door. But before the musty smell of the hallway had even crossed the threshold, he shut it again. Something had caught his eye. There was something small and red in the centre of his duvet.

The Untold Struggles of Living Away from Home

This is a short, comedic piece that I wrote recently for an imagery assignment at the University of Victoria

A few beams of morning sunlight shine through my dewy kitchen window. One attempt at dinner has turned the room into a warzone. The counter is littered with the shrapnel of dirty plates. Red splatters stain the stovetop. The sink is obscured by a sea of pots and pans. I sigh. My ragged Shamwow seems to be no match for this army of muck. Even my socked feet are enduring a barrage of crumbs from the laminate floor. I take a deep breath, readying myself for the imminent battle. Then, before the burnt air can fully penetrate my nostrils, I start spraying Lysol left and right. My hands whir through the air, fighting the filthy surroundings. Slowly, the dishes retreat to their cupboards and the countertop peeks out at me.  I stand back and observe what now resembles a respectable room. The shadow of a grin sweeps over my face. I move to place my weapons of mass cleanliness back under the sink, but suddenly I hear a rumble. Something is wrong. I panic for a moment, and then the realization hits me. It’s not over. I’m hungry again.

Socially (Awkward) Media

An edited version of an academic essay I wrote for an assignment last semester.

 

Social Media plays a key role in the daily lives of most contemporary University students. It helps them share who they are, connect with others, and organize social events. But having a multitude of “friends” seemingly in the palm of one’s hand may have negative implications too. In a time of transition, such as the move to University, students are particularly vulnerable to the detrimental impacts of technology. Multitasking on multiple devices while studying or attending lectures is commonplace among students, but the splitting of attention may actually be hindering learning more than it helps. In addition, the shift to converse on Facebook or by text rather than in person is radically changing the way we create and maintain relationships.The new found ability to be virtually surrounded by so many people whilst being physically alone affects students’ perception of loneliness and development of a sense of self. The shift to social media networks has fostered connectivity, but contributed numerous distractions and altered the social dynamics of University life.

The shift to converse on Facebook or by text rather than in person is radically changing the way we create and maintain relationships

            Technology is all-pervasive in the University environment. Assignments are sent out via email, exam dates are posted on the web, and a scholarship or transfer application can now be completed with a few clicks and some typing. New technology has undoubtedly helped streamline complex processes. However, this abundance of new stimuli has begun to take its toll on the psyches of students. A significant decrease in test performance was found in students who multitask, or even watch others multitask, on laptops while in lecture. A negative correlation has also been found between Facebook use and student engagement. And now that smartphones are used for web browsing, not just phone calls, they are an additional potential distraction in the classroom setting. As Thomas L. Friedman describes in the The New York Times, “we have gone from the Iron Age to the Industrial Age to the Information age to the Age of Interruption”. It is clear that the new leap to be as connected as possible has had unintended consequences. The phrase “Continuous Partial Attention” has been used to describe how the urge to be constantly connected by smartphones and laptops can splice concentration. This new form of multi-tasking with electronic devices can have an overall negative effect on productivity and quality of work. The distribution of attention to multiple stimuli has been found to decrease the efficiency of long term memory coding. So even dividing attention (looking at a laptop or phone) for a third of class time can result in lower test scores.

            Moving to University is a time when students have more freedom than ever before. And the opportunities to take advantage of this freedom are magnified by technological tools like social media and texting on cell phones. As Naomi S. Baron states in The Dark Side of Mobile Phones: “For young people, the mobile phone is not simply an instrument for conveying information but a lifeline for managing social interaction”. For many students, the desire to be connected has almost eclipsed the desire to converse. It is not uncommon for students to spend hours at a time browsing Facebook news feeds, watching YouTube videos or playing online games. These outlets simulate human contact without the demands of real-time conversation. For those who find socializing difficult, the internet can be a welcome escape, and can provide the façade of a vibrant social life. However, prolonged exposure to social media without any real-life human contact can actually be detrimental to social skills. Some students are no longer content to be themselves. Instead, they hide behind an online smokescreen of carefully chosen profile pictures and status updates. The social faux pas of looking at one’s phone while having a conversation is becoming increasingly more common, and pauses in conversation are often being prolonged by the tapping of fingers on screens. People are so worried about offending the multitude of phone contacts with a delayed response that they forget to interact with those immediately around them. This is especially prevalent when students interview for jobs. Technologically savvy youth are finding themselves lacking the necessary communication skills and quick thinking needed to succeed. 

They hide behind an online smokescreen of carefully chosen profile pictures and status updates

With the introduction of social media, being truly alone has almost become a foreign concept. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have allowed students a glimpse into everyone else’s lives all at once. And now that students find themselves able to share with others at any given time, their perception of being alone is beginning to change. Spending any extended period of time “disconnected” from the grid has become a challenging endeavor. Additionally, by using phones and laptops to deal with seclusion, students have lost the idea of what being alone truly means. Learning to deal with solitude is an important stage of development in adolescence, and those who learn to cope with it are better adjusted. So by replacing solitude with the quasi-socializing of the internet, students lose out. As Sherry Turkle points out in her TED talk, “the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device”.

            The new proliferation of technology in Universities has had a massive impact on the way students learn and interact with one another. The likelihood of distraction in class has reached an all-time high, the way students converse and connect is being drastically altered, and any real semblance of alone time is becoming a thing of the past. As more research is done, the true repercussions of students’ enfatuation with social media and technology will come to light. For now, the trend shows that there is a dark side to the wonderment of social media and internet connectivity. Students should focus on the ways these amazing tools can improve their lives, instead of hindering their development. The path towards a techno-society must be trodden with care, lest we lose the humanity that brought us there in the first place.

The Elevator (A Short Story)

AXE MURDERER STILL ON THE LOOSE” read the massive headlines on a rack of newspapers. I grabbed a complimentary copy from the hotel lobby, then shuffled towards a bench in front of the elevator doors. I sat down and read:

Another murder was reported late last night and it seems the police are still no closer to finding the madman who has been terrorizing what was once a tranquil community. Three bodies were found in gruesome shape in a local motel after a maid noticed a putrid smell coming from one of the rooms. According to police reports the identities of the three victims have yet to be confirmed due to the horrific state of their corpses…

‘Bing’. The familiar chime of an arriving elevator prompted me to look up from my newspaper. A young couple, arm in arm, got on ahead of me. As expected, they held open the door, as people do for an elderly gentleman, I hobbled onto the lift, using my cane for support. There were four of us inside. I sized them up. The couple who got on with me were grinning excitedly at one another – probably newlyweds, Next to them stood an odd looking man. His cold eyes and pronounced jaw took me aback. He looked out the window of the elevator at the busy street below, his expression glassy. He glanced at the headline of the paper, then to me.
“Dreadful business these murders… Looks as though the police haven’t a clue who is responsible.”
“Yes, I read that too, in yesterday’s paper.” I responded, noting the man’s slightly foreign accent, “But it seems that now they have a description.” I flipped the page to show a sketch of the suspect. It looked familiar. The couple glanced up at the two of us, looking apprehensive.
“Well, that’s… That’s interesting” exclaimed the man. He smirked eerily. “What else does it say about his description?”
“Tall, brown hair, brown eyes, and approximately 180 lbs.”
“Well I hope you’re not getting any of the wrong ideas.” the man stated, his amber eyes and hair considerably more noticeable than before. “After all, I’m only 160 lbs.” His smirk became more pronounced.
I could see that the couple in the elevator were becoming more and more agitated by the second. Although we had been on the hotel elevator for less than a minute, it seemed time was at a standstill. As the four of us watched the ticking of floor numbers on the dial, the man give an ominous chuckle.
Finally we reached the 20th floor, where the man and the couple both got off. I gave the nervous looking pair a small nod of encouragement as they headed off after the man. The woman managed the smallest of smiles, then took the arm of her partner and hurried off. The doors closed behind them.

As the elevator once again began its ascent, I stood up straight and rubbed the wrinkly mask covering my entire face and head. I tried to blink away the irritation caused by my colored contacts. The two thin strips of plastic concealed what my mother, before her “accident”, had called “balmy brown eyes”.

What’s your favourite colour?

It comes across as a conversation starter. Something you’d ask after a period of awkward silence on a first date. It’s never really very relevant, except in those facebook personality quizzes. Favourite colours are a bit of an enigma.

Colours themselves aren’t exactly what they seem. A tomato, for example, isn’t actually red. Tomatoes just happen to absorb other colours and reflect red light (or enemic pink if you’re eating a big mac). So what we percieve as colour is just a reflection of a certain wavelength of light.

Fun Fact:The sky is blue because molecules in the atmosphere reflect blue-violet wavelengths more commonly than any other wavelength.

Colours themselves all originate from three primary colours: blue, yellow, and red. In the retinas of our eyes we have special cells called cones, which decipher these colours in pairs of three. This process is known as the Young-Helmholtz trichromatic theory.

Not so Fun Fact: Colourblindness is usually the result of one or more of the three types of cones malfunctioning. Monochromatic vision is the result of two types of cones malfunctioning and Dichromatic vision is the result of one type of cone malfunctioning.

A second, complimentary theory of colour vision is opponent-process theory, which concerns the activity of neural impulses in the brain. Opponent-process explains how we sometimes see afterimages after staring at an image for a long period of time. In the brain, each colour has an opponent (red-green, yellow-blue, and white-black). Certain neurons are triggered “on” by the colour red and “off” by the colour green. When we stare at one colour for a long period of time, the neuron which is triggered can tire, and so when we look at a white surface (white contains all colours) we see the “opponent” colour of what we were just staring at. 

shamrock-afterimage
Look at the shamrock for around 60 seconds, then look at a blank piece of paper or a blank screen. You should see an “afterimage” caused by the tiring of colour-processing neurons in the thalamus.

For each of our four other senses, having a favourite sensation is a little absurd. A specific sound, taste, smell or feeling that one person values above all other sounds, tastes, smells or feelings is a little unusual. Yet having a favourite colour is perfectly normal. Could this have something to do with colour representing personality? Facebook quizzes and certain branches of psychology might tell you that that’s the truth. However, the more likely scenario is that you’ve subconsciously aligned your favourite and least favourite colours with your likes and dislikes. For instance, blue itself has no significance, but when you consider that it’s the colour of your favourite sports team or the colour of water (the basis for life), your perception of it changes.

Our brains are wired to become more alert at the sight of red (the colour of blood) but the meaning that we give to the colour red is arbitrary, a product of the multitude of colourful influences we experience on a daily basis. Humans project meaning onto colour, not the other way around. A favourite colour might not define who you are, but it does give a little bit of insight into how you see the world. 

Personally, I don’t really have a favourite colour. I don’t like to impose my own hierarchical structure on a naturally ambiguous spectrum. 

Oggy

P.S Just kidding, it’s red.

Things You Might Not Know

I’ve found a brilliant little video series by Tom Scott, a British writer and presenter. From a quick skim through his website he seems to be doing almost exactly what I would like to be doing for a job in a few years. He’s posted loads of creative and odd videos and presentations that I’ll probably get around to viewing over the next few weeks. For now I’ve been binge watching his weekly video show “Things You Might Not Know“. There is a bit of irony in the name because up until about an hour ago, it was one of the things about which I knew nothing. Now I can say I’m familiar in the inner workings of internet passwords, sun dials, long words, and a trampoline park in a cave in Wales. I’ve got about 60 more videos to watch, but if they’re anything like as informative as the first few I might be a genius by the end. 

Oggy

Russell Brand vs Sean Hannity

I’ve been keeping up with Russell Brand’s vlog series “The Trews” lately, and although I’m not entirely on board with his whole idea of intertwined consciousnesses and such, I found a couple of his latest videos to be absolutely brilliant dissections of fox news. In the first, Brand does his usual bit and looks at how absurdly Fox News is covering an issue. In this case it is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

As with many of his videos, Russell Brand combines humor and intellect to captivate the Youtube audience. However, I think even on its own, the so called “debate” between Sean Hannity and Yousef Munayyer is frightening. The clear inhibition of free speech and badgering by Mr Hannity make me question how this is even considered journalism.

Russell’s video went viral, garnering over 1.8 million views in 3 days. This of course prompted a response from Hannity himself.

It’s interesting to see how Hannity automatically compartmentalizes Russell Brand. He immediately shrugs off Brand as a stereotypical celebrity shouting rubbish. It seems the American media have put celebrities into the category of gossip magazines and talk shows. This could be why Brand will have such a tough time making himself seem like a genuine political motivator. People these days only listen to what they want to hear.

Oggy

In The Beginning…

This is the official beginning of the Oggy Bloggy. I think I’ll probably regret the name in the next weeks, days, or even hours… But I’m trying to be a more decisive person so that’s what happens. I’ll be extremely surprised if anyone actually reads any of the rubbish I write on here, but if for whatever reason you are and maybe even enjoy what I’m saying, I’d like to thank you in advance. I’m picturing posting a few poems or stories, along with videos I like or other stuff that’s interesting. If I really feel like opening myself up to the internet I might even put up excerpts of the journal I’ve been keeping since I backpacked around Europe… Maybe. For now let’s just see what tickles my fancy.

Oggy