I have a number of strange creatures living inside my head. Most of them are my friends.
Some will say that I have ‘toys in the attic,’ which is a derogatory term implying that someone is crazy. Sure. To paraphrase Eminem, ‘I am whatever you say I am, if I wasn’t then why would you say I am?’ Better toys in the attic than cobwebs, and latrines overflowing with the half digested, poisonous trash that most people allow to be shoveled into their heads on a daily basis.
If you keep reading this blog long enough, I will, eventually, introduce you to all of my upstairs neighbours, but right now I’d like you to meet the idea hamster.
I’d been vaguely aware of his existence since I was a wee boy. When people would ask, “Where the Hell did you get that idea from, Salmi?” I’d say, “I dunno.” Then I’d point at my head and say, “Up here, somewhere.”
Once, in my mid-teens, I bought a blotter sheet of acid, and met the oh, so clever rodent.
On the night of the purchase, me and my buddy Gair gobbled three hits each, and went space truckin’ to cartoonland.
Having nothing better to do the next night, we dosed again, but we had to eat twice as much acid as we did on the first night just to get off the ground (LSD is a mind liberating drug, but it is definitely subject to the law of diminishing returns). On the third night, we couldn’t even see the walls breathing, even though we took ten hits each. What I did get, however, was a visit from the idea hamster.
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, when he came scampering into my serotonin depleted mind.
“I’m Vlad,” he laughed, “The Idea Hamster.”
From whence had Vlad come? Well, as I’ve already told you, he had been with me since I was only a wee boy. Since I was born, in fact.
I suspect the idea hamster was created by trace amounts of a powerful anti-psychotic drug my mother took, daily, while the monster that is me was growing in her womb.
Years before I was born, my mother had a nervous breakdown. Back in the ’50s, electroshock therapy was en vogue with psychiatrists who just loved to perform experiments on human guinea pigs. So, instead of prescribing a month at the beach, and counselling, they fried her brain. In an effort to mitigate the irreparable damage they had done to my mother’s mind, they prescribed Thorazine.
I’ve always thought that THORazine would be a great name and concept for a comic zine starring Thor, the Nordic God of Thunder.
The trials, tribulations, adventures and misadventures of a schizophrenic God, who has to gobble fistfuls of Thorazine, lest he slide into a permanent, homicidal, paranoid state. The only one he can talk to, the only one he can share his shit with, is his drinking buddy, Bjork the bi-polar bear.
Yes, the bi-polar bear is named after the wonderfully weird Icelandic singer.
In fact, the bi-polar bear is the wonderfully weird Icelandic singer, or what’s left of her.
You see, in Norse mythology, when a polar bear eats a human, the bear takes on the person’s soul. So, when the normal, every day polar bear ate Bjork, while she was trying to plant sunflowers on an iceberg, he took on her personality.
Bjork loves being a polar bear. Bjork hates being a polar bear. Hence, she is a bi-polar bear. She hates being a polar bear because she was sure she could save the world by harnessing the energy of iceberg-grown sunflowers. At the very least, she figured, the experiment would make a great premise for an operatic theme album. She met Thor when….
Oh, dear, I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Gone way off topic, I mean. I beg your forgiveness, and will return to the main theme of this post without delay.
You see, boys and girls, like my mother before me, I am a psychiatric experiment. The brain butchers who butchered my mother’s brain thought it would be good fun to see what would happen if she continued to eat Thorazine throughout the term in which she was bringing me to fruition.
Thus, the trace amounts of Thorazine that accumulated in my mind provided fertile ground in which an idea hamster could grow.
When I started doing acid, the hallucinogen fused with the anti-psychotic, and transformed the mostly meek and mild idea hamster into Vlad, the empowered and emboldened idea hamster. The acid opened up the doors of perception in my mind, and the idea hamster went wandering. “Holy shit!” he said when he saw what had previously been denied to him. “This is fantastic! It’s like seeing for the first time!” And he’s been on a gleeful rampage ever since.
Vlad, sometimes referred to as Mad Vlad, is no to be confused with The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe (ECGs). The ECGs are much more powerful than Vlad (they rule the universe, after all), and although they, too, feed me ideas, they certainly don’t live inside my had.
Sometimes, the ECGs will feed me a truly heinous, dangerous idea, just to see if I am fool enough to run with it. And sometimes it’s so stupendously stupid, so spectacularly surreal that I simply cannot resist. The best/worst example I can give you is when the ECGs convinced me that it would be a brilliant idea to move to the police state of Turkmenistan (known as North Korea Lite). Yeah, an anarchist in a police state! What could go wrong, right? Well, here’s how that one ended (go ahead and hit play, it’s only 1:24 long).
Yeah, we had to run for our lives. But that’s a tale for another day, boys and girls, and this is a story about Vlad, not the ECGs, so I will get back to it forthwith.
Vlad has the curiousity of a clowder of cats.
He’s always peeking through the peephole to see what’s’s going on outside.
So, when we landed at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, on a weekday afternoon, he looked around, and said, “Where the Hell are we, Brian?”
“Kolkata.” I answered.
“Calcutta,” I replied.
“No way,” Vlad scoffed. “Calcutta has a greater metropolitan population of what – 15 to 20 million?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“So, what’s wrong with this picture, smart guy?”
“You’re right. The airport is damn near empty.”
“And why, pray tell, is that?”
“There’s nothing going on here. No business. No tourism.”
“And why, pray tell, is that? India’s economy is booming. GDP growth has been 7.7% YoY since 2005. And tourism, domestic and international, is way up over the past two decades.”
“Yeah, something’s not right.”
“Do you think the airports in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are empty?”
“So, why here?”
“I’ll look into it. In the mean time, there are opportunities galore, obviously. Get on it, Vlad. Get on your wheel and start ruining, buddy!”
“Feed me, Brian. Feed me!”
Mad Vlad has been gorging on the smorgasbord of information I’ve found by watching, reading, listening, and asking since we got to India.
He’s been sprinting marathons, sometimes flying off his wheel, but always getting right back on it.
And he’s come up with some impressive stuff.
The problem is that no one will listen to us. It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friends. Vlad and I have been playing this game for twenty years, in a dozen cities, in eight countries, across three continents. Here’s how it goes:
I swear, Vlad and I have cast hundreds of pearls before thousands of swine over the years. I am not a religious man, but I will not deny that there are some things to be learned from various scriptures, some warnings to take heed of, and Matthew 7:6 is one.
Alas, if you have a BIG idea, like a really, really BIG idea, and you lack financial capital, or access to it, and are not endowed with, or even interested in developing business acumen, you have to cast your pearls before linear thinking, middle management swine, if you want to get to the schweinmeister.
The process is akin to taking the elevator to the corporate killing floor. The slaughterhouse, where they gleefully kill ideas by ignoring them. Where the swine gather to snigger at you, and your ridiculous, outside the box ideas.
I’ve been there too many times. I once pitched an idea to a corporation in Montenegro that was owned by a multi billionaire Canadian. Their gambit was very ambitious, and my idea would have helped them realize their goals. The guy across the table from me, a fellow Canuck, was a stiff. A suit. A square. A linear thinker. I expected that. What I didn’t anticipate was thinly veiled hostility.
He interrupted me every 30 seconds, not to ask questions, but to mock me in that annoying, passive aggressive Canadian way that I abhor. This went on for about four minutes before I got fed up, and told him to climb back into the fur-lined, soundproof box where he and his monkey buddies jerk each other off.
Monket jerk-off box. Some nights I stare into the void dreaming about embarking on an Apocalypse Now style seek and destroy mission to obliterate ever monkey jerk-off box on the planet.
Every time I manage to get past the first layer of gatekeepers to pitch an idea, I end up in front of this guy.
Or this guy.
(Yeah, yeah, I know. Go ahead. Crucify me for that cheap shot, but when you do, please specify exactly why you’re nailing me to the cross, thank you very much.)
The Montenegro fiasco is the worst experience I can retell for you, but the result is always the same: At the end of the meeting I pack away my precious pearls and leave the building headed for the nearest watering hole to swill a pint (or ten) of bitter. Very,, very bitter.
The swine can’t help it. Swine are swine, after all, just as surely as I am whatever the fuck I am. People who lack imagination genuinely fear creativity. To them, ideas are scary. Hyperbole, you say? No. Seriously.
Want evidence? Watch this (go on, it’s only 1:04 long).
Please take note, good readers, that that commercial was commissioned by General Electric. Not Disney Corp., or some other enterprise that makes mega moolah by employing artistic geniuses to churn out fabulously entertaining products for the world to swallow whole, and leave them begging for more. Creativity is not limited to art. But those who lack imagination seem to think it should be. They disdain anyone with a vivid imagination who dares to scribble outside the lines, and trespass into business territory.
GE is about as blue chip as they get. According to Global Finance, GE was the 41st largest company in the world in 2018, with revenues of $122 BILLION. They understand what no middle management gatekeeper I’ve ever encountered can even consider a possibility, namely that companies have to embrace creativity to survive, and thrive.
I never tire of watching that GE ad. And I damn near break down and cry every time I do (yeah, yeah, poor me, poor me, poor poor me).
Despite the fact that this piece is tantamount to pissing into the wind, I’m going to pitch yet another big, bold, beautiful idea, this time at y’all. The one about how Kolkata can become the most innovative city in the world. But you’re gonna have to come back for my next post to read it.
In the mean time, for those of you who may be interested in the psychology of creativity, and what true creatives can do for businesses, and the world, take fifty minutes to watch this.
It’s an interview with the world renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson. If you’ve never heard of Peterson, I can tell you that he is also feared and loathed by legions of PCers for his socio-political beliefs and ideas (I’ve even heard that he toils in service to the Satanic reptilians who control the world!).
I’m not going to bother getting into what Peterson’s detractors have to say about him, but I defy them deny that he fuckin’ eh nails it in this one. And I ask you to bear in mind what he has to say when you come back to consider my BIG idea.