Log in

Fru's Views, Reviews, News, and Muse [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Something about… um…. feelings? [Feb. 12th, 2017|04:56 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

I had a really good idea for what to blog about tonight, but I didn’t write it down, and so now it is gonna like the summer dew.

Oh well, I am trying to adjust to my absentmindedness and learn to go with the flow. Be who I am and just deal with it.

Oh wait, now I remember something I was going to blog about. It’s not the thing I forgot today, it’s one I forgot last week. But what the heck, it’s a good one.

The subject is what I am calling the inner cringe. It’s that tendency to present oneself submissively by always being ready to withdraw and blame oneself for any negative emotional input one receives. The slightest bit of negativity and the victims of this maladjustment shrink away like the leaves of the mimosa.


Hmmm. They have berries. I wonder what they taste like. Probably shyness.

This shrinking away is what I call the cringe. The reaction’s (mal)function is to remove the cringer from the scene of the danger and ready them for flight.

In absentia, this can be a healthy response. But all maladaptive responses start as perfectly adaptive responses then get horrible distorted by being overused to the point where they dominate all other responses and become the cringer’s only coping strategy.

Not this cute little guy. But a lot like him.


That scaredy cat has clearly adopted the life strategy of “assume everything is dangerous unless otherwise proven safe. Hence the exaggerated startle response.

And that’s just how the cringers of the human world cope. They go into absolutely every encounter with the unconscious underlying assumption that it will probably go wrong and they should be ready to submit to the superior power as a means of placating them into letting them flee.

This assumption creates a person who starts social interactions from a position of apology. They are, with their body language and reaction patterns, apologizing for being alive. This is, on a primal level, intended to placate people, but instead it only arouses their contempt. Our social hardware dictates that groveling and other exaggerated submission poses disgust us because they make someone seem so socially inferior as to violate basic equality and arouse in us the desire to drive these people away.

This means that this inner cringe is not just maladaptive, it’s paradoxical. It elicits the exact opposite of the desired reaction. And yet, in a sick sort of way, it resolves the problem of the tension created by situation by causing the cringer to either be driven away or to go away themselves, thus eliminating the fear stimulus.

What makes it maladaptive is that the cost for this escape is far too high. It requires one to jettison one’s self-worth, dignity, social standing, and ultimately, one’s mental health if the pathology proceeds far enough.

One of the ways this cringe harms the cringer’s goals is that it creates uncertainty in social interactions. People can sense the cringer’s hesitation and vacillation and it makes them nervous. They don’t know whether the person is going to freak out like they have just seen a monster or not.

And people, in general, do not like being treated as if they were monsters when, as far as they are concerned, all they did was try to interact with the cringer in a perfectly normal way that works for everyone else.

It’s like saying hello to someone and having them react by screaming “MURDERER!” and running away like the hounds of hell were on their heels.

I’ve been on both sides of that. Not pretty.

The bitter truth is that people punish a lack of confidence far more harshly than overconfidence because the low confidence is a lot more unpleasant to be around. Sure, the cocky person might be obnoxious, offensive, or even delusional, but they will not trigger a response of disgust and contempt from people.

Hence the Trump presidency.

This life of cringing is a dark and terrible one. So how does one escape it?  The secret is to make friends with one of the demons of timid people : risk.

Being confident in social interactions means being willing to risk being wrong. And not just factually wrong, but actually in the wrong.

It means being willing to back your own play instead of constantly looking for the way out. It means defending your position in the face of social disapproval. And not just in a noble, being true to one’s beliefs kind of sense.

In the down and dirty sense of passionately defending your self worth in the marketplace of status, even at the risk of coming across like an asshole sense. That doesn’t mean throwing away all restraint and actually becoming a total asshole, it just means that you have to move in that direction and accept the consequences if you want to get to a healthy middle ground between self-loathing and delusions of grandeur.

This is a very difficult transition for us sensitive types. We are all too aware of the emotional impact of our actions, being highly empathic, and in general we have significant self-worth tied up in our idea of ourselves as gentle, kind, and easy to get along with. Thus we are reluctant to risk that for anything.

It also means being willing to act illogically. To defend an emotion without concern about being factual, reasonable, or even fair. This can be even harder than risking one’s self-image as a nice person.

Because it means possibly acting in a way that just isn’t….. justified.

And the thing is, healthy people know this, unconsciously. They know deep down that there’s more at stake than simply winning an argument or being liked. They get that their self-worth is something worth defending against all challengers, at least in certain circumstances. They get that sometimes, you have to be unreasonable.

Sometimes, in order to be healthy, you have to act on emotion without restraint.

And for me at least, that’s a very scary thing to do.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.





linkpost comment

The real war [Feb. 11th, 2017|05:27 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

The real war has never been between art and commerce.

The real war has always been between art and ambition.

Think about it. The artist – whatever the medium, be it words, watercolor, or shadow puppets – would be completely true to their art if all they wanted was to make their art the way they wanted to do it, alone.

They could even stay mostly true to their art if all they wanted was to share their art with an audience who could appreciate it. The Internet has made this easier than it has ever been in the history of humanity and it will only get easier from here. You could totally be a completely fulfilled artist with nothing but a computer and a Tumblr account.

But of course, artists are as ambitious as any of the rest of us in modern Western consumer capitalist democracies. Our entire society raises us to want more, more, more, so much so that “lacking ambition” is one of the worst things you can say about someone. We take it as a given that everyone should be striving for more forever and if they are not, we think they are deeply defective.

And then we expect that to abruptly stop when someone retires. Strange.

This ambition entirely a societal construction. We are a social species, and thus we are hierarchical. And hierarchical species are ambitious because that’s what drives individuals to want to rise in the hierarchy, and without that desire to rise, the hierarchy would become stagnant and fall apart.

And hierarchies are the only way to get things done as a group. Trust me on this. Somehow, the group must figure out who makes the decisions so that everyone else can concentrate on doing their individual jobs.

It need not be a brutal hierarchy. It can be one where the leaders are thought of as people with jobs like everyone else. But there has to be a hierarchy.

So we are born ambitious, and society reinforces that.  And it is this ambition is the seed of all corruption in art. It is this ambition – the desire for fame, acclaim, wealth, respect, a beloved status, a life of privilege, and so forth – that turns the artist away from their art and makes them willing to compromise their art in order to “get ahead”.

In olden times, this meant pleasing one’s patron. All the Old Masters earned their place in history by doing what their rich sponsors – like the de Medicis – wanted them to do. Sometimes the order was “paint what you like”, but the point is that they would not have been able to jack squat without their patron’s consent.

And what do you think they had to do to attract a patron in the first place?

In modern times, the entrance to Art Hell bears a sign that says “Doing This For A Living”. The modern world offers the tantalizing possibility of escaping the hamster wheel of the job market through one’s art, and seeing as for any real artist making their art is fun, doing it without having to do anything else is as close to not having to work for a living as any of us are going to get without inherited wealth.

At least, that’s the theory.

The reality is that absolutely all jobs are work. That’s because all jobs involve doing things you don’t want to do. Even if I had my dream lift of doing nothing but writing what I like then handing it to an agent to sell, there would still be times I had to do it when I didn’t feel like doing, and that, my friends, is the very definition of work.

After all, that’s the only difference between the things you’re paid to do and the things you’d pay to do.

Thus the tendency of artists to become disillusioned with their art once they realize it’s actually hard work. This costs the world a lot of artists, and leaves a lot of people in that hazy state where they are sure they will make it big some day with the art they are totally going to do any day now.

And this ambition to do nothing but one’s art puts the artist in direct competition with all the other artists with the exact same idea. A similar delusion leads young people to work hard to get degrees in things where the only job available is to teach it.

And when a lot of people want the same thing and the quantity of that thing is fixed and therefore cannot respond to the high level of demand, it becomes a buyer’s market for said thing, and the level of compromise the artist must endure (and be grateful to do it) in order to “get ahead” skyrockets.

And even if one manages to be one of the lucky ones who actually manages to get a job doing their art, or otherwise secure a living income through it, the compromise does not end there because now you will have to do what the money wants you to do.

And the money people will tell you that if you just play along and do what you are told, eventually, some day, you will get to do what you really want to do.

But what are the odds that the money people will be willing to let you do something other than what has made them money some day? When it costs them money?

And even if they do, who will you be when you finally get there? The passionate, ambitious young person with a mind full of amazing ideas the world needs right now, or a tired, content old person with a bank full of cash and a home full of comforts and distractions?

So here’s my conclusion : If you want to maintain your artistic integrity, you must abandon ambition. That includes the dream of doing your art for a living.

Otherwise, you are doing to have to make compromises.

And you will have to decide just how far you will go. On a daily basis.

There’s no third path.

Better get used to that right now, it will save you a lot of pain in the long run.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.


linkpost comment

So bad it’s crazy [Feb. 10th, 2017|05:19 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Or maybe it’s me that’s crazy.

Actually, it’s probably both.

Today sucked like the vacuum of space. It sucked so hard that it’s barely credible. There was a confluence of events this morning that beggars the mind.

Well, okay, maybe not. But it was pretty bad.

It started out OK. I took the bus to the Skytrain. Sure, the walk is only two and a half blocks, but it was nice to go in a nice warm bus. I even timed it perfectly so that the bus was at the red light when I was crossing to the bus stop practically right in front of it. So I got on and was deposited right at the Skytrain station.

And that’s where the fun stopped. So much for omens.

The first inkling of catastrophe took the form of an unusually thick crowd at the entrance to the Skytrain station. It was quite crazy, like something from Tokyo. The fellow that hands me my copy of Metro was quite overwhelmed with all the people flowing around him. It’s usually not even a quarter as busy even during rush hour.

So while I was still somewhat cheerful, a warning light was blinking in my mind.

And another came on when, after going through the fare gate, we were stopped by a transit employee before we even got onto the escalator because the platform was so packed with people they couldn’t let anyone else go up to it.

Uh oh. That can’t be good.

So the throng about me and myself had to line up and wait. And when we finally were allowed to go up, it was, of course, absolutely packed up there.

It’s times like this that I really appreciate my Paxil. Without it, I would have freaked out and gone home from sheer claustrophobia.

Turns out, the bottleneck was that some kind of technical difficulty had the result of making the Skytrain trains show up at half the usual rate.

Normally, during the morning rush hour, you get a train every 7 minutes, like clockwork. This morning it was 15. The results on the system were cataclysmic.

In retrospect, it’s not a huge surprise. I had noticed that on the Canada Line, the line I take to school, the instances of the train I was on having to slow way down for some reason were escalating in both frequency and duration. Quite often lately the train crawled along for some time at roughly the speed of a brisk jog.

This didn’t concern me too much because I just want to get where I was going. I am not, by nature, someone all fired up to get where they are going as fast as possible. In fact I usually enjoy my commute times. I find them relaxing. I can do a crossword puzzle, read, stare out the window. And for some reason, I have always, since I was a wee sprog barely up off the floor, found being in a moving vehicle relaxing.

Not sure why. Perhaps the sensation of motion drains some of the overcharge of mental energy that seems endemic to my particular make and model of brain. I dunno.

Anyhow, it takes forever to even get close enough to the Skytrain to get on, and then the seat I was about to take gets occupied by a little old Asian lady and I am stuck in the middle of the car with no hope of making it to an exit with all those people around me.

That means that the unthinkable has occurred : I was going to have to stand for the entire trip from my station to Waterfront. 

This is not something I can do without coming to significant harm. I am not built to stand for that long. The circulation in my legs and feet is too compromised to allow it. The one time I tried it before today, I ended up feeling nauseous and dizzy and the muscles on the back of my legs seized up and began cramping painfully.

Oh, and of course, my feet were goddamned killing me. My dog weren’t barking, they were whimpering with the occasional pained yelp.

And today was no different, except that the trains were running way slower than usual, so the trip (normally 25 minutes) took 40.

And it was a very Zen experience. Which means consciousness-expanding levels of pain. By the time I finally got off at Waterfront, I couldn’t feel my calves at all, my feet were screaming at me, and I felt like I was floating in cold syrup.

But I plodded down the street to school anyhow, finally making it to my Writing for Games class at 9:45. Story over, right?

Nope! Turns out today was the day we went to the gaming campus of VFS! So I got to sit for like five minutes and then we had to walk the ten blocks or so to THERE.

I’m a writer, goddamn it, I am not built for this walking. Especially after having to stand on the Skytrain for 40 goddamned minutes.

And today was a cold and clammy day, the exact kind of early spring day I loathe because the snow is still there, chilling everything, but it’s also raining.

It’s the perfect weather for making every muscle in my body ache.

And once we got there, we had to take a tour of the place. This is normally something I would greatly enjoy, but I was too cranky to think of anything but sitting.

Finally, we got to the reward : getting to play video games. I played Batman : Arkham City for a couple of hours. It was very cool – the combat system is tons of fun, very Batman in the way you can take on huge crowds of bad guys and kick their asses – but I can’t help but think I would have enjoyed it more had I been in a better mood.

After that, I was turned loose on the mean streets of Chinatown again. Now I had to find my way to the Skytrain from wherever the hell I was. More walking.

Luckily, it wasn’t that bad. Once I got to the International Village (mall), I had some idea where I was. From there, I got to Stadium Station (up four flights of red brick stairs) and got on the Expo Line for the first time in like, a decade.

Which explains why I got on the train going in the wrong direction. That turned out cool, though, because I got out at the Main Street/Science World station, which is in this retro-future tunnel of plastic windows which I loved.

I mean, check this shit OUT. Futuristic!

And you should see the Skytrain cars they have on the Expo line. Very cool looking… but freaking tiny compared to what I am used to on the Canada line.

As a result, I had to stand for that Skytrain ride too. Un fucking believable. Finally I made it to Waterfront Station… but to get to the Canada Line, I had to go all the way up to the main concourse, then back down, then down a loong ass tunnel on the Cordova Street side of the station, and only then could I get on my beloved Canada line and go the fuck home.

I hadn’t even had a chance to do my crossword!

So today has really taken it out of me. So far the health repercussions have been mild, but this kind of thing can cause problems further down the road, so I am wary.

Luckily, I don’t have to be back in class until next Tuesday, four days from now.

It might take me that long to recover.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

linkpost comment

Generic post title [Feb. 9th, 2017|05:24 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Dunno what to blog about tonight, even though I had a ton of great ideas during the day, when I couldn’t do anything about it. That’s how it goes, I guess.

Feeling sleepy and vague. I am making it through the day but sometimes I feel like not even really here, or anywhere for that matter. I feel like I am nothing but the echo of the reflection of a shadow’s thoughts.

Like I exist only on a technicality.

I know that’s the disease talking. I’m as real as anyone and it’s the darkness of my depression which makes me feel so unsubstantial. The feeling that I have that night has fallen in my soul and dawn is impossible far away is merely the product of a chemical imbalance in the neurotransmitters of my broken and battered brain.

But then again, all our experiences are merely chemical in our minds, when you really look at it. That kind of reductivism only gets you so far before you have to reset your parameters and try a different path.

Maybe that’s why there is only so much rational reason can do against depression. The real solutions are spiritual, not mental. The bare truth of the chemical imbalance is exactly the sort of solution that mere reason can deliver.

It’s both perfectly true and completely useless.

The only real solution is growth. The spirit must explore and expand. That’s a tricky thing for a ramrod rational  cerebral type like myself.  All of my instincts are wrong for the task. My primary mode of dealing with the world is to throw my mental might into finding a solution. To conquer the problem with mentation. It’s oddly like solving every problem with physical force and violence like a brute.

The only force is that it’s the brute force of the mind.

I have a concept of emotional growth,. I tend to think of it like sunshine making a plant grow. The right conditions and the plant flourishes. The wrong ones and everything withers away and dies.

It’s winter all the time in my soul.

But without any sense of the mystical – with a soul so bound by the rational as to be practically moribund – it’s hard to know what will make me grow.

Then again, maybe the need to know what I am doing instead of simply flourishing on my own terms is the root of the entire problem.

Or maybe the real problem is how I shrink away from the light when things get too intense. Winter may not be warm but it’s very quiet. When I finally get the kind of warmth I so desperately seek, I am as like to flee as I am to stay and grow.

What I desire the most is also what I fear the most. No wonder I am so messed up,. I am desperate for positive input but when I generate it myself, I run away from it.

I mean, how good can it be if it comes from me? I’m poison. Toxic. Radioactive. Tainted.

I hate that I can’t stop hating myself. I know that I don’t deserve it and yet I can’t stop believing it. I really do loathe myself most of the time. I try to keep my self-esteem afloat with knowledge of my writing talents, but while I have all the evidence I need to ascertain the truth of my strengths, when it gets this bad inside me I can no longer believe in them because I can’t feel them at all.

Depression disconnects me.

And that makes me want to disconnect from life. Call a full retreat and hide from the world in a deep dark hole with all my distractions installed, and wait for it all to be over.

Wake me when life stop being so scary and hard.

At least I am keeping up with my school work. That’s good because I am going to have a lot of it. There’s only two weeks (plus tomorrow) of class left, and that means it;s crunch time. There’s so much to be done looming towards me.

So it’s good that I have at least gotten to the point where I can do the work to keep up with things. I was pretty far gone there for a while. Really lost my grip and feel back into old patterns of crumbling in the face of adversity.

That never really works. No matter how hard you submit to reality’s attacks, it will never really let you get up, turn tail, and run away. It will never accept your surrender and leave you alone. It will always keep on attacking.

Because it’s not a person.

I feel a great sadness inside, like a cold sticky mass that clings to my bones and drains all the life out of me. It kills everything it touches and its chill goes right to the very marrow of my soul. It’s killing me, and in a way, I am letting it.

Perhaps I am addicted to its ability to make emotions go away.

Maybe I need a medication change. Or maybe I need a year of therapy. Or maybe all I need is some full spectrum light bulbs.

I did feel a lot better when it was sunny yesterday. Make my whole mood slump is the product of not enough sunshine in a very literal way.

Or maybe I am just plain fucked.

I have been doubting my ability to survive post-graduation lately. This whole VFS thing might end up being a waste of time and money. If I find life so hard in my current mode, how much worse is it going to be when I have an actual job and have to pull myself together for eight hours a day?

And I feel so slow and stupid and old. It’s so hard to think lately. I feel like my head is full of ice cold tar.

There must be a door out of this slow hell somewhere.

There must be a way to let all this coldness out.

I will find it some day.

When I have the energy to go looking.

And the freedom to grow my soul.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.







linkpost comment

Always nodding off [Feb. 8th, 2017|04:06 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Today was a pleasant day. There was a partial break in the real winter weather we’ve been having lately… yes, it’s back. It was sunny and warm in the afternoon. Some of the snow was melting. If this was back home on Prince Edward Island, it would seem like a perfectly ordinary day in early spring.

And it would be occurring in late March at the earliest.

Class was fine. Or at leas, it would have been if I hadn’t been so sleepy the whole time. This keeps happening. It is a real problem because it means I spend the entire class stressed out by struggling to stay awake and pay attention.

In fact I actually fell asleep in class yesterday. A first.

Till now, I have simply said it was from getting too little sleep, which is quite often the case with me. I go to bed at 2 am and wakes up at 7 am, and that’s only five hours of sleep. That is not enough for a healthy human being. I need more.

But I am loathe to stop hanging out with Joe watching Colbert and Daily Show after midnight. I would sleep better, but I would miss the pleasant socialization with my buddy Joe, and that seems like a net loss to me.

Or, at best, breaking even.

Without that time with Joe, my days would be very lonely, and I know for a fact that would be very bad for me. I need a certain amount of socialization and if I don’t get it, I fall apart and end up at the bottom of a very dark well.

In other words, I go crazy,

So that is one explanation for why I so often have to struggle to make it through my morning classes. Two others occurred to me today :

  1. It has something to do with how my school mornings involve the stress and strain of getting to school followed by a lot of sitting still and listening, and
  2. Maybe it’s my sleeping pills

And it’s that second theory that is troubling me.

This theory hadn’t occurred to me before now because it is a bit counterintuitive. After all, I get up in the morning and get my ass to school. It’s not easy but it’s not abnormally hard either. My crossword puzzle addiction keeps my mind active on the Skytrain, as well as keeping me from feeling claustrophobic during rush hour.

The rest of the trip, I’m walking, and it’s hard to fall asleep doing that.

Not impossible, but… tricky.

So if I can do all that, how can I blame my sleepiness on the pills? But actually, it makes sense in light of theory #1. Getting to school keeps me from feeling it, but once I am in class, the pills reassert themselves.

If that truly is the culprit, then I am really in a pickle, because I am not taking sleeping pills for fun. I need them. Before Doc Costin put me on those pills, I couldn’t stay asleep for more than 2 hours at a time. That was very bad for my mood. The pills let me get at least five hours and sometimes something close seven or eight (on days off).

So if the pills are the problem then the alternative, skipping the pills, is not a whole lot better. So it’s a tough choice. One way, I am sleepy and stressed in class, and the other, I get lousy sleep and potentially end up even worse.

Still, I want to explore this theory, so tonight, I am not going to take my sleeping pills and see what happens then. I might end up with insomnia. If so, I will have to weigh whether I should take them in order to at least get a little sleep.

The best case scenario is that I end up getting at least some sleep, and I feel way more alert and awake in class. That would seem like a miracle to me around now. It would improve the quality of my life drastically.

And honestly, I could adjust to sleeping mostly in the evenings, between 7 and midnight. That would still be five hours.

I guess I would do my homework after Joe goes to bed. Hmmm. This plan needs work.

Right now, I just want to hibernate. Sleep till spring, or at least, until I am absolutely, positively done. Need for sleep gully satiated. All napped out.

As it stands, I am probably going to take a nap after I am done blogging for the night. I don’t want to do it. I’d rather play video games for a while then do my homework for tomorrow. I have two sets of pages from TV Pilots to read and generate notes for.

But I will nap because I have no choice. There’s no point in trying to stay awake when you are too tired and incoherent to do anything. Best to rest up and hope to wake refreshed.

It could happen.

I am definitely tired of being tired and sick of being sick. Also, tired of being sick and sick of being tired. And sick and tired in general.

But the thing is, there have been times when I was more awake and alert and free of the chilling numbing fog inside, and on a deep level I rejected it because everything was too intense. I couldn’t take being that awake and alive. I have spent so long as a member of the living dead that being alive scares me.

Everything gets so loud!

So I retreat into myself once more in order to restore “normal” stimulus levels. It takes a long time for me to overcome that and truly try to climb out of my dank dark hole again so I can live in the light for a change.

Maybe the secret is to take the trip slowly. Restrain my urge to throw off my shackles and soar in favour of progress I can keep.

Or maybe I just need to get the fuck over myself.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.





linkpost comment

Today was a twofer [Feb. 7th, 2017|05:13 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Today’s the day I had two of the same class in a row to make up for the fact that the instructor was sick last week.

It was stupid, but not unpleasant. It gave the day a feeling of continuity. So even though we spent the whole day talking about feature films (even though 2/3 of us are in the TV stream), I am not really complaining.

We even got to watch a movie that our instructor produced. The movie is called Do Something With Your Life and it’s about a guy in his mid twenties reaching the “what am I doing with my life?” stage that is common these days.

It even has a name : the quarter life crisis. It happens when a young person wakes up from their post-college life of minimum wage jobs, weed, video games, and hooking up and suddenly realizes they have a life and a future and dreams and they are not doing anything to help any of them.

So it’s kind of a spiritual transition between hedonism and something more purposeful. It’s the first true blooming of the desire for context in one’s life. This is the same desire that makes people dig into their family trees or explore the culture they come from.

Or in my case, both.

It was a pretty decent flick. It’s more or less a romantic comedy but doesn’t follow the recipe precisely. It’s got some genuinely funny bits and it explores its themes quite while. The acting is quite good and it’s a solid script. The ending kind of sucks from the point of view of story structure, but at least it’s not cliche.

The really impressive part is that despite looking almost as good as a Hollywood movie, the whole thing was made for around $15,000.

I think the lack of budget actually helped it. Almost everything is shot on location in real people’s houses, yards, and workplaces, and it gives the whole thing a very “real” feel. Everything is easily recognizable and familiar. You’ve been to these houses, you’ve met these people, you’ve worked these crappy jobs.

It honestly makes me want to explore this kind of cinema verite approach myself. It reminded me of Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind, which stands in my (not so spotless) mind as the most real feeling movie I have ever seen.

It might seem a trifle indulgent for the instructor to show one of his own movies in class, but it was actually quite awesome because it meant that we got to watch a movie then ask questions of one of the main people behind it. That’s an invaluable resource for us entertainment biz wannabes.

But the instructor let something slip that really shocked me and struck me as just plain wrong. Apparently, he and two other instructors are planning on taking nearly a month off to go on vacation together, and my instructor plans to make up for the class time he will be missing by having four of the same class in the same week. 

That’s totally unacceptable. It shows a gobsmacking disrespect for the students and really strikes me as the sort of thing that can only happen when institutional decadence has gotten  to the point where people feel free to do whatever they can get away with.

Clearly, someone is not doing such a great job of instilling dedication and discipline in the staff. Everyone knows that, in strictly self-oriented terms, nothing bad will happen to them if they phone it in or pull stunts like this vacation clusterfuck. The place will still be there, the money will continue to roll in at a staggering rate, the students will be forced to accept whatever they are given, and everything will be sunshine and lollipops… for them.

Meanwhile, us students feel kind of left out of the equation and taken for granted. It makes me feel like VFS is coasting on its reputation as a top tier school and that the teachers tell themselves “Well, what the kids really want is the diploma and the career opportunities, and they will still get those, so who cares what they are actually taught?”.

I probably shouldn’t be talking about this. It could conceivably come back to bite me on the ass some day. But I had to say something about it on the record. I just can’t keep quiet about this. It’s just plain wrong.

One of the other people taking this trip is the head of the department I am in. I get the feeling he doesn’t take his job very seriously. And when the leader doesn’t take things seriously, neither will those he leads. The rot starts from the top.

I’m not saying I am getting a terrible education. It’s actually quite good. I learn a lot at school. I feel like my evolution as a writer is progressing at light speed compared to what I could accomplish on my own. And I am not saying my instructors are incompetent. They are doing a fine job.

It’s more about what message they are sending out when they treat things so lightly. It’s also a feeling I get that morale is pretty low in my department. It’s hard for people to find purpose in their work when they are led by someone who gives off the impression that he really doesn’t give a shit.

So my feeling is that the instructors feel alienated from the institution of VFS, and like they are on their own as far as VFS is concerned. People need leaders who make them feel like they are part of something greater than themselves, and who is willing to enforce the rules in order to make people feel like there is some kind of justice and structure to their lives. When that is not there, things fall apart.

Maybe I am totally wrong. This could just be my issues doing the talking. I certainly have strong feelings about being treated like an afterthought.

And hey, no matter what, I will graduate, get my degree, and hopefully a career in the biz.

And I guess that’s all that matters. Right?

I will talk to you nice people tomorrow.


linkpost comment

Another blogless day [Feb. 5th, 2017|09:00 pm]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

No blog entry today, because I once more forgot that if something is to be workshopped Wednesday. it’s due Monday, and I once more  wasted a lot of time playing video games when I should have been hard at work on the second episode of Sam, so I once more have to skip blogging because I only have until 5 to get this damned thing done.

I am, once more, sorry.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.


linkpost comment

The problem of expression [Feb. 4th, 2017|04:18 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

It’s so hard to express your emotions sometimes.

And from a certain (admittedly naive) point of view, it can seem downright crazy. Why is it so hard to do? You’d think it would be as simple as deciding to do it. And sometimes it is that simple…. but simple isn’t the same as easy.

It’s both tragic and comic to think that there’s all these people in the world, myself strenuously included, walking around in pain and misery simply because they can’t get their emotions out. It’s like the whole world needs an enema.

Especially, I suspect, us Northern European types.

Of course, it’s not as simple as merely deciding to do it. And thank goodness for that. What we suppress by throwing that emotional cutoff switch becomes a part of us, and keeping those emotions suppressed becomes a major part of how we deal with the world.

To simply yank out these building blocks of the mind without thought as to consequence would be to yank a random card out of a house of cards. Odds are, the whole thing is going to come tumbling down, and that is catastrophic to the mind.

That’s what we mean when we say someone had an emotional breakdown. Their psyche simply could not take the strain any more. Despite poetic BS about the infinite vistas of the human mind, our mental resources are just as finite as everything else, and if you have a psyche that can’t vent the pressure in the system caused by a psyche at war with itself, sooner or later, you will pay the price.

I’ve never had an emotional breakdown myself. Or maybe I did, but it just didn’t matter because I was doing nothing with my life as well as going nowhere, so whatever emotional breakdowns I had were private and not all that different from any other day dealing with major depression and anxiety.

But I have never had the classic sort of nervous collapse you see in the media. And honestly, I kind of wish I had, It might actually have been good for me in the long run. Sure, it might have meant some time in an institution, but at least all my repressed emotion would be dumped into my psyche and I would be forced to deal with them.

It would be like rebooting your computer to get rid of a lot of background processes that are slowing your computer down so much that the most basic functions are breaking down. It wouldn’t cure the basic problems that led to the computer getting to such a state, but it would make it a whole lot easier to find them and fix them.

But no. Instead, I just keep going. No matter what.

Because I have no choice. I know that if I fall, there’s nobody to catch me. That has been true for my entire life, or at least, my life after my first day of school. Nobody was watching out for me, nobody was trying to keep me from getting hurt, nobody was there for me if I was sad, nobody was listening to me, and nobody was trying to guide me through life.

And no matter how hard I cried, nobody came.

I still can’t really wrap my mind around the consequences of growing up so completely alone. It’s too wrong to comprehend. And its wrongness is compounded by the fact that this neglect was invisible. I showed no outward signs of illness. At least, none that were severe enough to overcome people’s desperate need to make me go away.

I’m sure at least some of my childhood teachers must have had some idea that there was something wrong with me. That’s why I got a certain degree of official attention in my first three years of school. I was an unusual case, mentally gifted yet far far behind my peers in terms of coordination, fine muscle control, and balance.

But eventually, they stopped caring. I was too hard for them to deal with. So I was left all alone in a world full of people to whom I simply did not matter enough for them to pay attention to me at all.

Sometimes I think that the 1970’s were a terrible time to be a kid.

So you can see (he says, lamely trying to get back on topic), I have a lot of damage that I would love to be able to express. I had a terrible childhood for preventable reasons. That’s trauma heaped upon trauma. It is a terrible way to grow up.

Especially when you are too young and fragile to realize how wrong it all is. I spent a lot of my childhood in a state of utter submission. I was completely powerless and grateful for anything I got, and that was about it.

I knew, on some level, that my life wasn’t like the lives of the other kids in my class. Or like the lives of the people on TV who were my substitute family. But I was too timid to even imagine that there was a way to change that. That it was possible to make my life more like theirs.

I didn’t even grasp that complaining was an option. That’s how emotionally neutered I was. How profound a lack of agency I felt.

When I look back on it, it all seems so…. cold.  I suppose that is what you get when you end up dealing with the world almost entirely through your intellect. I feel like I was deep frozen by the kind of cold you get in interstellar space. Frozen so perfectly that I looked entirely lifelike from the outside, at least at a glance.

And I didn’t get much more than glances.

I was one messed up little kid. I really could have used someone who listened and cared and looked out for me.

But eventually, not even my mother wanted to listen to me any more.

Can you imagine what that does to a kid?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.




linkpost comment

Reality does not make sense [Feb. 3rd, 2017|04:16 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Let me repeat that : reality does not make sense.

But we act like it does.

Maybe he have no choice. I have spoken before about how the human must always assume that it has enough information to make a decision because decisions have to be made if we are to survive. It’s part of the price we pay for having eaten the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and become sentient.

Animal do not have to make a lot of decisions. They just follow instinct.

Where this need to assume we have sufficient knowledge falls down, though, is when it comes into conflict with reason and science.

And I am not speaking of the obvious conflicts like the one between science and religious dogma, or science and entrenched prejudice. Those are a fish of an entirely different barrel and involve a different set of variable.

What I am talking about is how reason and science themselves tend to assume they know everything and how easily that turns reason on its head and becomes merely another set of prejudices perpetrated by people who say they “know enough”.

It was a Heinlein story that put me on to this subject. It’s a story called “Life-Line”, and it tells the tell of a brilliant scientist named Pinero who invents a machine that can measure how long a person’s life line – the line their life makes through time – and thus predict the exact moment of their death.

You can imagine the Twilight Zone possibilities that unleashes.

The story opens with Pinero trying to convince an august assembly of respected scientists that his invention works, and of course, they refuse to even listen to him because, as one of them says of Pinero;s work, “even a schoolboy can see that these ideas are preposterous to the point of being laughable”.

Or something like that.

And that, plus a few other things, got me thinking about that particular form of human stupidity. In the story, these supposed men of science have substituted their prejudiced sense of the absurd for actual rational thought, and enjoy a round of a very ugly and extremely unscientific round of self-congratulation at Pinero’s expense.

These men[1] were not in any sense thinking logically or rationally. A sense of the absurd is not a rational thought process. Practically every major invention or discovery was thought ludicrous by the establishment at the beginning.

Leading scientists mocked the idea of heavier than air flying machines right up until the Wright brothers made it work. Quantum physics was a subject derided by no less a light than Einstein, even though the mathematics clearly proved them true. People laughed at the idea that you could cure mental illness just by talking to them until the number of patients cured by Freud and his disciples grew too large to ignore.

I mean, how would this “talking cure” even work? Do the words Freud speaks somehow contain vibrations that cure the patient’s brain like a magic spell? Ridiculous.

But science and reason are not concerned with absurdity because it has no direct bearing on truth. All that matters is evidence, whether you’re a nuclear physicist, a historical scholar, or the world’s foremost expert on North Korean beer. The scientific method is simple and clear and at no point does it say “you can skip all of this if the theory being tested makes you laugh”.

Like my hero, Gus Grissom from the show CSI, says, “people lie but the evidence never does”. There is no rationally acceptable reason to a priori reject any postulate, no matter how absurd it seems, without rationally examining it.

Even something very close to rationality, namely testing to see if the postulate conflicts with what we already know, cannot be relied upon. What we already know might be wrong.  The only truly rational method is to test the theory.

There are practical limitations to how many theories we can hope to test, and by that measure we can declare some possibilities to be too remote to be worth spending money on testing, but that is a practical concern, not a rational one. And in a world where doing science at home has never been easier (what with all the cool, consumer-level sensors and such), that barrier is lowering day by day.

The closest non-reasoning method to actual reason is whether or not something “makes sense” to us. That does a very good impression of being actual thinking, but it is nevertheless irrational. Reality is not confined by what makes sense to humans, let alone what makes sense to individual humans. There is actually no correlation between what makes sense to us and what is true. There is no guarantee that we will never discover things that make no sense to us at all and yet are demonstrably true.

Take my favorite example, the fact that we now know that the expansion of the universe is actually accelerating. It’s expanding faster that it was when we first starting measuring these sorts of things and nobody has the slightest idea why.

And that plainly makes no sense according to what we already know. On that basis alone, I assume a lot of people rejected the evidence when it first came out. Some probably still do. It flies in the face of a century of astrophysics. Big Bang? Bangs don’t accelerate.

It makes no sense, and yet it’s demonstrably true. And when that happens, the only intellectually honest thing to do is change your ideas. You thought some things that turn out not to be true, and that means that you must stop believing them no matter whether you feel like it (or up to it) or not.

And if you refuse to do so, you are thereby excusing yourself from rational discourse and the company of adults.

Go play with the other infants at the kiddie table!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.





Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)</p>
  1. Yes, they were all men. The story was published in 1939, it was a different era
linkpost comment

I’m sorry, and also, I’m sorry [Feb. 2nd, 2017|03:02 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

First of all, sorry I didn’t post anything yesterday about not being able to blog because homework was kicking my ass for another night.

And now, I have to apologize again, because I can’t blog tonight either.

But I will be back tomorrow, I promise!


linkpost comment

[ viewing | 10 entries back ]
[ go | earlier/later ]