August Video Roundup

Dunno if I will have time to make videos when I am in school, so… this might be the last one for a while.

Here’s yet another piece of my goddamned music.

Hmmm. Not sure about that Phrase B on the main instrument. It’s not nearly as pretty and harmonious as the two repeats of Phrase A and the one instance of Phrase C. Otherwise, though, it’s a pleasant mixture of the funky and the ethereal.

Maybe stopping making videos for a while will be good for my music. Give me more time to just fiddle around with things until it’s all as groovy and together as I want it to be.

Next up, an experiment : music, a slideshow, AND captions!

Guess I was just filled with inspiration that night.

Looking at it now, it was as I feared. It’s too much to take in all at once. That’s why I gave up on text captions for funny pictures. Whether you do them before or after the picture or even during, it ruins any sense of comedic timing to try to read the caption and take it what it is referred to.

And I am all about the timing, baby.

And now, a crappy talk :

I swear, I had a whole lot more material of higher quality about the subject before I started talking about it. I got my main points across, but I feel like I missed a bunch of stuff.

I know, I know, I am too damned hard on myself. I figure, in the beginning at least, every artist has to find out how hard they can be on themselves and still produce/learn, then dial it back one notch. The conflict between our high standards and our growing skills is what fuel the next project, then the next, and so on.

The secret is to keep producing.

Up, some funky stuff :

Dedicated to the big pickle hater in my life.

I do wonder about those people. The ones for whom the smell of vinegar is wired directly into their disgust center, and provokes a reaction similar (but not identical) to how humans react to urine or feces.

Surprisingly, I really have no theory for that. Some slight but vital mutation in the ammonia receptors in their noses? I dunno. It just strikes as both strange and sad that we have people who react so violently to something so common.

The whole world eats vinegar!

And now, the sad truth about traffic :

Car are about flow. The pleasure of driving is in continuous flow. Traffic ruins flow.

I have had most of those thoughts in my mind for a long time, but it was the realization that human population patterns are essentially random that pulled them all together into a theory of traffic. Nobody is going to start telling people they can’t move someplace because it has reached its peak traffic capacity.

The people already living there might want that, but freedom of residence is too deeply ingrained to budge an inch.

And now, the best piece of music I have done lately, IMHO :

I mean, that sounds like it could totally be the theme to a TV show.

Getting the images was trickier than usual. I wanted the sort of freaky, alienating imagery you’d see in the opening of an X-files type show, but that’s a bit more than a simple Google Image Search can provide.

So I had to just try various adjectives and see what came up. It was a lot of work but I like the results.

I love that super pissed off looking alien in the suit. Holy shit, Zagzorp, who bent your wookie?

More music, this time with a heavier sound :

What can I say. I really like the flute. And I have a ton of really good flute sample.

As was recently pointed out to me, it’s that third sample where I tend to mess up. I am very good at matching basslines to beats, but beyond that, my judgment is apparently impaired.

Oh well, I am learning by doing. If I keep at this, I am bound to get better at it. And if not, whatever.

It’s not like I am expecting to have a career in music. I just do it for fun!

Next up : guess what? More music!

This time, I set out to experiment with chords. Ones I make myself, not samples of chords. I wanted to see if I could create some of those extraordinary effects you get when you start with a simple chord in full sustain then shift one note to change the chord in ways that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I didn’t quite get there with this piece, but I am definitely going to try again.

Next, I talk about major issues of great national importance.

Wacky Lay’s flavours! I love these flavour competitions. The flavours are always impressively complex and realistic. And I love trying new stuff, which would surprise the hell out of my siblings.

Amongst my group of friends, I’m the adventurous eater. Magine.

The other two are the Montreal Smoked Meat and Butter Chicken. Not too keen on either of those, but compulsive thoroughness knows no mercy, so I will get around to trying them both eventually.

I have nothing against smoked meat. I just don’t trust meat based chip flavours after my run in with the cheeseburger flavoured Doritos man years back. Those things really messed me up.

And I have never liked butter chicken. WAY too rich.

And finally, music.

Somewhat successful. Don’t you love that bassline that it starts on. The volume balance is off though, so the climax is a lot louder than I intended. (That’s what SHE said!)

Plus that electric piano riff is just gorgeous. I should try my old method of song generation again, which was to get together all the samples I love and try to make them work together.

Or use them as movements in a symphony. I dunno.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

August Video Roundup (part 2 of 3)

Here we go again!

First up, more music, of course!

How depressing. I remember being so pleased with that piece when I finished it. But listening to it now, it’s not nearly the finely crafted bit of clockwork I thought it was. The timing is off, and the integration is sloppy.

Oh well. At least people also have fun “not what it looks like” and others kinds of type pics. And I am sure I am being harder on my tunes than any listener.

But that’s what it is like to be a creator. For anyone else, it’s just art. But for you, it’s a part of yourself.

Next, another long talker. Twelve minutes!

Probably could have been eight minutes if I planned these things out. But that ain’t gonna happen, at least, not until I am way more emotionally stable. Right now, planning things out robs me of the motivation to do them and gives my neuroses a chance to attack the whole idea and make me feel like the whole thing is stupid and not worth doing and I might as well give up.

It’s a script they know all too well. All I can do is deny them the opportunity.

Our next act is me talking again, but even less coherently.

Glad to see my little attempt at adding some scenery to the vid worked. I don’t know what I thought it might not. I know where the front facing camera is on my tablet. If it is pointing out the window, I’m golden.

Maybe next time I do a vid on the bus, I will just slap my tablet up against the window for the whole thing, and only appear as a voiceover. Give the whole thing the feeling of a documentary, kinda.

Or I could add some Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, throw a black and white film stock filter on it, and boom, it’s the opening to Kids In The Hall.

Next up, a talk I felt very strongly that I should do :

That rambled on even worse than usual. Oy. I get the feeling that my ideas about motivation were not quite done yet when I took them out of the oven for that talk, and so you folks got some half-baked ideas for your troubles.

Oh well, there’s good stuff in there. If you want to be motivated to do something, you already are. There’s no difference between wanting to want something and wanting it.

Next up, I get all perverted with a cartoon. Twice!

That’s quite good animation and art for Russia in the late 50’s. Clearly they were trying to do Disney. Instead, they ended up with something that, to me at least, looks like Easter product packaging come to life.

The original cartoon is much longer, of course, but here’s the thing. The bunnies don’t talk. At all. So all I had to work with was the creepy little girl.

Still, I love how gentle it is. There is zero violence or anger. Just bunnies, a little girl who doesn’t quite understand about pets yet, and a little rescue.

Next up, music with a twist : lyrics!

Of sorts. I do hope people can make out what the robot brothers are saying. The text to speech built into the program I use to compose is not the most sophisticated in the world. I looked around for something better, but all I found were sites you can type text into all right, but it doesn’t output to a file and hence would be a serious pain in the ass to use in my composing.

More music, no lyrics :

Musically very… odd. Angular, and sort of off key sounding, but not entirely unpleasant. If anyone complains, I will just tell them it’s experimental.

That covers just about anything.

Oh, and once more, don’t ask me about the title. It’s not based on anything except the words that popped into my head when it came time to give the damned thing a name.

I really love that I found a very literal interpretation of the title to use as the background image for the vid. Google Image Search did not fail me.

Bext up, the truth about terrorism :

I think the public, by and large, doesn’t think terrorism is important any more. They are more worried about economics, because unlike terrorism, bankruptcy happens. Loss of social status happens. Middle class people slipping into the working poor happens. And parents watching their children flounder in an economy that doesn’t have any room from them happens.

Problem is, all that shit we tacitly agreed to when we were scared of terrorism is still there, soaking up our hard earned tax money and doing absolutely nothing to make anyone safer.

They have our money. They don’t give a shit what we think any more.

Next, another million dollar business idea I am too lazy to pursue :

I like this idea of a cruise ship lifestyle on land. What’s wrong with the idea of an all-inclusive residence? Who wouldn’t want to come home to that kind of easy living? Cooking, cleaning, laundry, everything, all taken care of by the system so you don’t have to take time away from your life to get the little things done.

Of course, like any cruise ship or all-inclusive resort, you would be basically living in a functional socialist city-state.

But people don’t like thinking about that.

Finally, some mellow music to play us out :

Pretty darn groovy, if you ask me. One thing about these low tempo tunes is they give me fewer opportunities to fuck things up. The reasons are technical, but let’s just say that the lower the tempo, the less I have to invent.

Well, that’s it for this trip to Video City. I have a busy evening ahead of me and I haven’t even done today’s video yet, so I had better get down to it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Video Roundup for August 2015 (part 1 of 3)

Sorry it’s been so long, should do these more often, not that hard to post a video after I do it, blah blah blah.

WARNING : As usual, lots of music, but at least a lot of them have slideshows now.

Starting up, we have this sweet little number, A Special Treat.

Funky, fun, not the tightest integration ever, but still quite pleasant.

As you can tell, when I can’t think of a title, I use one that refers to whatever audio clip I have used to end my tune. I use audio clips because it’s a lot easier than figuring out how to end the damn thing.

Next up, we have “Lead In The Chimney, Same As The Door”.

Like I say in the YouTube description for this piece, that is literally the first thing that popped into my mind when I was trying to come up with a title for this piece. And this worries me.

But it was too weird and specific not to use.

Not my best work. It’s fast, but that’s about it. Well, and a certain amount of craftsmanship. But otherwise, it’s just overcaffeinated twitchy garbage.

Damn I am harsh on myself. Lighten up, me!

Next, I get all serious about homelessness and humanism and status and stuff.

This is what happens when you start off a talk without an end goal in mind. But I have given up on end goals because there’s almost no chance I will actually end up there.

Every time I start talking, it’s an adventure.

Given that, it is surprising how good those talks of mine end up being. They are usually a lot more coherent than other ramblers, at least. I’d love to be able to produce tightly edited, fully realized, popcorn sized content bites, but at least point in my life, I don’t have it in me.

But some day I will!

Next we have me messing around with foreign language video by adding my own subtitles, this time to a trailer for a German cyberpunk movie from 1981.

I had agreed to work my magic on that trailer before I realized it didn’t have much speech in it. So what you are seeing there is absolutely every second of speech in the trailer for Decoder.

As for the content, I have two main methods when it comes to doing those. I either make up an absurd story based on what’s in the video, or I base the subtitles on what it sounds like they are saying.

This one was mostly the latter, thus, more random-ish.

Back to music : “The Key To Parenting”.

Gah, that was awful. Oh well, they can’t all be gems. [1] It definitely seems to me that things sound good in my head, while I am making them, that are actually absolute crap.

I feel lucky that any of it comes out okay. I mean, intellectually, I know that all good art comes from making enough bad art to get good at it, but yikes.

Next up is another talker, and warning, it’s over ten minutes long. Apparently, I had a lot more thoughts on the subject of workplace social dynamics than I thought.

That’s how I look with the overhead light and my bedside light AND YouTube enhancement!

Maybe I should dye my beard blonde.

We would be a lot better off if we took off our individualist blinders, accepted that we are social animals not rugged individuals, and stop pretending that nothing exists outside personal concerns.

We are more than an aggregation of individuals. We are social, we are connected, we need one another.

We are human.

Next up, wistful melancholy.

Hmph. I swear, the mix favored the piano more when I composed the damn thing.

I have had those utterly gorgeously sad piano sample for a long time, and that night, I decided to use them. And it would have been gorgeous if I had gotten the volume balance right.

As is, it’s pretty but disjointed and unbalanced. Despite all my efforts, the non-piano elements overwhelm the piano part rather than enhance them.

So much of my creative output would be great if I just took more time with it.

Maybe Kwantlen will teach me to not be in such a hurry to be “done”.

Next up, music…. and astrology!

As many of you know, I am an expert astrologer. Initially, I picked it up from my sister Anne, but then went on to study more on my own, and I know it more or less inside out now.

So in retrospect, it’s obvious that I would be unable to post Vallejo’s Zodiac without saying something about each sign.

As for my little piece of music, not bad. Better than some of the other stuff I am posting tonight.

Not sure those machine-gun strings were a good idea. Oh well.

I have no idea why there is no title for this talk.

I could have called it “Listen To Their Day”, or something.

People don’t really get this point, even though we talk about the value of listening all the time. Since at least the time of Dale Carnegie and his book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, we have been telling each other that we really should listen to one another, but we don’t do it because we are so goddamned spoiled that the idea of enduring half an hour of listening to someone who isn’t as fun as television seems worse than being asked to donate a kidney.

Finally for night, I go a little nuts with the rhythm.

A lot of my little pieces of music end up sounding like they ended just when they were getting started, but that piece kind of takes the prize for that.

Again, too eager to be “done”. Premature publishing! Maybe I should just think about baseball.

Anyhow, not a bad little piece, feeling of non-completion aside. I absolutely love that crazy, delicate yet driving bongo beat. It needs stronger drums to lend it weight, but it just sounds so cool.

I guess that’s it for now. I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow with more video madness.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Productions!

Here we are again

I’m going to talk about Mushi-shi again, but don’t worry… you haven’t traveled back in time to yesterday because you are caught in a Groundhog Day loop. I am only going to use it as a jumping off point.

I just watched an episode of Mushi-shi that was all about a man who couldn’t understand why the smell of flowers at night always made him anxious, and who often felt like he had forgotten something extremely important. He also often felt like he had done things before, been at that exact moment of time before, even if that was impossible.

Turns out, he was the victim of a mushi that bends time into a loop[1]. Every time he reached the moment when he went into a cave that was the mushi’s lair, he went back to the beginning of the loop, way back into his childhood. Once Ginko told him this, he was able to remember not to go into the cave, and experienced the joy of truly new days.

But then his wife fell off a cliff and was gravely injured. He knew he could not get her to a doctor in time to save her life. So he took her through the cave with him, so that they both could live again. [2]

This episode really hit me where I live, because I have suffered from both deja vu and the deep and terrible feeling that I have forgotten something extremely important for my whole life.

Were I inclined towards mysticism, I would think that this means I have some sort of special relationship with time. Like I am caught in a time loop, or I have some kind of precognitive powers that only work in retrospect, or some such thing.

And truth be told, that’s exactly how it feels. When I get one of my intense rushes of deja vu, the sensation is overwhelming and extremely powerful. It really seems like, for a moment, I was suspended in time and that time was going to loop back on itself from that point forward.

It used to terrify me. Who wants to live the same time over again, like in Vonnegut’s Timequake? I suffered from the same fear that Mad King George III did in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, that time was going to start flowing backwards.

Luckily, I am over that now. Or at the very least, I have control over it, which is half a victory at least when it comes to battling a phobia.

Now this deja vu feeling was never a huge problem in my life. The attacks were extremely intense but infrequent. They stick out in my mind because they are the sort of full-mind transcendental experience that leads others to religion, and they probably contribute substantially to my feeling that I’m not really here and the world isn’t really real, but other than that, it’s never been a huge problem in my life.

But I wonder about it. What causes these highly unique and rather frightening mental events? I have read some theories about the causes of deja view, ranging from “harmless mental hiccup” to “sign you’re about to have a seizure”, and various brain regions have been fingered as the place where deja vu happens.

But I have yet to find a truly satisfactory answer, and I suspect that is because the answer I seek is not found in science, but in the depths of my mind. The truth is that any experience of transcendental intensity is going to be flagged in our minds as really, really important, and then we are left with the unenviable task of trying to make sense of it.

This is how religion works, by the way. Telling someone who has had a very intense transcendental feeling of connection to God that God does not exist is futile. They will laugh in your face. The experience is too important to have been caused by nothing. God must exist, otherwise where did that feeling come from?

And that conviction is far more powerful than reason. To them, you are standing under a blue sky trying to prove with science that the sky is green. It doesn’t matter what your facts, figures, and arguments say. You must be wrong. Compared to the personal experience of religion, all else is sophistry and trickery.

So I guess that means that my deja vu attacks are the closest I have come to a religious experience. Perhaps that is why they scared me so. Without any context for the experiences, there can be no meaning to them, and the human mind inherently resists the idea that emotionally intense experiences are meaningless.

Hence, all I could do with the experiences was fear them as we fear anything else we can’t explain. In the context of traditional science and reason, deja vu experiences are meaningless fluctuations in brain activity.

The closest I can come to explaining them is that it really feels like something build up in my mind that, if not expressed another way, will express itself as an attack of deja vu. Like an electric potential builds up, and then discharges all at once as the intense experience of deja vu.

That is a little better than meaning brain hiccup, but not by much. Perhaps one of the perils of a reason-bound mind is that you are simply incapable of processing intense experiences like the ones I have had via deja vu.

As for the feeling that I have forgotten something terribly important, that simply comes from experiencing my own forgetfulness time and time again. That’s not an irrational feeling. Often, it’s completely accurate.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. They never explain why, though. What does the mushi get out of bending time? Eh, whatever.
  2. Frustratingly, the story ends before we can find out if he saves his wife’s life this time through. For me, that was the whole point of going back : so that this time, he could keep her from falling off the cliff. But apparently, that was not the point according to the writer of the episode. Maybe I am being too Western about it.

Why I love Mushi-shi

You know, I didn’t set out to become an otaku. But Netflix is turning me into one.

You see, Netflix Canada has lots of anime on it. And at the beginning, my sole interest was cultural literacy. I wanted to maybe watch some of the anime series that the young furries talk about where I hang out. It would be nice to have something to talk about when they are going on about Phineas and Pherb. I had this whole scenario in my mind where I would ask people if they had seen whatever animes series I had just finished watching and a bunch of people would say “Of course! I love that show!” and then we would talk about it and I would feel a tad less irrelevant.

But no matter what I watched, it was something nobody seemed to know or care about. Even if it was one I had heard them mention. Nobody, thus far, has taken the bait.

This means that either kids these days just aren’t into anime (that’s what their PARENTS are into) or they are into anime but don’t wish to encourage an old phart like me to come stomping around their playground.

I would have had the same reaction to someone my parents’ age if they had tried to talk to me about video games. It’s not that I wanted to be rude or hurtful. It’s just that I would have wanted to avoid a conversation where I would end up having to explain a lot of things and which would involve them getting their old person fingerprints all over my hip, now, young person thing, thus making it less cool via association.

But that doesn’t matter any more, because I watch anime shows because they are interesting now. I watched enough of them for Netflix to start recommending them to me, and that exposed me to more of them, and if the description sounded interesting, I would give it a shot.

That’s how I found Mushi-shi, and so far, it’s my favorite.

The basic premise is that there are millions of creatures, called mushi, who exist in our world but are unseen by most people. They affect our world in ways both big and small, and exist between their dimension and our own.

The episodes follow the adventures of Ginko, a mushi-shi, or mushi master. He wanders pre-Edo Japan, and wherever he goes, there are people who need his help to deal with a mushi related problem.

What I love most about the show is its mood. It has a quiet, deep, respectful mood to it that I find very addictive and soothing. It has a deep reverence for nature and the natural world, and the stories are always about problems, not enemies.

And the stories always take the general form of the exact kind of ghost stories I love, where the supernatural element is a way of literalizing something deep and dark and psychological. A story about a harsh father and his timid daughter might have her literally starting to disappear. A mother can’t get over the loss of her son and one day he shows up again, seemingly alive and well and the same age as when he died. But there’s something a little… off… about him.

Other episodes are more like mysteries. Why is this strange thing happening? An episode I watched recently was about a woman who could seemingly predict when it would rain. Truth was, it rained wherever she went, and so she couldn’t stay in any one place for too long or it would be flooded out.

So she wandered from one drought-stricken place to another. Not the worst gig in the world. At least you are making people happy wherever you go. But the inability to stay in any one place for more than a few days would really wear you down.

Whatever the plot, it is always fascinating, moving, and enjoyable. The story is not always a happy one but the tragedies are as beautiful as the triumphs, and the whole thing has this feeling of spiritual healing that I can’t get enough of.

Plus, it’s set in Japan, a country I find fascinating. There are things about them I greatly admire. It seems like a culture where there is a lot more potential respect going around than our jackass culture. Shinto is a religion I can at least understand because I have never felt the Holy Spirit, but I have felt deep awe and a feeling of harmony in nature.

Not a lot, of course. I’m pretty indoorsy. But I have felt it.

And I believe in a form of living in harmony with nature. For me, it has a lot more to living in harmony with human nature than taking the day off for sakura, but the principle is more or less the same.

After all, Mother Nature made humanity with drives and needs (a lot of them, actually), just like She made birds with the drive to migrate and salmon with the urge to go upstream to spawn. We seek what they tell us to find just like any other animal.

We only get in trouble when we try to deal with these drives by ignoring, punishing, or isolating them. We should be concentrating instead on how people can fulfill those needs without hurting others or bringing society down.

Anyhow, so yeah, I am becoming an otaku. I am even getting the urge to learn Japanese, and I never would have seen that coming. It’s not like it’s a practical language around these parts. I would be better off learning Mandarin or Punjabi.

But maybe it’s a cumulative thing. Once you hear enough of the language, you get the urge to learn it. Most of the shows I watch are dubbed, but Mushi-shi is subtitled only, so I have been hearing a lot of spoken Japanese lately.

Next thing you know, I will be wanting to make a pilgrimage to Japan, even though I know damned well it’s nothing like the version of it in my mind.

Let’s hope I snap out of it by then.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

A good day

It’s been a long and fruitful day. I am more tired than I normally am at this time of day, but I got stuff done.

First came therapy. Not a super productive session, to be honest. Did not delve into any of me deep waters, where my demons lurk. However, he did agree to print out that huge disability form for me on his home printer, so that’s rad. Next time I see him, we will fill it out, and I will send it in via the regular mail like we still live in caves.

So that will get done. I was telling him that odds are, I wouldn’t end up doing the disability thing. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t, but the one thing I did know was that putting pressure on myself to get it done wouldn’t work. For me, pressure only causes me to develop an aversion to whatever the pressure is aimed at, and thus achieves the exact opposite.

So I have to say to myself, maybe I will do it, maybe I won’t. Either is fine. That way, the door is left open for the real way to do things, desire, to come along and give me the motivation to actually do it.

I have to decide, consciously, that I want to do something (or want the result, anyhow), and I want the feeling of accomplishment of actually getting things done instead of caving like a bitch like usual, before I can get over the gumption speedbump and actually do the damned thing.

And sometimes, that takes what I can a “bridge”. Something to get me over the peak of the speedbump and on to the downhill slope of it where gravity can help me. Today, Doctor Costin, my therapist, gave me that bridge. The only other way I could have gotten the form printed would be to find the local equivalent of Kinko’s and sent the PDF to them to print, which would have cost me money and involved research, going into the unknown, and dealing with people I don’t know.

That’s like a hat trick of things I find challenging.

So Doctor Costin printing it out for me is sufficient to act as my “bridge” to doing the smart thing and filling out this ridiculous form in order to get disability money for my education.

I also mentioned that I thought that I needed to accept that sometimes, I am not going to do the smart thing. And that’s okay. Nobody is smart and sensible one hundred percent of the time. I am neither an angel nor a saint. I am going to fuck up from time to time, either because I just don’t have in me what doing the smart thing will cost me, or as just a minor act of rebellion against the tyranny of the superego.

It’s a tricky thing, this figuring out how to get through life without pressure. I feel like I am starting over from scratch. I am going to have to unlearn a lot of bad habits, and learn to do things in a more harmonious and groovy way.

After therapy, we made a brief stop at Coastal Sleep, my CPAP dealer. [1] Last time I went to see Marielle, she gave me the same blood oximeter that I’d had the time before, so we could get some fresh readings as to what my blood oxygen levels are like when I sleep with the CPAP on NOW.

She said she only needed a couple of nights, but I threw in a third, because it’s not much hassle and I figure, the more info the better. I am curious to know how things are doing too.

Then, it was over to Money Mart to cash this month’s check. Good news : there was no lineup. Bad news : I got this spinny fucking teller who had apparently never seen a check with a small rip in it before (happened when opening the envelope) and was all, “OMIGOD, what do I DO?” and had to wait to ask her manager about it, who of course was also dealing with customers who had come in after I did. Then that all happened again when she opened her drawer and only then realized that it was mostly empty and she needed a cash disbursement.

And of course, that meant waiting for the manager (a very cool black dude with a Rafiki from Lion King accent) again, and meanwhile, I am cooling my heels watching people who came in way after me get served.

So that was aggravating. But I can live with it. And after that, it was our usual stop at 7-11 so I can buy the Diet Coke and munchies to see me till my main shopping on Friday. I got my usual two cheddar smokies and an order of potato wedges to eat when I got home, too.

Then, Joe, Julian, and I watched a couple of episodes of Archer. And then I came in here to blog.

And you were here for the rest!

So all in all, a happily busy day, at least by my current standards. Not too long from now, I will be attending Kwantlen, and then my life will begin a whole new chapter.

And hopefully I will be able to put my sad days of depressive drifting and hiding from the world behind me, and go on into the future that was not destroyed but merely delayed by my depression.

I can’t wait for the opportunity to prove to the world just how crazy smart and talented I am, and bid an extremely unfond farewell to my days of self-loathing and self-negation.

I need this. I need the feeling of momentum and purpose in my life. I need to be someplace where my gifts can shine. I need to have something to grant structure to my life.

And what’s more important… I really really want it, too.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Ask me nice and I can hook you up. Tell them “Michael” sent you. Oh, and the password is a loud, wet snore.

Loving the weird

As regular readers (hello, you lovely people!) know, I have a rough theory of the common traits of intellectuals. Well recently it has occurred to me that intellectuals share a trait that I didn’t list in my original theory : love of the weird.

It is a subset of our love for mental stimulation. For people who need a great deal of mental stimulation, strange and unusual things are a breath of fresh air. The normal, by definition, is what is usually around, and the human mind automatically tunes out familiar stimuli. The normal, therefore, provides no stimulation at all. This can lead to the greatest fear of intellectuals, which is boredom.

So we automatically seek out the new, the fresh, and the different. The form and degree vary from intellectual to intellectual, but every intellectual is, by default, looking for something that stands out from the background noise of the humdrum. The search for mental stimulation takes care of that.

This is different from people of normal IQ. For them, the strange and unusual is far more troublesome. They might well find some strange things amusing, in a clownish way, but other strange things will frighten and confuse them. For them, that selfsame humdrum world is more soothing and comforting than boring and intolerable. They stick to the main corridors of life, knowing that by doing so, they will remain safe.

This need for the new and strange, then, is one of the factors that put intellectuals and regular folk on different paths. It is one of the things that causes the average Joe or Jolene to think we are very weird. They look at us and see how we casually disregard the border between the normal and safe and everything else, and they just plain don’t understand. They can’t imagine anything that would drive a person out into the outer darkness when everything they could possibly need was available right here in the normal world.

Or so they think.

This brings me to another mark of the intellectual I missed before : choosing individuality over conformity. High intelligence leads naturally to a higher confidence level in the products of our minds and our ability to figure out the answer for ourselves, and this combined with our need for the new and strange leads us to reject conformity as boring and an affront to our individuality, and hence, we go our own way.

This is perfectly in tune with the freethinking ideals laid down by the intellectuals who founded modern democratic cultures, but that does not mean it is without cost. By disregarding conformity to various degrees, we make ourselves seem unsafe and hence unacceptable to the rest of the herd, and we end up ostracized as a result.

Normal people actively avoid anything that might make them seem weird, because to them, being singled out of the herd as strange and hence unsafe would be to have the comfort of the familiar yanked away from them, and that is unthinkable.

We intellectuals lack the kind of social sense required to stay in the middle of the herd, and if we had it, we would likely disregard it as unimportant and/or unnecessarily restrictive. Our mental self-confidence leads us to feel much safer than the average person with mental exploration into what lies outside the normal, and our curiosity (in other words, the active form of the need for mental stimulation) drives us out there to find out what it is that the others fear.

Thus, the intellectual, merely by following their natural inclinations, ends up isolated from the mainstream of society.

One of the ways this manifests is in our sense of humour. Intellectuals, as a group, have a high appetite for abstract absurdity and even downright nonsense. Hence their love of Monty Python and skit comedy in general. Humour that the average person either doesn’t get because it relies on knowledge and a form of thinking unavailable to non-intellectuals, or they understand it fine but don’t see what could possibly be funny about it.

The comedy we consume has to be at least somewhat bizarre and surreal in order to even keep our attention. Comedy requires surprise, and it is harder to surprise someone with a higher than average IQ. We will “see it coming” at a much higher rate than the average person, and that means the demands we place on comedy are quite a bit higher than the usual stuff.

And so it goes with the rest of our tastes as well. We develop an aversion towards anything that has too much of the smell of the herd on it because it is therefore a lot more boring and furthermore will have a lot more competition for it. All intellectuals, being edge of the herd dwellers, have an innate fear of getting trampled by the herd’s sudden changes of direction, and we would rather eat scraps than fight through the throng for our share of the bigger pie.

It doesn’t matter to you who wins the rat race if your main concern is not being a rat in the first place.

And the thing is, nobody creates intellectuals. You can encourage them or suppress them, but they will occur naturally in any human population. Those of higher IQ are an emergent phenomenon of the human race, and we have to consider that perhaps we are meant to be the thinking part of natural human society.

Note that I did not say we are the leaders. Intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient condition of human leadership, and indeed, the barriers to social understand engendered by the intellectual’s strong preference for products of the mind over products of instincts makes many intellectuals terrible leaders. In order to lead, you have to understand the herd, not ignore them with all your might.

So our duty, as it were, is to think and explore. Luckily, like a flock of starlings, this complex phenomenon requires nothing more of us than, ironically, following our natural instincts.

Keep up the good work, everybody!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

About the Amazon thing

I saw this whole thing coming.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it, it has recently surfaced in the mainstream media that working conditions at these giant Amazon fulfillment centers (basically warehouses where they put your order together and ship it) are terrible. Specifically, it’s a very high-pressure, coldblooded, morale-killing wasteland where employees (all of whom are of low social status, whether it’s working class people or college kids) are held to an inhuman standard of efficiency and a lot of people get ground up and spit out of the system shattered and disillusioned.

I was worried this would happen.

When I first heard that Amazon was building these giant cube shaped fulfillment centers, I got nervous. Large scale facilities have a tendency to become as cold and dehumanizing as something out of Metropolis, and I was worried that even a golden-halo company like Amazon would fall prey to the inherent problems with this particular form of systemization.

Turns out, I was right to be worried.

Then, about a year ago, I started reading personal accounts of what life was like in an Amazon cube, and it confirmed my worst suspicions. Entirely the wrong kind of people were in control, and something akin to a human disaster was the result.

These people are clearly those who think efficiency is measured in numbers and whatever makes those numbers go up is good. Their narrow definition of efficiency ignores non-quantifiable human costs and drives them to demand increasingly inhumane things of their employees and feel nothing but glee at the fact that they made their numbers better.

Then something like a crisis in morale and subsequent breakdown of the entire work environment starts making those numbers go in the wrong direction and they are mystified, absolutely mystified, as to what might have caused it.

Sooner or later, they will blame the workers for not being enough like unfeeling machines and for having pesky needs like humanity, warmth, comfort, consideration, and some kind of sense that the system gives a shit whether they live or die.

Money in, work out! That’s how these people think it’s supposed to be.

So the situation at these fulfillment centers is dire. All the employees are expected to fulfill a very high number of orders per second, despite the fact that their inventory system puts incoming items in whatever space is available and therefore to fulfill one order, you might have to go all over the giant warehouse to get everything. New employees are given a woefully inadequate amount of time to get up to speed, and if they don’t, they are fired and replaced by someone else who is desperate for a job.

See, this, to me, is the real problem with high unemployment. It’s not just that it makes people poor. It’s that it makes them exploitable. The higher the unemployment rate, the shittier the workers can be treated.

And I am sure that’s exactly how the powers that be like it. Quick tip : if you can’t afford to quit your job, then you are not free. The whole premise of labour capitalism is that because you are free to quit a job where you are treated poorly, and this puts pressure on the system to treat their workers better, the workers are free, not slaves.

But how free can anyone be if losing their job will mean their children starve?

Anyhow, back to Amazon. Up to this point in my revelation, a point could be made that the conditions at these centers are harsh and it’s a demanding job, but overall it’s not that bad. I mean, some people must be able to meet these goals or the whole system would break down, right? So it’s a tough job, but it pays $15/hour, so it’s clearly worth it to people.

But the thing that clinched it for me, that proved that entirely the wrong kind of people are in charge, was that they have a snitching program, where employees are encouraged, and rewarded, for reporting their fellow workers slacking off and/or breaking the rules somehow.

And there are a LOT of rules.

Now that is out and out lunacy. The literature proving snitch programs are a terrible idea could fill the Grand Canyon. There is absolutely nothing that is a more effective morale killer. Sowing mistrust and paranoia amongst your employees is a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE idea and the very idea that the people in charge of these places would enact a policy that is the most deadly morale assassin known to humanity despite the fact that business literature is nearly unanimous in its opposition to it proves, without a doubt, that there are some cruel hearted bastards who hde their sadism behind their piss poor definition of “efficiency” in charge at these fulfillment gulags.

These bastards are primarily to blame for the problem, of course. But the mother corp bears some responsibility too, for farming the jobs out to these facilities then treating those fulfillment centers as “black boxes” that you never open as long as they continue to give you what you want.

I am sure a lot of the people who have been at Amazon for a long time, well educated middle class Silicon Valley types, are shocked, shocked to find out that the working class people doing the grunt work are being treated poorly. After all, they never told anyone to do that!

But as the Stanford Prison Experiment, Abu Graib, and countless other examples, nobody needs to force evil into existence. All they have to do is set up the conditions for it, and then stop paying attention.

The nerds at Amazon can say, quite truthfully, that they had no idea that any of this was going on. And that’s the problem. They should have known what evils were being done in their name.

But they chose to close their eyes to what was going on inside their fulfillment centers, and as a certain song of which I am fond says, evil grows in the dark.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Little black cloud

I am in a lousy fucking mood.

Dunno why. It’s not like something catastrophic or even mildly upsetting has happened. My blood sugar isn’t low, as far as I can tell, and I am getting awesome sleep these days. I should be at least doing decently.

But no, I feel like crap. I feel like I want to snap and growl at people. My head aches, my muscles ache, my joints ache. I feel painfully swollen all over. And it has put me in foul mood.

I really hate the whole world right now, because everything in it hurts me.

I am sure this is a transient thing. I will probably feel better once I have been upright and hydrating for a while. This too will pass, and all that.

But I decided to write about it anyhow because I wanted to capture it in words. And I wanted to express my cranky feelings in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody.

As you all know quite well by now, I have taken a lifelong oath never to take my negative feelings out on others. That’s what my father did to us, and I absolutely cannot do it if I have any fucking say about it.

And, possibly to a fault, I do.

Is there such a thing as too much self-control? I feel like there is. You can do yourself a lot of harm with that iron self control business. Happy people probably find the happy medium, letting their emotions rule some of the time and saving the really harsh inner suppression for important occasions when there is a lot at stake.

But me, I suppress nearly everything. And especially anger. Like I said before, I don’t know how to express anger in a healthy way. It’s still 90 percent nothing and 10 percent explosion with me. The amount of latent anger I have in me due to all the pain and loneliness that I didn’t even have the ability to acknowledge to myself at the time is staggering, and if I think about it, it becomes obvious that this anger/pain reservoir is a major source of my depression.

Depression is anger turned inwards, after all. You take it out on yourself. And then you take the anger from THAT out on yourself. And so on until you have destroyed yourself like a mad golem.

My therapist thinks I should scream into a pillow or something like that in order to express it all. And he’s probably right. That might well do me a lot of good.

But I’m scared. My rage frightens me. And it’s so much easier (not better, just easier) to keep on turning my head away from it and pretending it isn’t there. I feel like if I confront it, it will explode like an atom bomb and blast me and everyone around me to pieces. Just thinking about my anger makes me feel like going on some kind of rampage of destruction.

And those are generally a bad idea.

I need some sort of emotional bomb squad to come in and disarm my anger nuke, and then maybe take it somewhere safe for a controlled explosion in a blast chamber somewhere.

Even seen one of those? They are so cool.

But of course, no such bomb squad exists. Nobody else can come in and make it so that I don’t have to deal with it myself. It’s my anger, my pain, and my wounds. Nobody can deal with them but me.

So fuck it.

Okay, not really. I want all that shit gone and for that it’s either therapy or ayuasca(sp?).

Maybe I should go find a fight worth fighting, and work it out that way. I could be a powerful force for any given cause, what with my verbal and emotive skills and deep personal convictions. But deep down I am afraid that would never be able to get people to take me seriously enough in order to get to show what I could do.

Or that it doesn’t matter how passionate and potent you are, you still have to pay your dues and work your way up, and I am not sure I could be that patient. If that was the deal, I would have to strike out on my own.

I suppose there is nothing keeping me from doing that anyhow, and to hell with the people in charge of the official part of crusading for causes. But then I would have to choose a cause and run with it, and we all know that is not going to happen.

There’s so many things which could benefit from my putting the right memes out there. That’s what I want the most. To be able to destroy bad ideas with good ones. To free people from beliefs they know deep down are wrong but can’t find a way out of. To do the articulation for people who have something to say but don’t know how to say it.

That is, I think, my highest calling. Being a thought leader. A visionary. And I could go on and on about how I don’t know how to get started, or how to get people to take me seriously, or whatever, but we all know knowledge has little to do with it.

It’s that option paralysis thing again. My creative mind sees so many possibilities. Too many. I just can’t choose.

The best I can do is put myself in a position where life can help me choose. Try a bunch of things and go with whatever seems to work out the best. Or whatever I can get paid to do. Whatever.

Going back to school should inject some momentum into my life. And soak up my excess mental energy, at least some of it. Getting organized enough to get to classes, going to the class, doing the classwork. That should take up my time.

Oh shit. I was going to do a video roundup today. I always forget!

I will do it when I talk to you nice people tomorrow.

This sunlit Saturday

Ya know I am low on mental energy when I name my day’s column after the day of the week it’s on.

Anyhoo. Just finished watching the Penguins Of Madagascar movie. For the uninitiated, the Madagascar series of animated movies have a team of four penguins who are quite funny and popular in them, and they got their own movie.

Kind of like the Minions from the Despicable Me series.

Quick review : Recommended! It’s not hilarious or amazingly moving, but I enjoyed it. The characters are engaging and fun. The humour is quick and at times even witty. Animation is, to my eyes, superb. Not bad for a kids’ movie.

John Malkovitch voices the villain, a penguin-hating octopus named Dave. Nice to see him doing voice work. It allows him to be funny and wacky and fun without his high inherent creepiness factor making it all weird.

So yeah. Good flick.

But tonight, I force myself to go back to talking about myself. It’s been a nice little vacation from myself, this time of reviewing movies I just finishes, and I will do it more in the future.

But self-therapy takes precedent. Even though part of me is screaming for me to take the easy way out.

Yell all you want. I got stuff to work on.

Something odd happened late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning. My week had been (for me) nicely busy, and then Thursday was going to be a day with no particular “thing” to do, and that should have been a good thing.

But I was pondering the day to come before bed on Wednesday night, and I had the thought “I am not looking forward to figuring out what to do with myself tomorrow.”, and with that thought, it was like something that I had been holding back without knowing it broke loose and flooded into my mind like an avalanche.

It was this heavy, lugubrious feeling, and at first I couldn’t identify it. But when I was dealing with it the next day, I soon recognized the feeling.

It was the feeling of time being something to endure rather than something to enjoy or even to use. Without realizing it, I had been suppressing that feeling and finding at least some meaning in my days for a long time, but it had been building in the back of my mind for a long long time, so that by the time Thursday night rolled around, all it took was a thought to let it loose.

Can’t say I am too happy with it coming back. Especially because it brought its favorite tool with it : sleepiness. The urge to fast forward life via sleep (because what’s the point of staying awake? For what?) is back, and I really, really didn’t miss it.

The best thing I can say is that its return has made me keenly aware of it and able to react against it, and that’s the first crucial step in overcoming it permanently.

Now I could just be overdramatizing things. I have had these sleepy patches before without it being a catastrophe. Maybe this is just one of them, and I have been sleeping a lot because I need to sleep a lot in order to catch up on my REM sleep.

Kind of hoped the CPAP would take care of that, actually. But as I learned at my Coastal Sleep appointment yesterday, my CPAP use has practically eliminated my sleep apnea. With the adjustments to the setting, my sleep lady Marielle and I hope to eliminate it completely so that I will be actually sleeping like a normal person for possibly the first time in my life.

So I dunno. Maybe this is my last REM backlog burn-through. But I somehow doubt it. As I have been using the CPAP, I have felt like there was something missing from my sleep, something I wasn’t getting. This feeling of deficit, in turn, would make me want to sleep without the CPAP on.

Hence my not quite sufficient compliance rate. In order for the BC government to buy me this CPAP device, my compliance rate, which is defined as how much I use it for four hours or more in a row, has to be at least 80 percent, and right now it is only 71 percent. So I will try to use it more from now on.

But the question remains : what the heck am I missing? I think it must be REM sleep. So either I have a sleep issue entirely unrelated to my sleep apnea, which would really suck, or the CPAP machine is somehow messing with my REM sleep.

I am pretty sure it must be the former, because I have had this cycle of low REM leading to “sleepy days” for a long time. I thought it was related to my sleep apnea, but maybe not. Maybe there is some primal psychological tension in my mind, some excess of left-brained control over the right, that makes it hard for me to let dreams happen, even in sleep.

It’s sad how plausible that is to me. At least I know I am too left-brained for my own good.

As often happens during these sleepy times, I find myself getting really mad at the sleepiness. I don’t want to slumber through life, I want to live through it. But sleep is so tempting an escape.

Probably my best course is to stop fighting it and just sleep as much as my body wants me to sleep until I am done. The idea that sleeping a lot represents a form of moral backsliding is probably bad for me. It’s just another example of how depression sets up these situations in the mind where the task is defined so rigidly and with such absurdly high standards that failure is guaranteed, thus protecting the depression’s hold on you by convincing you that trying is futile.

My sentences are just crazy complicated tonight.

Anyhoo, I will do what I can about not being so judgmental about myself, and instead letting things work themselves out.

Hopefully, going to Kwantlen 4 days a week will help work some of this shit out.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.