How Hillary can beat Trump

This is how it’s done.

Hillary Clinton needs to completely abandon all attempts at being warm, friendly, approachable, nice, or even human, and embrace her inner darkness. She needs to drop all the bullshit that just makes her Uncanny Valley creepy because it’s all so clearly and clangingly insincere and play to her strengths, and as hubby Bill knows, that means embracing the face that she is an ice cold ambitious heartless vindictive snow queen, and Donald Trump should piss his PJ’s every time her name is mentioned because she is the Mother of Dragons and he’s lower than the dragon shit on her shoes.

She should amp up the scariness until all Republicans know who the scarier monster is.

When they call her a murderer, she should says “That’s never been proven in a court of law. By the way, how are your kids? ” then name every single one their kids by name, age, and current place of residence, including which window is their bedroom.

When they go after her for Benghazi, she should say “All the people responsible for that attack are now dead. Of…. accidents. ”

When they rag on her for the email bullshit, she should says “You should be more worried about the pictures I have of you and a certain special someone who is not your spouse on my private server. ”

Her nomination is a foregone conclusion. She doesn’t have any reason to play human any more. Donald Trump talks tough but he’s nowhere near as scary as she is. If she fully embraced her demonic powers, she could make him look weak, cowardly, indecisive, and ineffectual. That would completely jinx his mojo. His whole deal now is that he seems strong to his mental midget fan base. But he’s all hot air. She could seem way, way stronger if she really went for the fucking jugular.

And she needn’t worry about how she is coming across to the Democratic base. They are cowards too, and hence will be too cowed by her to even think of voting from anyone else. There might be some very quiet bitching about her coming across as “shrill” or “too aggressive”, but that won’t have any effect on the election.

In fact, you know what? I think I just wrote this week’s sketch, right now, in my head. Now it’s just a matter of the wording…

I wish I could cut n’ paste the script into here, but the formatting would go all to hell. So I will have to link to the PDF.

Here it is.

It might be a tad over the top for some. But I personally love this version of Hillary. Fuck trying to appease people. Fuck trying to be something she is not. Now is the time for her to bare her fangs and sink her teeth into Little Donnie’s jugular like the vampire queen of the harpies she is.

She might even steal his base that way. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Heck, she might even make people like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un scared of her.

Embrace the darkness, Hillary!

Today was a full day at school. There will be another on Thursday. It’s really no big deal. Once I have made it to school and made it through the first class of the day, hanging around for another is not a big effort. Ya know… whatevs.

The morning class was TV Spec. Presented my beat sheet for Bob’s Burgers. Was rather disappointed and confused by its reception – people thought both my Louise and Gene plots were out of character for them. I would counter that their understandings of the characters is far too shallow.

They thought Louise didn’t care what anyone thought of her, and that is patently untrue. She’d like people to think she doesn’t care, but she totally does. The fact that she wants people to think she doesn’t care proves that. Plus, it’s not like her turning on her new friend was a premeditated move. She didn’t plan it, she just had the wrong reaction in a stressful situation that caught her by surprise. We’ve all been there. And we have seen before that, underneath the attitude, she really does care, sometimes very deeply. The inner conflict in my episode is between her pride and her conscience.

Her conscience wins, and when someone like her’s pride break down, it breaks down completely.

They also thought Gene didn’t care what people thought of him, and that is also blatantly untrue. Gene wants to be an entertainer and is always trying to attract attention to himself and trying to make people laugh, or impress them. The fact that he is oblivious to how he comes across does not mean he does not care.

Trust me… I have been there.

They also complained, get this, about the fact that the Gene and Louise plots start similarly, in that they both start with one of the characters meeting someone they like. To them, that made them the same. Never mind the fact that, other than that, the plotlines are nothing alike. To them, things that start the same are the same, period.

And that’s so blinkered and lacking in vision that it drives me nuts.

Still, some of the notes were good. I need to put in more Bob and Linda, just so they get their lines. I am sure there are episodes where they focus on the kids and the parents are on the periphery of the plot, despite what the class thinks, but I agree there should be more B&L beats, probably involving the kids coming to them for advice and them not knowing what to say because the kids are not exactly explaining their problems coherently.

All in all, though, it was a stressful and confusing process. Normally I love the workshopping, but this time I just went away with the feeling that the class doesn’t get me and now I have to wonder how much weight to give their input.

Arting is hard, y’all.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

A world gone mad

Even a very determined political optimist like myself can understand why it seems like the world’s gone crazy lately.

It hasn’t, of course. This is still the best time to be alive on planet Earth that there has ever been. All the things that make it seem like the world is going crazy – the rise of right wing politicians all over the world’s democracies, American political paralysis in the face of amazing amounts of horrific gun violence, the rise of Trump as the summation of all that is evil about modern conservatism – all of this is bad, but most of it does not actually change anything. If you live in a country that has the luxury of worrying about right wingers rising in the polls, congratulations, because that means you live in a democracy and probably have it better off than at least half of the world no matter how poor you are.

And sure, there are a lot of shootings in America – it’s never been more popular – but these are still tiny blips on the statistical radar. The average person is just as safe as they would be if none of those shootings had of those shootings had ever happened. Yes, these crimes are horrific, senseless acts of brutal violence, and that tends to command our attention – that’s why people do it, after all. But they mean very little to your daily life.

The rise of the right wing is considerably more damaging, but I can’t see a way out of it. Right minded individuals can only do their best to limit the damage and talk the general public down from their crazed state. Demographics have a rather cruel inevitability to them, and as the Baby Boomers age they get stupider and meaner and more on the market for easy solutions that don’t require thinking but that let you vent your impotent rage on targets so weak that even a coward like you doesn’t feel like they are a threat.

The best thing I can say about this period is that once these fuckheads get into power, it becomes obvious even to their supporters that they have made a terrible mistake and that the things that they thought sounded so good when they were just political slogans and talking points are actually phenomenally stupid ideas that never should have been implemented by anyone, ever. After all, one of the many things the world had learned from the Brexit fiasco is that right wingers are perfectly willing to vociferously and wholehearted support policies that they know would be a bad idea if they were implemented, but sure are fun when you and your buddies get together for a good old fashioned hate-fest.

And yes… this applies to extreme left wingers too. Neither side has a monopoly on substituting emotionally appealing ideology for thought, reason, common sense, and connection to reality.

And Trump is the Lizard King of it all. He’s officially the Republican Annointed One now, and there’s nothing they can do to stop him. These next few days should be mighty interesting, then, because now the GOP has absolutely no way to separate themselves from the things he says. He speaks for the GOP now, and no matter what idiotic, psychotic, sociopathic thing he says, all the people who are still in the party will have to support and defend it.

And if that becomes too painful, they will leave the party. Some vocally, but most quietly. They will just stop showing up to certain events, and stop participating in certain forums. Up until now, supporting Trump in public has not been too painful, and could actually be fun when it got you on TV to defend yourself.

But the closer the actual election gets, the greater the pain – both from the growing hordes of right wing Trump haters and from the massive amounts of cognitive dissonance building up in the brains of people trying to keep the ideas of “Trump should be President” and “absolutely everything he says, does, and says he’ll do” from making their brains melt and flow out their ears.

Like I have said in this space before, conservatives do not have a choice as to what to believe. They lack the metacognitive strength for it. They can’t actually derive their beliefs from observation and analysis because that’s just too much information with insufficient mental bandwidth to spare for it. So they have to believe what they are told to believe by the people they have accepted as smart and trustworthy and politically palatable. If it doesn’t pass the sniff test, they reject it. If they do, they accept it, at least consciously.

And thought it may seem sometimes like they are immune to cognitive dissonance, they are not. They simply have a deep driving emotional need that can, in some circumstances, override it. They can gloss over a lot in order to maintain their all important sense of certainty – but this is an emotional act, and as such is subject to emotional disturbance. If Trump stops feeling right to them, then the anti-Trump Republicans can gain the upper hand. And all that takes is that the deep down feeling of wrongness that is growing within even the diehards continues to grow until it poisons the warm glow of certainty and forces the populace to leap for the next source of certainty : that Trump is terrible.

A lot of the GOP have already made that jump. More will follow, I think. Trump is an out of control pedagogue, and sooner than people think and later than they hope, they go too far and say something that their audience simply refuses to assimilate, and therefore can act as their face-saving “jump ship” signal.

“I was with him up till that point, but when he said age of consent laws coddle children, I had to put my foot down. ”

It’s tempting to think that there is nothing he can say to lose his rabid supporters now.

And it’s true, there won’t be…. until he says it.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Of doors and penguins

It was a couple of days before Kate Schechter became aware of any of these things, or indeed of anything at all in the outside world.
She passed the time quietly in a world of her own in which she was surrounded as far as the eye could see with old cabin trunks full of past memories in which she rummaged with great curiosity, and sometimes bewilderment. Or, at least, about a tenth of the cabin trunks were full of vivid, and often painful or uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine-tenths were full of penguins, which surprised her. Insofar as she recognised at all that she was dreaming, she realised that she must be exploring her own subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are supposed only to use about a tenth of their brains[1], and that no one was very clear what the other nine-tenths were for, but she had certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins.
–Douglas Adams in “The Long Dark Tea Time Of The Soul”

I would love to be able to do that. Just go through my memories like I am going through old clothes, and figure out which ones I should keep and which ones I should throw out. That’s something me and my massive metaconscious would really enjoy. It would be like getting to re-index your mind. Defrag your mental hard drive.

But instead, of course, I have to do it the hard way like everyone else. Especially now that I don’t have therapy helping me along any more.

I could still be going to therapy, now that my schedule is opening up. It’s not too difficult for me to figure out when I have time off in a week. I am sure I could find a time when both Doctor Costin and I are free. It’s just a matter of logistics and coordination.

But I would have to get there and back on my own, and therein lies the problem. That’s a very large gumption trap and I am not quite good enough yet at getting out of those on my own. To get there on my own would involve a bus ride there, a walk from the bus stop to the office, a walk back to the bus stop, and a bus ride home. And that…. is a lot of effort.

I’m not saying it wouldn’t be worth it. But I just don’t have that kind of effort to spare any more.

Plus I am really starting to worry about what my poor feet go through every school day. It takes a very long time for my feet to recover from the walk. The first time I get up from the computer after coming home is always agony. And I am always eager to get my damned shoes off.

I suppose, speaking of doctors, that I should make an appointment with my GP to get that looked at. It is possible that somewhere out there is technology that would allow me to walk without pain. It has been so long since that was true that I find it hard to believe that it’s even possible. I have a terrible fear that the doctor will just shrug and tell me to lose weight, even thought my GP, Doctor Chao, is a very sweet guy and would never say something like that.

Even if there was nothing medical science could do, he would be super sensitive in how he told me. He’s good that way.

And I know the fear that nothing can be done is the depression talking. Yet the fear remains. Depression is a mental illness and all mentally ill people have to come face to face with the fact that their minds are not entirely their own. That there are things they believe (or even see) without or despite evidence and that no simple act of will or mind will banish these beliefs.

Believing things you know aren’t true is the real meaning of mental illness, at least for me.

After all, I am Mister Rational. I have great power of logic and reason. And I don’t just use logic and reason, I believe in them. I take some pride in being naked before the truth… a slave to the evidence. That means that no matter where the evidence leads, I shall follow, period.

That, though, assumes that I have full mastery over my mind and my beliefs, and that is something no human being has ever had. Even a cold rationalist myself can admit there are things he believes a priori to any evidence – thinks like “it matters what happens to humans”.

But this isn’t about that. This is about following a chain of evidence to what you know to be true – and not being able to believe it. That’s when you are truly cognizant of the limitations placed upon you by your illness. It’s like a big thick wall between you and the truth, and the human mind is not capable of holding onto truths it does not believe.

So the truth slips away from even a muscular rationalist like myself. In fact, if I were less of a hardcore philosopher, what is beyond my reach would not bother me so much. Most people live in the twilit world between the objective and the subjective and are comfortable there. Or at least, comfortable enough to not feel the need to pursue the truth so relentlessly as I, and therefore do not end up with some of their self-worth, not to mention their sanity, tied up with their belief in their ability to believe whatever the evidence says is true.

But in my mind, the things I cannot help but believe regardless of evidence stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. In many ways I have an extremely organized and optimized mind where everything fits together like a n-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, and belief without evidence cannot be made to fit in it anywhere.

But I am not helpless. The rational can fight back by stopping irrational self-talk and replacing it with something more rational and balanced. Over time, if you do this enough, and with enough ruthless determination, the bad beliefs shift towards the good.

For example, I no longer hate myself nearly as much as I used to, long ago.

Upward and onwards, children!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Compulsive disclaimer : Of course, the whole idea that we only use one tenth of our minds is absolute bullshit, which should have been obvious to anyone with even one tenth of a brain.

Home at last

Sometimes, just making it to Friday makes you feel like you are sliding into home base barely under the catcher’s mitt.

And yes, that’s a sports reference, and that means some of you won’t get it. Feel free to Google it. I only passed gym class because I aced the written tests that the gym teacher was always so uncomfortable giving out, presumably because it brought back painful memories of life outside the gym, where you’re expected to know stuff.

One junior high gym teacher in particular, Mister Anderson – no, not this guy…

neo stops bullets

..really didn’t like it. He always looked sullen and uncomfortable when he gave us the written tests. I, of course, was thrilled to see them, because tests were something I did very, very well. And I always felt he sensed that and that added to his discomfort, because usually he was the one with the advantage. I was, and remain, very uncoordinated, and back then I was also whiny and wimpy too.

And like all gym teachers, he seemed to believe that mocking the weak will someone make them stronger. Or maybe getting to mock the smart kids for not being good at entirely useless physical skills is the whole allure of the job. It’s like institutionalized bullying.

I wonder how many gym teachers are former bullies? I’d guess… a LOT.

But I got my revenge on Mister Anderson because it was during junior high that two important things happened : one, I went through my first major growth spurt so I rapidly become way taller than him (he was a little dude, really), and two, I became confident/fatalistic[1] enough to just ignore him whenever I felt like it.

Nope, not gonna do gymnastics any more.
Nope, not going to do three laps when I can barely survive one.
Nope. not going to participate in soccer drills after you made fun of me. Make fun of me, I quit.

And I got away with this for the usual reasons : I knew I was an academically excellent student and so I didn’t have to worry about my grade in gym, and I knew my parents didn’t give a shit about gym class so if he called them to report my lack of cooperation, they would not back him up.

The same thing happened in elementary school. There, the teacher was Mister Thompson, a tall guy with a droopy mustache who looked like a baseball player to me. One day, when we were using the gym at Holland College because the gym in our school SUCKED SO BAD[2], I got so fed up with facing mockery in the locker room and above that I decided that when everyone went into the gym to practice volleyball, I was going to stay in the locker room and enjoy some goddamned peace and quiet for once.

This, of course, got me in big trouble. So Mister Thompson ordered me to meet him in the tiny little office attached to the gym, and began to berate me. I was, shall we say, unimpressed.

Then he made the mistake of saying “What would your mother think of how you’re acting?” This was a mistake, because my mother worked at Holland College at the time.

So said “I don’t know, why don’t we ask her? She’s right down the hall!”

He didn’t take me up on that. Just drove me back to school (the buses had left) in stony silence.

I suppose from the point of view of some people, that was a brave thing to do. But I didn’t experience as bravery. It wasn’t bravery, it was being capable of anything when I am pissed off and defiant. That’s a form of courage, I suppose, but it’s hardly noble.

It’s certainly gotten me into trouble a lot more times than it has helped.

Once again, I must say : Jesus, was I a handful. All the moreso because most of the time, I was an obedient student who did not cause trouble. And I got great grades, which is not something you ordinarily associate with the disruptive or difficult kids.

Not until they are teens, anyhow.

But like I have said before, I had a deadly combination of stubbornness, creativity, intelligence, and the deep knowledge that the teachers could not actually force me to do anything. And a defiant streak inches long but miles deep. So I would occasionally do things like refuse to do what the teacher told me to do, or correct a teacher, or argue with them.

Presumably, every single time, it came out of nowhere from the point of view of the teacher. And it would have been one thing if I had also been proud, independent, and aloof. But I wasn’t. I was very needy and clingy, which must have been pretty rich coming from the same kid who could, at any moment, effortlessly destroy your authority with nothing more than a look that says “I know you’re full of shit. ”

Should there have been someone around who could handle me, besides Mrs. Rogers my fifth grade teacher? In the abstract, yes, of course. There should have been someone there for me in the same sense that no child should go hungry and no family should fear for their safety because of civil war.

In both cases, it happens anyway.

Realistically, I can’t get too mad at the system (for that, anyway). It would have taken a very special sort of individual, one of high intelligence, iron willpower, and the patience of a saint to handle me. My own parents couldn’t do it. What chance did some random teacher have?

Every now and then, an extreme outlier comes along, and the system is not set up for that.

And I am one heck of an outlier.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. The two are disturbingly connected in my mind
  2. It was tiny, poorly ventilated, and had giant support pillars all down one side, perfect for little kids to brain themselves on

Beat sheet for a Bob’s Burgers

Blogging my homework – GO!

  1. Louise meets a girl named Eleanor in the hallway of her school and is wowed by her skull-motif clothing. She asks about it, and the two instantly bond over their shared love of things gruesome, grisly, and disturbing. They become fast friends, and agree to meet up at lunchtime to compare notes.
  2. Gene has a similar experience : he meets Geena, a girl who has been temporarily transferred into his home room. She is like a female version of Gene, and young romance quickly blooms.
  3. Tina sees Jimmy Junior sneak out the back door of Jimmy Pesto’s dressed in what she calls “sexy cowboy clothes”, and is intrigued, so she follows him to : a square dancing class!
  4. Louise meets Eleanor in the cafeteria for lunch, and they are happy to see her, but then someone points at the two and says “Hey, look, Louise is having lunch with CREEPY ELEANOR!”. Louise panics at the realization that Eleanor is a major social liability, and turns on her, mocking her brutally and causing her to run from the room crying.
  5. Trouble in paradise : after spending an afternoon with Geena, Gene’s nerves are frayed and he begins to suspect that he’s made a huge mistake.
  6. Tina joins the square dancing class without hesitation, and tries to use it as a way to get close to Jimmy Junior, but is frustrated by square dancing’s circular nature. Jimmy Junior barely even notices her, because he’s too busy trying to get close to a high school girl named Sheila.
  7. Bob and Linda are sitting in the kitchen when all three of their kids, in age order, breeze past them to go flop on their beds and mope. Linda looks at Bob and says “Don’t look at me, you’re the one who cooks their food. ”
  8. Louise tries to forget all about Eleanor, but when she tries to sleep she dreams that the exact same thing is happening to her, right down to people calling her Creepy Louise and Eleanor turning on her and brutally mocking her bunny ears. She wakes up screaming, and can’t go back to sleep.
  9. Gene finally gets completely fed up with Geena, and yells “My god, don’t you ever stop? Do you not have an off button? I hate to break this to you but you are not nearly as cute or funny as you think you are. So do the world a favor and SHUT the HELL UP!”. It’s only at that exact moment that Gene realizes that this could be how other people perceive him.
  10. Zeke shows up at square dancing class and mocks Jimmy Junior for doing something so “lame” and “gay” until Jimmy Junior caves in and quits, and tells Tina she should quit too. But she has come to like square dancing because all you have to do is what the dance caller says and it all turns out beautifully. She has even created a square dancing persona named Rosa Lee, and nought her very own sauare dancing outfit. So she is torn.
  11. Louise sits with Eleanor at lunch the next day, and says she is really, really sorry and feels terrible about what she did. Eleanor, still hurt, doesn’t believe her. So Louise stands up on the table and shouts “I, Louise Belcher, hereby declare that Eleanor and I are best friends, and anyone who has a problem with that had better ask themselves just one question : do you really think it’s a good idea to piss off the two creepiest girls in school?
  12. After a lot of soul searching, Gene returns to his home room class to apologize to Geena, only to find that she’s been transferred back to her usual homeroom class. And he doesn’t even know her last name, or what class she’s in.
  13. Tina eventually leaves the square dancing class to pursue Jimmy Junior, but not without regrets. The last thing in the episode is Tina hanging up her square dancing outfit and saying “Some day, Rosa Lee. You and I will paint the barn red.

Not bad! All done and only thirteen beats. I was worried that I would have too many beats with my three plotlines – a half-hour show shouldn’t have more than fifteen. But it turned out fine, even with the little token appearance by Bob and Linda.

The final script will have a lot more than what’s in the beat sheet, of course. For one thing, it will have jokes, including more from Bob and Linda. Plus (how fun is this), I will get to decide what I want the business next door and the exterminators in the opening will be called.

I am thinking “Siouxsie Sushi” and “Like That Old Game Centipede Only For Real”, respectively.

Today was my only “full day” of the week. It’s not really that big a deal. I got my usual lunch from Subway : a cold cut comb on nine grain bread with cucumbers, lettuce, and onion, plus a bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips and a bottle drink, which today was Diet Pepsi.

Then I went to Satan’s Sweet Shop, known by its earthly named Purebread (see what they did there?), and got my usual Thing I Should Not Be Eating. Today I tried a Salted Caramel Bar, which was very good. Favorite thing I have tried there, actually. Also the closest thing they have to Nanaimo bars, which is cray zay.

Not having Nanaimo bars in a Vancouver bakery is like not having steak in a Texas roadhouse.

Tomorrow I have one class, and it’s not till the afternoon. So I get to sleep in till nine or maybe even ten! Oh, the decadent glory of it all.

Before then I have to read the script for Bonnie and Clyde and then write a little blurb to show I read it. It’s for my Script Genre : Crime class, which is a fun class without a lot of pressure, perfect for being a Friday class.

And we get to watch large chunks of movies, too!

And after that, it’s the weekend again! Yay!

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

The hamster never sleeps

He just keeps going around, and around, and around…

Was having lunch at local eateries Bob’s Sandwiches (it’s a diner, and I love diners) when it occurred to me that my mind is always working, always probing, always trying to figure things out, always grinding out more information via deduction, always distilling and purifying, and always, always busy.

It’s like some steampunk steel factory in here.

And the thing that powers the whole show is a hamster on a wheel, and the hamster’s name is Anxiety.

My deep down sense of unsafeness keeps that rodent running 24/7. It doesn’t even sleep when I’m asleep. It never stops, and much of my psyche is built around what to do with all that nervous energy. That’s why I need so much mental exercise. It’s the best way I know to use that energy, and even that is not one hundred percent effective. A lot of forms of mental exercise are also mentally stimulating, and that creates its own energy and its own stream of sensation to process.

And my in-box overfloweth.

If one could peer into my mind like it was a simple diorama, one would not suspect that it’s the hamster powering this sparks and steam factory. Because there in the center of it all, in the place where time flows like water and all things come together, is that fiercely burning star that, like its owner, is painfully bright and incredibly hot. It acts like a fusion reactor, and I have layer upon layer of shielding protecting the outside world from its intensity and its radiation.

It would be easy to think that must be my power source. But it occurred to me today that it isn’t. It is merely the product of intense internal pressures and often acts not as a source of energy but a way to use it up. An outlet for all the pressures that make my inner landscape so seismically unstable. Thinking it is the power source is like thinking a light bulb is a power source because it’s so shiny.

so while I probably do get some of my motive force from emotional geothermal taps, most of that energy is used simply to keep the forge of my creativity white hot and ready. The energy that keeps the lights on and my inner computer powered up is strictly hamster-electric.

On a deep level, I feel like if that hamster ever stops, I will die. The lights will go out and never come back on again. I know this to be irrational, but that doesn’t change what is going through that little hamster’s tiny rodent brain : fear. Fear of stopping. Fear of not being able to start again. Fear of what might happen in the dark. Fear of my own inner demons.

I keep talking about part of me still being that scared little animal who is always desperately looking for the way out and, if cornered, is perfectly capable of savage violence.

Turns out that scared little animal was a hamster all this time.

Today was not good.

Today’s class was Sketch. I wrote my skit of the week last night. And I knew it wasn’t very good.

Even getting to the point where I had written a bad skit was agony. I wrote the beginning of the skit then got stuck. It was turning out to be far harder to write than I thought it would be, thanks to the summer brain drain. I just couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think of idea, couldn’t plan things in my head. And that made me start to panic, which of course just made it worse.

Adrenalin is great for outrunning a saber tooth tiger or helping you win a fight, but it is terrible for complex thought.

Feeling awful, I decided it was time to check out the files full of skit ideas I have in order to get an idea for something easier and more fun to write. But they ended up just making things worse because to be honest, most of them were not that good. At least, they were not good for the purpose of writing a skit for class. They are quite high on the wackiness factor, which is boffo if you are making a Monty Python’s Flying Circus type genre-bending TV show but not so great if you are writing skits to be performed on stage.

And some of them are just…. sad. We came up with them a decade ago, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised if they seem a tad unsophisticated to me now. But I had this idea that I had this kickass secret weapon in the form of over 1200 awesome skit ideas, and the reality is… not so much.

Of course, my nuclear option is to use one of the actual skits I wrote way back then. But now I am kind of afraid to look at them, in case they don’t hold up either. I would rather go on with the feeling that I am brilliant at skit.

Otherwise, I may just fall apart,

From the minute I finished the lame-ass skit to when it was presented in class today, I was dreading it. Waiting my turn in class was very bad. I had several panic attacks. And of course, I ended up being second last because Jackie decides who is going next by asking “OK, who wants to go next?” and I simply cannot compete with the young people with their faster reflexes.

The only reason I didn’t go last was because my bud James held back so I wouldn’t be last. I guess because I was sitting next to him, he could see how frustrated I was. Thanks, James!

So I had panic attacks and got very depressed, and started to wonder if I was funny at all, and all that craziness. It was not a pleasant morning.

But I feel somewhat better now, and after I sleep I will feel a lot better. And then tomorrow is another day.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

This space intentionally left blank

Like my mind.

Still experiencing summer dullness. Still having trouble thinking of what to say. All I want to do is be lazy. But I have to write a blog entry and a skit, in roughly that order.

And I feel very duh.

Today, I had Dialogue class. We had a lot of fun shooting video of some very short dialogues we wrote in the last hour of last week’s class. It was amusing and in a way heartwarming to see how many of my fellow writing students did not want to act in front of the camera at all. Even though none of it would go online. We’re an introverted bunch, and many people said something alone the lines of “I want to be behind the camera, that’s why I’m a writer!”.

Being the mental mutant that I am, I didn’t mind at all, because I am both a shy introvert and a total ham. I have never had stage fright, I have no problem with public speaking, and I have never had a problem with being the center of attention.

In fact, under the right circumstances, I love it.

And I think I know why : because it’s never gone badly for me. The first time I did anything like that was when I gave a speech in front of a bunch of adults when I was a Beaver Scout (about what, I have no idea) and I got thunderous applause for it. Ever since then, every time I have acted or done any sort of public speaking, it’s gone at least okay and often very well. As a result, I am relaxed when I do it, and that leads to good performances.

A rare example of a positive feedback loop in my life.

I am pretty sure I have a natural knack for it. Especially comedy. And like I have said many times before, I also relax on stage because life is very simple and easy when I perform. It banishes all my paranoia about whether I am doing the right thing caused by my constant awareness of all the things I might be doing, and replaces it with the super simplified reality of knowing exactly what you are supposed to be doing at that moment : delivering your lines.

For someone who lives awash in possibilities and doubt like I do, that’s a very welcome island of stability.

I have the skills to be an actor… but not the looks. Guys who look like me get to stay behind the camera. Even if I was my ideal weight, I would still have highly limited castability. Best I could hope for would be to play some heavies (so to speak) in B-movies. Nobody in the world of A-list Hollywood writes roles for big dudes like me. There’s the rare funny fat guy who makes it to the top, but there’s only a few slots available at any time, so competition is fierce.

More importantly, I lack motivation. Acting is fun but it’s not a career path I would enjoy. There is a lot of superficiality and bullshit involved in trying to be a movie star or whatever. And I could never be content as someone who interprets the words of others. I have to be at the top of the creative food chain and that’s the writer. The entertainment world treats us like we’re the least important people because we tend to lack assertiveness and because there’s more non-writers in the process than writers, and our job involves very little that is visible so it’s easy for shallow minded people to convince themselves that it must not be very important.

But without us, there’s nothing. We are the ones who create movies and TV shows out of nothing at all. Everyone else in the process is working of what we wrote. Not a single cog in the entertainment machine could turn without what we make.

I would make a very good writer’s union president. Lemme at’m!

I realized today in class that, all else being equal, I tend to try to turn everything into comedy. It’s what I am good at and what I enjoy. I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh. And making comedy is like, the most fun thing ever. I have written a lot of things that were not comedic and a few things that are incredibly tragic. To the point of me crying the whole time I was writing. [1]

But put me in front of an audience, even if it’s just classmates and a teacher, and I wanna make them laugh.

Which is maybe me problem, or one of them anyhow. I try too hard. And I try to be like a fictional character, funny and fun and lovable and whatnot, instead of just being myself. I suppose it’s my substitute for social skills and the deep socialization that leads to them. If I could just permit myself to relax and be (gasp!) normal for a minute or two, I might find the connection I crave.

Instead, I tend to follow a kind of dream in my mind, wherein I imagine what I want to be and try to project that. I am always trying to cram as much of all I need to express into every moment. Perhaps this is because of my enormous feelings of being ignored and unimportant and the resulting deep need for attention. When I get the attention, I go nuts and lunge for the opportunity with all the care and restraint of a starving dog pouncing on a steak.

If I could just calm the fuck down inside and take things as they come instead of having this cacophony of neurosis going full speed all the time, maybe I could get along with people better.

Or maybe what I really need is more situations where I feel like I am in control and can find my own way of doing it.

Maybe I need to be in charge.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. There’s a scene like that in Little Women, isn’t there?

Pocket full of compromise

Title, of course, based on this song :

Been pondering that question of self-expression versus fitting in lately.

I’ve always been ferociously myself. Even as a kid, I instinctively rebelled against anything that I felt confined my right to expressing who I am, crazy smart brain and all. And to this day, when I contemplate dialing back on the smart talk and learning to keep it in check in order to get along, a very strong voice inside me screams “FUCK YOU! I am who I am and that’s it! I’m a five dimensional peg and I refuse to have two of my dimensions sanded off in order to fit in your square fucking hole! If you can’t handle that, that’s YOUR problem, motherfucker!”

And the thing is, in the eyes of an individualistic culture, that’s the right answer. Lots of people would applaud my insistence on being who I truly am, consequences be damned. Modern individualist cultures say that’s a perfectly fine thing to do, and that society should just back off and let me be myself.

But the thing is, I’m lonely.

Being a loner leads to loneliness. An inability to compromise is never a good thing when it’s a subject as broad as personal identity. I mock and deride conservatives for their inflexibility of mind, but am I really so different? Surely there’s some kind of compromise towards being understood (and not getting those dreaded blank stares) that I could live with.

Not everything I have to say needs to be a scintillating, coruscating expression of my inner essence. There’s nothing inherently wrong with small talk. Sure, it’s not what I want or prefer, but so what?

It all comes down to how badly I want to fit in and connect and not feel like an alien any more. On some level, I suppose, I am waiting to find the milieu in which I feel comfortable without having to dumb myself down or otherwise suppress my true self. And it’s a great dream, but I am not sure how realistic it is. Maybe that’s just an excuse to indefinitely postpone having to grow up enough to get along with others. Maybe I need to learn to bend a little towards being social and learning to read a situation deeply enough to keep up with the herd.

Maybe I would be happy if I was less of a maverick and more of a well behaved cow.

Because the thing is, my social paradise might not exist at all. That I wouldn’t fit in without compromise amongst the brainiest people in the world. Or the most creative, or the funniest, or whoever. I still hold out hope that comedy writers, and TV people in general, will be my kind of people. But they might not be, and I have to face that.

And there’s still this barrier between me and others that makes my responses a little slow and my aim with my jokes and comments to be terrible. It’s like trying to paint through smoked glass.

And now we change subject because I finally remembered what I meant to write about today.

Today, I had Advanced Story And Character (ASAC), and for the most part, I was bored.

And out of said boredom came the realization that I don’t need a lot of the instruction I get in my classes because I do it all intuitively. I don’t need to learn a method for coming up with story ideas, or help structuring a story, or instructions on how to come up with characters. For me, I often get all of that as part of the initial idea, or I get the idea and the rest comes to me immediately afterwards, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, clicking together.

Not that I am claiming to be a perfect writer. Far from it. I have so much to learn. It’s simply that the things I need to learn can’t be taught as theory.

That’s why I love having my stuff workshopped so much. I learn so much about writing in such a short period of time because other people can see flaws and weaknesses that I can’t and when I learn about them, I can feel my mind expanding and my understanding deepening. I always come away from it feeling great.

Admittedly, part of that is that I just got a large dose of the attention I crave. But not all of it!

A particular bugbear of mine came up : theme. In a nutshell, I hate theme. To me, the theme of the work is mostly something scholars come up with after the fact to make themselves seem important, and like they really “get” the writer.

But it’s bullshit. Nobody worth reading sits down with a theme in mind. Good writers tell stories. They don’t give a shit about theme. To me, getting people to think about theme before writing (or during) is putting the cart before the horse and putting the horse in backwards as well.

My prof likes to talk about how a lot of Ernest Hemingway’s work is about what it means to be a man and grace under fire. And maybe that is true… I don’t know.

But what I do know is that Hemingway never sat down at the typewriter thinking “Well, time for another story about what it means to me a man”. He sat down to write a story. If someone had told him that he had written about the same thing a lot, he would have started writing something else. Theme is nothing that the readers or the writers need worry about.

It’s strictly for English profs and their ilk to divine and contemplate and argue over. The cranky writer in me wants to shout “Stop looking up your own ass and read the fucking story!”.

So what I am saying is that I probably won’t appear on many Book TV type shows more than once.

I sometimes have something to say in my stories. But it’s not something I think about. And I don’t think any writer should.

Just write the fucking story.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

Enter Title Here

Have I used that joke before? Whatever.

I have to say, the words, they come slow these last few days. The weather has been summery (for a fucking change) and my mind has gone into vacation mode where it empties itself of all heavy thoughts and shifts into “lazy self-indulgence” mode. This greatly reduces my usually robust supply of surplus thoughts and so I actually have to think of what to say instead of just kind of opening the faucet and letting all the excess mental energy drain onto the page.

That makes blogging feel like actual work. And my silly brain keeps insisting I’m on vacation and don’t have to do any work. I just have to keep myself amused. Like a kid.

So it’s a little bit more of a struggle than usual. I suppose my stimulation level is down too, it being the weekend. That also means that I can’t just talk about my day at school. I have to talk about my day at home, and well, that’s bloody boring. Too boring for this blog, and that’s saying something.

You know what I did yesterday? Did laundry, ate Chinese food, and played Fallout 4. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I quite enjoyed it, and it helped recharge the ol’ batteries. We all need downtime so we can replenish our stress-depleted supplies of reward stimulus, because without enough reward, we don’t feel like we’re good people.

It really is that simple. People need a certain amount of reward (that is, stimulus to the reward center of the brain) in order to feel good about themselves, and the world, and that is what drives most of what we do. And modern life has a way of draining it out of us because it requires so much self-denial and suppression of instinctual responses. We have a very large amount of complex social information to deal with on a daily basis, and the part of us that is still a primitive primate gets tired of it all and starts to rattle its cage.

So we appease it by trying to balance the drain with various high reward activities. The most common of these, of course, is high reward food and drink. People wonder why these things are so hard to quit. The answer is that you can’t simply excise a huge proportion of your reward stimulus without having something to use as a replacement. And it has to be something that can equal the original reward stimuli in total stimulus if not in stimulus intensity.

Part of the problem is that the stronger the stimuli, the bigger the emotional impression it makes and the harder we lock in to that source of stimulus. That was great back in the state of nature because our taste buds were more or less aligned to what was actually good for us. In the wild, it’s very important to get a lot of calories (sweet), enough salt to be able to do things like manufacture urine and regulate its hydration levels (salty), get enough fat to keep our highly demanding nervous systems working (fatty), and that we get enough protein to keep up with our fairly harsh metabolic demands (umami).

But now, we can create supra-normal stimuli for all these things, and this ultra-strong stimuli leads to ultra strong fixation. Our minds get programmed to demand that extremely high level of stimulation to the reward center, and when we try to diet and start to crave these things, that’s what is going on. Our reward levels are dropping, and the fixation effect makes it very difficult to believe that any other source of reward stimulation will be able to act as a substitute.

Especially not when we know damned well that the thing we crave is easily and readily available.

I just had a scary thought : what if someone invented a substance that stimulated the reward center of your brain directly? A substance that could be added to any food item to make it more rewarding to eat. I can see it starting out as a thing to make healthy food more palatable, but then it would be put in everything just like sugar is, and just like with sugar the amount of it in the public diet would creep up over time.

Especially if it was widely believed to be totally harmless. Something that is either easily and harmlessly metabolized by our bodies, or something that is nutritionally inert like Splenda and just passes right through us. Maybe we would only find out how badly it is fucking us up when it is far too late for us to wean ourselves off the stuff.

Or worse, it could truly be completely harmless, and we could all end up addicted to it without knowing it because it’s in everything… unless we go a couple weeks without it, and then we have harsh psychological withdrawal symptoms when the last of it is out of our systems.

That reminds me of something I saw about treating depression with an implant that stimulates the reward center of the brain electrically. Not to the point of ecstasy, or even happiness. Just a constant low level stimulus to keep the reward level from going below a certain point.

As a depressive, the thought intrigues me. It would certainly be nice to have some sort of solid stimulus upon which to anchor my mood. A lot of my issues boil down to emotional instability, so any stabilizing influence would be welcome.

As a scientist (type), though, I would worry about long term effects. Would we find that the patients’ minds adapt to the new situation just like they do to drugs, and hence build up a tolerance that can only be overcome by increasing the stimulation? Would it have a warping effect on personality, bending people toward arrogance and overconfidence? Or even sociopathy?

I might just have to write a sci fi story in order to figure it all out.

No promises, tho. I got other stuff to write.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

For love or respect

Been thinking about respect today.

Respect has never been one of the variables I have pursued. I have always concentrated on being liked and people thinking I am brilliant. Obviously, respect is connected to both of them, especially the brilliance, but perhaps because of my deeply empathic nature, I have always wanted warmth over all, and the easiest form of warmth for me to get has been affection.

Not the physical kind, more’s the pity. But the kind I get through being charming and entertaining and funny and so forth. Few things make me happier than to see my own light reflected in others. And that seems to be the only way for me to feel the warmth from my own light as well.

As if the only way I can feel the warmth I crave is through empathy. Sheesh, no wonder I’m so desperate for attention!

Respect, to me, has always seem like a cold thing, suitable for people who take themselves far too seriously and a poor substitute for actually being interesting. I suppose I had it confused with “respectability”, a concept that has always seemed toxic to me. So stultifyingly bourgeoisie!

XTC has it right :

It’s like dullness codified into a system of ethics. Hordes of middle class families competing to be “more normal than thou”, a gobsmackingly ridiculous thought on the face of it. Petty status squabbles, people trying to one-up one another via mindless consumerism, venomous jealousy aimed at people whose only crime is having a slightly nicer patio set than yours… and all under a veneer of “normal life”.

I am so glad my family never gave a shit about that stuff. Then again…. we were one of the more prosperous families in the neighborhood…. hmmmm….

You know, it’s just possible other people were trying to keep up with us. God, I hope not. We were never that impressive!

But respect and respectability (sounds like an Emily Bronte novel[1]) are not the same thing. You can be respected without being boring. Respect is more about being esteemed, and that’s something I desire quite strongly. I want to be valued. I have felt worthless for a very long time, probably because I was not supporting myself and didn’t have a life outside the apartment and the Internet, and quite frankly, had pretty much nothing to offer society, or so I thought.

I have at least reached the point in my recovery when I can look back at the infinite regression of my self-esteem and shake my head, wondering what the fuck that was all about. I can see that it was not about my actual merits, it was about having very little to anchor my self-image. All it took was depression to act like gravity and pull me down, and I cratered time and time again.

And when you crash over and over for long enough, you stop trying to fly. It’s the only way to preserve what little health you have left before total oblivion.

And to be honest, that state is never very far away. There are still times when I become depressed and can’t imagine why anyone would even tolerate me, let alone respect me. Like I am nothing but a burden on the world who makes life worse for whoever knows him, and who is completely devoid of substance or worth.

That’s the depression talking, of course. If I summon the full powers of my emotion-suppressing metabrain, I can slow myself down enough to slowly enumerate the many assets I have. I have a stunningly high IQ, I have great verbal skills, I am highly creative and very funny, and on top of all that, I’m a heck of a guy.

The fact that I haven’t found a way to turn all that into a career yet doesn’t make it all worthless. The whole point of going to VFS is to do that very thing – hook me up with a career. The fact that I am doing it more than twenty years after most people do it doesn’t change a thing. It’s still the right thing to do, and when I graduate (with honors, if that’s a thing) from the place, I will be well suited to go be an amazing TV writer with twenty years of ideas stored in his capacious noggin.

I might have to lie about my age, though.

I should keep all my good points on a business card, so I can it out when I am feeling worthless and build myself back up. On the reverse side, I can print the nice things that Michael Baser, head of the Writing track, said about me when I got admitted.

Hell, I should have that shit framed on the wall.

Part of the problem is that VFS is not that big on grades. I haven’t checked my folder lately, but as of this moment I have not gotten much in the way of grades back, and I guess I can admit that grades are what keep people like me going. We need the feedback that tells us we are getting it right or we descend into self-doubt.

There’s two possible explanations for the lack of marking. One is that VFS is a groovy art school that doesn’t believe in restricting our artistic freedom by tying it to arbitrary numbers, man.

The other is that the teachers there don’t like marking and there is a culture there that tacitly allows them to put it off as long as they like – sort of a “if you call me on my bullshit, I will call you on yours” kind of thing. It could very well be that stuff I did in my first month of school still hasn’t been marked.

The third, and probably most likely, explanation is that administration at the school is a rolling clusterfuck of biblical proportions, and everything has been marked and they just never got around to, ya know, tell us.

I will ask Michael Baser next time I see him.

But I will, of course, check my folder first.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. I looked it up. It isn’t.