Category Archives: The Search for Truth

Think banning guns won’t stop mass murderers from buying them? Think again.


maxresdefaultFirst of all, the perpetrators of most mass shootings are not criminals. In fact, almost none of them are. Think about it — the profile is a quiet, anti-social loner, maybe with anger issues, maybe not, usually works at a menial job, maybe lives with his mom, maybe plays a lot of video games, maybe goes to university or high school… does that sound like some freaking street level drug dealer or gang banger to you? How about the part where it’s invariably reported that the shooter had no criminal record? Someone should do a study to determine why criminals don’t take the guns they have, walk into a school and start killing people before turning the guns on themselves, because they don’t. Criminals (and I’ve known a lot of them) are generally a short sighted, self-centred bunch. The last thing they’re going to do is commit a crime that doesn’t get them anything. The only thing they’re less likely to do is shoot themselves in the face after committing it.

But what if you’re not an actual ‘criminal’ and you want to get something illegal, like heroin, compared to something legal, like a gun? I don’t know if you’ve ever woken up one day and decided to go out there and pick up a flap of H, but let me give you a little tour of how that might go. You get in your nice little normal person car and you go downtown, because everybody knows that’s where you by drugs, right? What part of downtown? The bad part? When? At night? Okay. How much money should you bring? Wait a minute, this is starting to sound dangerous.

So there you are, a regular non-felonious guy with a regular haircut and glasses, driving around in your mom’s maroon 4-door Camry in the worst part of town at night, looking for some kind of criminal person. How do you know who’s a criminal? Putting aside the fact that it’s likely to be everybody you come across in this particular scenario, the smart money says that it’s definitely that fucking shady guy standing in that doorway and staring at you. Okay. So is he the drug selling kind of criminal, or the robbing you kind of criminal, or the stabbing you kind of criminal? I’ll give you a hint: they’re usually all three. Almost nobody who sells drugs on the streets is somehow morally unwilling to rob you. In fact, they’d much rather rob you than sell to you because the likelihood of getting caught is far less and the profit margin is infinitely greater. So there’s that.

But let’s say you’re not a quitter and you’ve come this far so you decide to go for it. Remember, after all of this the only thing you’ve actually managed to do is to find a sketchy guy in a bad neighbourhood to stare you down. So now what? Do you get out of the car? That seems like a bad idea. Do you pull over to him? Obviously he’s going to want to get into the car, and that seems like an even worse idea. He may lean in through a rolled down window like they do in The Wire, but you know what? This isn’t The Wire. This is some dude on some street trying to do crime without getting arrested, so if he does lean in the window it’s only going to be for long enough to tell you to open the door, because if you’re not really a drug customer willing to let him into your car to do a deal, he doesn’t want anything to do with you. And the longer he stays out of the car, the more exposed he is. In fact, he probably won’t even walk up to the car. So, you’ll have to get out.

Which means you have to park your car at night in a bad neighbourhood where criminals are watching you and walk away from it. But that’s the least of your worries. Because now it’s you that’s exposed. And guess what? If it hasn’t occurred to you already, it will occur to you now that it is absolutely clear to anybody watching that you’re there to buy something. With cash. And that you’re carrying it with you right now, as you walk up to the sketchy guy in the shadows that you have already determined is a criminal. And you’re about tell him not only that you have cash on you, but how much.

So let’s say that he’s not a drug dealer, but he is a drug user. Uh oh. In this case, one of two things is about to happen: He is about to rob you, or he is about to con you. There is no third scenario here. Unless you just run away, but you’re here to by heroin, remember? And if you run away you’re just going to have to circle the block and find another guy exactly like him to walk up to and announce that you’re carrying a whack of cash. So, let’s give you a break and say that he actually is a drug dealer. It’s your lucky day.

But he’s not going to sell to you. Because although guys who stand on the street and sell drugs aren’t particularly smart, they’re also not out and out stupid. If they were, they’d be in jail already, not standing out here talking to you. It’s a survival of the least stupid kind of thing.

He’s not going to sell to you for two reasons: he doesn’t know you and you don’t look like a junkie. So now you have to convince him that you’re not a cop (good luck) and that you’re not a junkie, true, but you really want to buy some heroin, presumably because you want to become a junkie. The shear outlandishness of this second assertion may intrigue a dude like this enough to stick with it for a moment.

Go ahead. Convince him. How exactly are you going to do that? The more earnestly you try, the more you’re going to look like you’re trying to set him up. And the more laid back and cool you are to be about it, the more you’re going to look like a cop.

If this whole enterprise isn’t starting to feel like pushing an uncooperative boulder up a pointless mountain, then there may actually be something wrong with you. But I’m going to give you at least as much benefit of the doubt as this drug dealer is about to give you and see what happens. How much do you want? That depends, you say. How much does it cost?

I haven’t been counting mistakes up to now, but this is a big one. He will not tell you how much it costs. He will tell you what he thinks you might believe. After all, he’s taking a real risk here. You’re as unknown to him as he is to you. So he gives you a stupidly high number. One of the reasons he does this is to find out how much money you actually have on you, in order to gauge his next move. Because the one thing you have to start to understand at this point is that you are playing a game. And it’s a game you are completely unprepared to play. In fact, you have no game. But he does. And of course, he knows it. And he knows that you know it. Still think you’re walking away with heroin?

Okay, let’s see how this plays out. He tells you something like a hundred bucks, and all you know is that heroin’s expensive, so you believe it. What you don’t realize, of course, because you’re not a junkie, is that heroin, like crack and crystal meth, is incredibly cheap. It only gets expensive when you keep coming back. For the rest of your life. But this guy knows that you don’t know that, and you make the deal. And that’s when he tells you that he doesn’t have it on him.

This might be a lie, or it might be the truth if the part about him being a heroin dealer was a lie. Either way, you are fucked. Because he is going to tell you to give him the money and he’ll be right back (he won’t be), or to follow him to some more private location where he can stab you and take your money. Again, there is not a third scenario here, because he is a criminal and you are alone and you are carrying cash. He will not “go get” the heroin any more than the barista at Starbucks will “go get” your coffee. If he’s open for business, he’s open for business. If he’s not, he’s only talking to you to figure out the best way to take your money.

Actually, I’m wrong. There is a third scenario. And it’s not run away, because at this point he is not going to let you run away. No, the third scenario is you give him the money, watch him walk away and hope that your car is still there.

Now imagine that you’re not trying to buy heroin, arguably the most popular and easily attainable product for a criminal to obtain on the street, because it’s just about fucking impossible if you don’t know what you’re doing. No, imagine instead that what you’re trying to buy on the street is a fully loaded AR15 assault rifle. So this time you’re not carrying a hundred bucks, you’re carrying, what, five hundred? A thousand? And you’re handing it to a guy who has a gun. Only this guy isn’t standing on the street with it, he’s hidden away in some apartment somewhere, and you have to first find a guy who will take you to him, a guy who will get nothing out of helping you and who you’ve just told that you’re unarmed and carrying a bunch of cash. So guess what? You’re not walking away with that gun, either. You will be very lucky if you walk away at all.

This is all because criminals are not in the business of doing business with people who are not criminals. It’s too dangerous, and there’s no long term profit in it. I said that criminals are short sighted, but not when it comes to business. They know who their steady customers are. No one’s out there to sell one flap of heroin, or one assault rifle, because that’s not a business, that’s a favour. And if there’s one thing that criminals are not known for besides trusting guys with bad haircuts in 4-door sedans, it’s doing favours.

It’s time to look at this another way, and say that you want to buy that AR15 assault rifle, but it’s not illegal because you live in the United States and it’s today. You hop in your Camry, drive to Walmart and toss your credit card on the counter. If you have a valid drivers licence and no felonies, like nearly every other mass murderer in American history, you’ll walk out of there with a perfectly fine killing machine and as much ammo as you need in less than ten minutes. Now, go have fun.

So I say yes, make it difficult for law abiding citizens to buy a gun. You won’t be making it any easier for criminals, in fact you’ll be making it more difficult for them since mostly they buy guns stolen from law abiding citizens. But that quiet, disgruntled, radicalized or mentally unstable time bomb who lives in his mom’s basement and dreams of teaching the world a lesson will just have to make do with a bow and arrow or a kitchen knife if he wants to go out in a blaze of homicidal glory.

And wish him luck turning that bow and arrow on himself after he’s done.

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Soul Murdering Question # 1: Am I Any Good?


jean-luc-picard

Before I get to the subject at hand, I’d like to send a shout out to all of those who read “One Minute Film School” and were moved to follow my little page because of it. The flood of comments it received was amazing, and the degree to which that post seems to have resonated with readers was as startling for me as it was  gratifying. All of this, as you can probably imagine, means a lot.

Thank you all.

*   *   *

There was one comment in particular, from fellow blogger Nichole Eck, which has really stuck with me. So much so that I’ve decided to devote this post to the question she posits. Her comment starts out innocuously enough:

I have the same inability to kill people’s dreams, no matter how unrealistic or misguided! Even if I sometimes think that the sooner they get over their dreams and move on, the better (lest they end up like Willy Loman). I especially liked this observation of yours: “If you’re any good, someone will notice, believe me. If you’re not, please stop.”

It’s this next part that haunts me:

Do you know of any guidelines that can help people realize if they’re not “any good” at something? Is it just the test of time? (i.e. It’s been three years, and no one’s noticed; it must be time to stop.”)

Now, I don’t know whether Nichole’s final line is merely a hypothetical example, or something more. But I can’t help wondering if she’s referring to herself here, that she’s at a crossroads, unsure of which blinker to switch on. For this reason, and because I believe her question is as central to the artistic pursuit as it is universal, I can’t in good conscience write another post without at least addressing it. Especially since I think I may have some answers.

*   *   *

“How will I know?” – Whitney Houston

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So, how will you know? The simple answer is, you won’t. The slightly more complicated answer is, you just will. But the only useful answer is, it doesn’t matter.

Let me unpack these for you.

#1) You won’t. Why? Because you can’t. The quality you seek to identify in yourself is relative. It’s subjective. And it’s a moving target. Remember how you can’t know an electron’s position AND velocity at the same time? It’s like that. It’s also a lot like another potentially soul crushing question, this one asked by far too many women throughout their lives: Am I pretty? Like talent, “prettiness” is something you can spot and even, horribly, quantify in someone else. But, not in yourself. Ever. You’re too close. You’ve got too much at stake. Objectivity flies out the window.

This is why we turn to outside indicators, usually in the form of human beings, for answers. In theory this can be of some help. If a girl is constantly being hit on by strangers and told that she’s amazing, for instance, she can be fairly sure where she stands on the ‘attractiveness’ scale. In much the same way, an artist who is praised, critically acclaimed and, well, hit on and told that they’re amazing can be fairly sure where they stand on the ‘any good’ scale. But there are problems with this ‘external indicator’ approach which have probably already occurred to you.

First of all, very few people are enough of a knockout or a genius to generate such a powerful response to their looks or their talent so, statistically speaking, you’re probably not one of them. Don’t worry, neither am I. Also, you can never be sure what’s motivating a human to do or say anything, and they’re as likely as not to change their minds up or down in ways you can never predict. And we all know there will never be a true consensus. Some people hate Shakespeare. Even the Dalai Lama has enemies.

Consider people who are famous for being famous. It probably feels for those basking inside that fame bubble that there can be no question about their looks and/or talent. They’re famous! And they’re almost certainly wrong. Compare that situation to Van Gogh’s, who was tremendously undervalued as an artist in his own time. In short, trying to gauge something by another’s opinion, no matter how tempting, is as futile as trying to get a handle on that electron. You’ll simply never know.

#2) You just will. Well, thats interesting. Seems like I’m completely contradicting everything I just said, doesn’t it? Not exactly. I’m just approaching the question from another angle, in another way. What would you say if a close friend asked you “How do I know if I’m really in love?” I’ll tell you what I’d say. “You’ll just know. If you’re not sure, if you even have to ask the question, you’re not”. Harsh, isn’t it? But I think it’s the truth. You’re not stupid. Trust your gut.

The problem with this approach, as easy as it may sound (it’s not) is that for your answer to have any validity, you have to apply some rigorous introspection, soul searching and, worst of all, you have to be completely honest with yourself. Yikes. It takes courage to get under your own hood and really look around, and it takes even more to be willing to accept what you find.

Some people are in love with the idea of being in love. Similarly, a lot of artists are in love with the idea of being an artist. But as philosopher and Starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard once observed, “Wishing for a thing does not make it so”.

35781610Look, maybe your desire for talent outstrips the degree to which you actually have it. There’s no shame in that. But someone in love with love who spends their life with the wrong person is wasting much. Spending your life pursuing something you blindly hope you’re good at is equally tragic. And there’s probably something you’d be far better off pursuing, something you really do have a talent for.

#3) It doesn’t matter. I can almost hear how pissed off you are at me right now. If it doesn’t matter, why even bother talking about it? Because you’re going to think about it anyway, that’s why. So I thought we could explore some ways to think about it together. But, ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. This is good news!

tumblr_m4pbbjvRt71rvzvq4o1_500What I’m really saying here isn’t just that the question is meaningless, which it is, I’m saying that even if an omniscient deity or a post-singularity supercomputer could tell you definitively if you were any good or not, it wouldn’t make much difference. Why? Because you are not your art.

Your art is your art. It is outside of you. You create it, and either it is valuable and interesting or it isn’t, but whether you’re ‘any good’, especially at this one moment of all possible future moments, is not what matters. Who cares whether you’re a good car maker, that’s just ego. Do you build good cars? You make your art, your art doesn’t make you. Remember that. And the most important word in that truism isn’t ‘you’, it isn’t even ‘art’. It’s ‘make’.

“Is the art that I make any good?” Now there’s a question.

And I’ll try to answer it in my next post.

Aloha

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An offensive, appalling waste of time


I was blown away by this post. Equal parts unbridled passion and brilliant writing, the big idea presented here needs, in my opinion, to be heard and considered.

humanismThere’s an absurdity in calling oneself a humanist. The hat, which I’m proud to wear, solicits polarised emotions that are not easily reconciled. Here’s the rub: I loathe humanity, but at the same time I am also her greatest cheerleader. I’d build, without even a moment’s hesitation, an entire museum around a single human hand, and right next door I’d erect a mausoleum to house its pair. My heart beats faster every time I watch a space launch, and it breaks in two every time I turn on the News. I am at once amazed and horrified by our species, and so it should not come as a surprise to learn that what I consider one of the most astounding moments in human history is also the fountainhead of one of its greatest ever blunders; a missed opportunity which I, as a card-holding humanist, lament every time I pass some…

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One Minute Film School


Stop Watch 1
Today, I had a fella send me this message on LinkedIn:

Hi Mr. Kandborg. My name is *****. I have a story idea that I would like to direct and was hoping if you would like to work with me. I been trying to get in touch with producers but have no luck. Please let me know.

Typos aside (I certainly hope they’re typos), rather than dismiss the request out of hand as vague, incomplete and, well, odd, I decided to offer some suggestions since countless numbers of them were percolating in my head, unbidden. I’ve subsequently decided to post them here because I feel they may have some universal value to aspiring film makers everywhere.

Hi, *****. Sorry to hear that you’re having trouble getting in touch with producers. Maybe you aren’t being clear with what you’re looking for. You say you have an idea. Do you have a script? It’s unlikely that any established producer would be interested without one. As I like to say, having an idea for a movie is like having an idea for a painting. “Flowers!” Doesn’t mean much.

sunflowers-1888

vsBad Flower

If you don’t have a script, write one.

If you don’t know how, learn.

If you have no talent for writing, find someone who does.

If you have a script and no one wants to produce it (because really, why should they?), produce it yourself.

If you can’t raise a lot of money, make it for a little (I know of features that were made for $5,000).

If you can’t raise any, write something else, either something better, something cheaper or something shorter. Maybe all three.

If you want to direct a movie, direct a movie. It’s never been easier.

If you’ve already directed one, direct another.

If you’re any good, someone will notice, believe me.

If you’re not, please stop.

I hope this helps. Good luck. And remember: if you want to work in the circus, you’d better get used to crazy people, anxiety and the smell of shit. Embrace the shit.

All the best,

Mark

Tiger

I’ve thought all of these things when confronted with the boundless (and borderline insane) blind enthusiasm of one aspiring filmmaker or another who has, usually inadvisably, appointed himself the next Tarantino simply because he really likes movies, even though he may not be able to articulate, like, why. But I’ve rarely said them. Partly because I’m fairly sure they don’t really want to hear any of it, but mostly because I can’t bear to see the dreams of a fellow human being, however misguided, recoil and disintegrate before my eyes like a vampire hit by a sunbeam.

And I find nothing kills a crazy dream faster than a brush with reality.

Which is why I like to keep mine tucked away safely in the dark. On the few occasions where I’ve found the courage, or more accurately the hubris, to actually ask for a reality check like my new friend *****, the subsequent slivers of light have mottled the surface of my fragile, sacred passenger just enough to render me mute, confused and ultimately, immobile.

So the surprise here is that my advice to ***** is really advice to myself.

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Maybe this time I’ll have the wisdom to listen.

[NOTE: If this or any of my previous posts have encouraged you to think a thought (or hear a Who) you might otherwise have not, go ahead and comment, share or subscribe. Go on…]

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