ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Tool —

I had this thing done to me back at the Vintage Computer Festival. I keep forgetting it and then I remember it and get cranky, so let’s just mention it right now. It won’t stop someone from doing it to me again because those kind of folks wouldn’t have read my weblog, so this is, as they say, utter self-gratification. Stand back, don’t get any on you.

I was chatting with a few people out in the lobby area of the Vintage Computer Festival this past November. This put me in a nice chair next to a little table, both set away from the reception table that Sellam Ismail was running. Sellam is very busy when stuff is going on, but he does his best to help people when he can.

A mother and her son were asking some questions and he referred them to me. I think there was mention of the kid having an interest in film and being a film director or something. So Sellam, busy as anything, pointed them towards a nearby buddy film director. Couldn’t hurt, right?

So here I am, chatting with a kid. I suspect he was between 10 and 12. He asked me a few questions about what was important. Somewhere in there, he drops this one: “I was told I need to do better in math to be a good director. Is this true?”

Mom was standing behind him during this, and I glanced up and noticed her making this face. Eyes wide, head going up and down.

This is the universal sign for I want you to say yes, yes this is very important.

What I should have done was tell him the truth: I had no formal math education past the 10th grade. I took geometry and barely got through it in 9th grade, and did so bad in algebra that I stopped attending those classes regularly and I actually walked out on pre-calc, and it would likely be shocking to some manner of person that there are tons of mathematics I have not the slightest clue about. I mean, I know some amount of mathematics and the term variable doesn’t scare me. But sometimes, when I feel like being amused, I will take one of those “basic math tests” on a college level, to see how totally lost I am. And man, am I lost.

I ascribe this 100% to bad teachers. Algebra teacher was competent enough but I was definitely the low end of the curb and should have been thrown at a tutor and she kind of shunted me out of the way. Pre-calc, well, if in 1987 I had been as lucky as today’s kids to have the term “Die in a Fire” at arm’s reach, I’d have snagged it. Die in a fire!

So what I ended up doing was burbling out some half-ass explanation that math sort of plays a part in filmmaking, and that yes, it wouldn’t hurt, and so on. Mom smiled and looked pleased.

(I also told the kid that more important than being able to direct a film is to be able to write, because it’s someone who understands scripts and how to put ideas on screen who is going to go farther than someone who just wants to film any old thing. I have no positive outlook for retention of this concept.)

Anyway, it just really gets to me, this idea that the mom is using me, just fucking wielding me like a tool, to get her little sprout to move in the direction she wants. Poor performance in school in a class? Well, let’s just get a random authority figure to say any old thing to push your agenda. It’s insulting to me, it’s insulting to the kid and I want to hit you with the side of my laptop.

The worst part was that I knew flipping out would not help anything, make Sellam look bad for directing them to a maniac, and not convince the kid that you have to find your own path in life. And mom looked like, with incentive, she could move fast. So I’d have missed with my laptop swing and then where would we be.

Plunking random authority figures to parrot your agenda is a huge bag of fuck. If you’re going to do it, at least pay them for the service.

I start at $100.

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