Subtext to Text

Subtext to Text

I have noticed that I am beginning to develop a new relationship to blogging. I am finding my comment writing in others’ blogs just as challenging, if not more so, than the writing of my own posts.

I have taken partial lead on this from Mac Rogers. The SlowLearner is also slow on blog postings but he is often present in comment sections of the theatrosphere with his pointed questions.

I have been thinking of the comment sections of the theatrosphere as the subtext to the hyperlink exchange of blog posts.

Subtext can be a way for the creator of a work to relay ideals, principles, controversial relationships or political statements without alienating viewers or readers who may balk at the ideas or even reject the work.”

For some time now, I have been exploring the theatrosphere as a “fictive reality” that contains both a Rat Sass persona and the “real” nick, as much as the real Nick can actually present himself. In the comment sections of other blogs, my persona shifts slightly, like a chameleon altering skin color to blend into its environment.

So I find myself writing and editing my comments more deliberately in belief that the “real” conversation of the theatrosphere is being propelled and directed from there.

The below is my recent comment at Angry White Guy that feels like a bookend to a long conversation thread I have been participating in, and often instigating or reviving, through various comment sections. It began at Don Hall’s review of a Greyzelda production, traveled over to Praxis, then over to Trailing Spouse Blues, back to the big brawl at Don’s again, then a post at Rat Sass, and then another one. If you look at the dates of these posts and comments you will discover that this conversation has been going on for over a month now. I admire and appreciate both Rebecca and Don for their stamina. It must have been emotionally trying to be constantly thrown into the defensive as the subjects of this important discussion.

Punk Ethos and Writing

…but in the world of punk, if it sucked, you got punched in the face or had a beer bottle thrown at you. In this FaceBook Nation of ours, the call for more civility and more constructive approaches is exactly the opposite of a punk ethos.

Exactomundo. And the punk zines were part and parcel of that ethos which led the way to the zine scene of ‘80’s with its aggressive and belligerent style of writing. The zine movement segued into the argumentative writing and discussion found on Internet listservs of the ‘90’s. All of which leads to the blogosphere. What people call “snark” today is actually the nth generational manifestation of this alternative zine writing style.

Those bloggers calling for more civil or politically correct talk are often Johnnies Come Lately to writing; their blog is their first attempt to actually write anything other than their very proper high school or college papers. But writing school papers was work. So instead of writing, blogging has become more like transcribed talk. This discourse style believes that just by keeping its schoolboy etiquette, its patter will somehow be elevated into something of value. But there is a vast difference between spewing out one’s opinions and honing one’s thoughts into ideas that could impact on the mindset of a reader. So the Snarkless Marks’ antagonism to an uncivil tone is also their envy of any crafted or edited writing.

Blog posts/comments are as public as our art is, but generally the writing is treated cavalierly…“throwing in my two-cents” on this or that “Question of the Day.” Such pandering to one another for innocuous comments effectively lowers the common denominator of exchange and is infinitely more destructive than any “discussion tone.” So it’s no wonder that anytime anyone actually attempts to write in the theatrosphere with deliberation to create effect (as most of us actually attempt to do with our art) an episode of Sturm und Drang is likely to develop among the chit-chatters.

The relationships in these social networks in FaceBookNation (including the theatrosphere) are based on weak ties when compared to peer production. We give no quarter when practicing our art, demanding full passion and commitment from collaborators. If we practiced blogging with just a fraction of the ardent assurance we practice theatre, every day we would rehearse yesterday’s text, honing out our dishonesties and trivialities, not our incivilities.

19 thoughts on “Subtext to Text

  1. Okay. Aggressive belligerence. Fine.

    The thing that is frustrating about what you’re saying here and elsewhere, Nick, is that you’re assuming that the theater practitioner’s purpose in starting a blog is to hone their writing skills so that they can become better writers. That’s not the case, more often than not. It may be fine that you’re trying to shape reality here into some kind of parody, making your blog posts the show. That’s great for you, but it entirely misses the point for me. Weak, passive-voiced, chit-chatting little me.

    The purpose of an online conversation for me is to get exposed to new ideas, ideas that are already outside of my comfort zone for their sheer alien-ness. We agree: that’s good for theater, and it’s good for writing. It’s good that I read your parodies. But to add conflict and ridicule to that mixture of exposure is counter-productive. It’s a poisonous overdose that does damage and prevents real development.

    If you’re really honing your work as deeply as you should be, how in the world are you supposed to have stamina to hone a well-crafted blog post after you exhaust yourself in rehearsal? To say nothing of joining an unreasoned fray in the name of your beliefs? Reading theater blogs for me is one kind of reality check that I have in my arsenal, like a talkback for the process with dare I say a focus group. The alienness always hurts a little bit. It keeps things tender. I see if the work that I do during the day can be useful to others. It’s often not. Fine. That’s the sum total of my use for blogging. It’s not about honing writing skills. I do that in front of a real audience, because I’m not writing a dystopian novel here.

    So yes, we’re using this conversation to push forward agendas that have nothing to do with each other. Isn’t it better to live and let live, leaving unnecessary conflict out of the equation and get what we want done? This isn’t life and death politics and public policy here. It’s small-time, local in a fashion, and everyone knows it.

    I’m not going to call it a ‘civil’ blogging environment, because that’s your characterization – good threads are exciting and explosive, not civil, but they aren’t piranha feeding frenzies, either. I also value sharpening the ideas from time to time, but more important to me is the freedom to practice the “Yes, and…” principle: you don’t take the piss out of someone’s half-baked idea, you push it forward in a better direction. Then they’ll want to bake their ideas ALL the way next time.

    I spend 20 hours during the day honing my real craft – sound, web applications that help theater artist’s lives and careers, and developing new works with my theater. Writing blog posts isn’t a skill I have time to hone, and I don’t make airs that it is. My craft is collaboration and connection. I want that last half hour a day that I spend trading notes with strangers like you to be rich, not a time-suck argument. I want online cooperation to have momentum. If that makes me a PR clique, so be it.

    The voice you’ve crafted on your blog is fascinating and sharp. I grant you that. It might make great meta-theater, if that’s what you’re after. But it’s possible to craft a backwards argument into one that sounds more true than it is because it’s just such a sharp skewer.

    I’ll unfairly reframe your censorship thread here as you’ve unfairly reframed say, Mac’s or RVCBard’s desire for a conversation with less volume. How is what you’re saying helping theater and these younger theater artists evolve? How does your loose lips sink ships parody do anything but degrade the neophyte who is learning and training and getting their bearings in the world? How grade-school a tactic is comparing someone’s language to that of the SS or the McCarthyites to vilify them? Do you really believe that you’re helping them by slapping them down? You had an opportunity to teach here, and instead you chose to show off at the expense of potential students.

    If you want to use the theatrosphere to cultivate your character of the patronizing misanthropic old punk, that’s your prerogative. But you’ll need to keep those comments flying if you have any aspirations at relevance. A punk who blogs like an academic, for crying out loud. What would Sid say? Oi.

    Here’s the actual shame that I see here – you have great skills at creating and shaping myth to make a point. I invite you to use your power for someone else’s good, not self-congratulatory pride. Or is that all you believe in on the blogosphere?

    And if you want to get me where it hurts, come see a show that I designed and tell me it sucks. That’s my real work. And I’ll take that criticism.

    That’s my $0.02. What do you all think out there? 😉 LOLROTFL

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Nick.

    I like manifestos. They do not separate what you say from what you do.

    I would be both, Words, the Speaker & Deeds, the Doer.

    The Master Teacher is a big fish in a little pond. I would prefer being an adept peer to being a peerless master.

  3. Well, hell, irony of ironies that I’m countering Mr. Keenan (*smiley face*), but it’s only because I wasn’t sure what to say that nick hadn’t already said until I saw the argument against it.

    Blogging to me (at this point, I won’t claim always or even at all up until late) is simply an extension of my mind. I’ve given up on the talks on how to create a community because a community already exists; a community with old punks and young advocates, with bloggers and commenters and lurkers. And it’s a fairly good representation of it’s real life counterpart, so the only duty I can see is to treat it as I would real life. Which leads into nick’s blogging as conversation remarks.

    I can’t waste time giving two fucks about saying things online that I wouldn’t waste time giving two fucks about saying offline. Yes, my thoughts are going to reach and therefore affect a greater number of people online, but this isn’t a matter of slipping secrets from a diary I used to keep under my pillow. My blogs are the sort of reactions and sometimes the exact wording that I encounter in my day to day conversations with people (most often other people in theatre, and other people in theatre who on occasion frequent the blogosphere).

    The honing of skills seems to be the backseat here to the ardent assurance. And maybe that’s just a symptom of those who buy into the punk ethos, but (as with my theatre) I know the words, pictures, actions, and ideas in my mind that I want materialized; I know how, when, what, and where they look. And while they may change from day to day and especially based on new ideas brought about through reaction, I can’t go sitting on them on the off chance that they will. Especially as I can’t receive the honest to god reaction if I don’t provide the honest to god words.

    Yes, it’s a constant discovery. But I know that where I am and what I think at this moment is right enough for me to say unapologetically. Just as it was before the last discovery and as it will be after the next.

  4. Paul said:
    Blogging to me … is simply an extension of my mind.

    Yet the quandary for me is do I “speak my mind”, or do I “bite my tongue?” To be, or not to be. No one can raise the stakes of my blogging but me.

    I often vacillate on whether I should push the PUBLISH button, or merely SAVE that decision for another time, another edit… another state of mind and circumstance. Consequently many of my posts languish into absence because… to publish is to act. And as Artuad would have it, to act is to kill.

    But I also play at lower stakes tables where I can chit-chat, network, and promote my little PR Clique with blogging and comments, same as everyone else in our FaceBookNation. I try to know difference, I study the difference, I blog about the difference between this high and low art.

    With this blogging I am also attempting to discern the difference between low and high stakes theatre projects. I practice both, as well as all the gradations between these extremes. For me this is the nature of a life in theatre.

    Blogging to me … is simply an extension of my life in theatre.

  5. Interesting stuff.

    I’ve found very recently that my blogging and my participation in others’ blogs have become two very separate things. I am now quite hesitant to drag other blogosphere happenings into my own, and when I do, it’s a one-off obscurist reference at best. It’s almost as if I’ve created my own private Idaho, albeit one that is as public as my conversationalist chit-chatter input in comments sections across the ‘sphere.

    High and low art has always been a bit of a bugaboo for me, so I would naturally avoid those terms, but you’re right: there is a different tone between the two. However, while I’ve deleted a number of potential comments for fear of inanity, it’s very rare for me to let a post sit by unused. I fear publishing, acting, and killing a little less each time I click that button; I think it has a lot to do with a confidence in my intentions and combination of faith and naivety that others will be able to discern either my intentions or something similar that doesn’t cause them to lose any sleep at night, either.

    I was going to close this by saying that blogging as an extension of my mind only means that I speak online as I would in any public forum, but that brought the realization that the freedom of ideas that I approach in my blogging has also had the effect of opening my mouth offline, as well.

    I believe in the exchange of ideas first and foremost. I believe that the only way to approach art is on one’s own terms and that the only way to have a conversation about art is to be open to other’s terms while never surrendering your own. I believe that these transcend any concept of high and low, and I believe that the greater purpose for my blog is to allow me to further define those terms for myself in a manner that invites others to accept or reject them as well.

    Then again, I see no conflict of interests in using my blog for my own PR as well, as my approach to my art is no different than my approach to my blog.

  6. Pre Post Script – It is very late so apologies for bad grammar or spelling but I am tired.

    Keenan,

    We’ve gotten to be a bit of buds as of late, so I hope you wont get upset if I tell you…I disagree with most of what you are saying.

    “How is what you’re saying helping theater and these younger theater artists evolve? How does your loose lips sink ships parody do anything but degrade the neophyte who is learning and training and getting their bearings in the world? How grade-school a tactic is comparing someone’s language to that of the SS or the McCarthyites to vilify them? Do you really believe that you’re helping them by slapping them down? You had an opportunity to teach here, and instead you chose to show off at the expense of potential students.”

    First, I’m not sure that anyone is being slapped down. I thought the “Loose Lips” post was excellent metaphor for some of the sorts of conversation we were having about process, rehearsal, review, loyalty and what is on the table for discussion and documentation and what isn’t. Nick is under no obligation to teach “potential students” anything. His subtextual meatphorical take using WWII propaganda was IMO actually a very fresh intelligent contextual stance on the issue. Was anyone out there really cut to quick by that? It was I think a criticism, not a lesson. Dude doesnt have to be Yoda. Hunter S Thompson werent no Yoda (Nick F aint no Thompson…but his affinities are closer to that model than any you seem to wish upon him).

    “The purpose of an online conversation for me is to get exposed to new ideas, ideas that are already outside of my comfort zone for their sheer alien-ness. We agree: that’s good for theater, and it’s good for writing. It’s good that I read your parodies. But to add conflict and ridicule to that mixture of exposure is counter-productive. It’s a poisonous overdose that does damage and prevents real development.”

    A…I guess I don’t see the ridicule here. I see color commentary but I don’t see ridicule. Sometimes I even see a bit of a Cassandra complex, but I don’t see a big middle finger and hateful mock. Nick didn’t add anything, he merely examined what was already there. When one blogger threatens to sue another…sorry that is ripe for commentary in many peoples’ book. Many Chicagoans, myself included, just wanted the whole thing to go away…but perhaps the alien-ness of the concept that it shouldn’t has at the very least momentary value. And if it taught us anything it is that even deleting a post on one’s blog doesnt always mean it went away.

    B…It seems to me that any alien-ness doesnt work for you if you perceive any sort of “meta” quality. You’ve spoken on occasion dismissively about using blogs as “theatre”. Blogging as theatre is not a lie, or a stance or a pose…If everytime someone amplifies analogy or metaphor with artifice while remaining sincere to their intent…if you dismiss it as “theatre” and there fore less value to you…that’s ok, but i disagree that “More often than not” people want or dont want only one sort of blogspherical code you seem to be passionately keening for. There is room for both types.

    Where you dismiss Nick as parody….I see social localized (to the theatrosphere) satire.

    You’ve mentioned that you don’t think it necessary to have “persona” online. But, damn man every body has one. You can say, you don’t..but it is not true. Even if every word you speak is from a place of sincerity (I don’t doubt that it is) You, like all the rest of us, most certainly have an online “persona”.

    “I also value sharpening the ideas from time to time, but more important to me is the freedom to practice the “Yes, and…” principle: you don’t take the piss out of someone’s half-baked idea, you push it forward in a better direction. Then they’ll want to bake their ideas ALL the way next time.”

    It is no one’s fault but their own if the stop “baking” because of a bunch of ones and zeros that Nick or Don or I or You for the that matter put on our little bits of real estate. RVC and Trailing Spouse haven’t stopped posting because Nick is less than cordial or opening pining for a punk rock approach. You invited others who dont speak so often to speak more and that was a good thing, but these folks already had blogs and they were already talking…RVC was very present in Don’s comments before any formal invitation from any of us. So this assumption that many of us have a responsibility or obligation to ensure we diligently weed out any kind of negativity that might possibly discourage others from posting on their own blogs or even in the comments of many popular blogs…it assumes alot and that dog dont hunt I think.

    “Yes, and” is an excellent tool for amplifying a conversation or pushing it in a better direction unless of course the better direction is 180 degrees from where a thought is currently coursing.

    Keenan, I guess i just dont get all the consternation over how RatSass chooses to blog?

    There is enough bandwidth for all of us to have and request and encourage the kind of conversations we want to have without scolding and finger wagging at a voice that we dont agree with.

    I feel like you are insisting that Nick should be contrite for not giving you what you want in those 30 minutes you spend online, but… just as in art and life…is he obligated to do that?

    Keenan, I really value your contribution and voice online. However, you say things that sometimes make me cringe (not in contrition but in total disagreement)… so does Nick F…but Rat Sass just like Theater for the Future as it currently exists has value. I don’t trust Nick F as far as I can throw him (Nick I’m sure that or at least hope that doesn’t bother you) But just like with Don, and Scott Walters and others…the blogosphere doesn’t thrive despite these voices… but rather because of them.

    I like the panoply. I like the pantheon of POV and approach. And even if it occasionally makes me uncomfortable I like Rat Sass, just the way it is.

    -dv

  7. Good points, all of them.

    I didn’t really feel the need to retaliate against the WWII parody images. What got to me, what made me cringe, and made me speak, was Nick’s statement:

    Those bloggers calling for more civil or politically correct talk are often Johnnies Come Lately to writing; their blog is their first attempt to actually write anything other than their very proper high school or college papers. But writing school papers was work. So instead of writing, blogging has become more like transcribed talk. This discourse style believes that just by keeping its schoolboy etiquette, its patter will somehow be elevated into something of value. But there is a vast difference between spewing out one’s opinions and honing one’s thoughts into ideas that could impact on the mindset of a reader. So the Snarkless Marks’ antagonism to an uncivil tone is also their envy of any crafted or edited writing.

    That’s a well reasoned argument, but it comes down to patronization of people like me and you who are working their approach out, and it gets in my craw. It’s a self-aggrandizing and unhelpful judgement. I agree that we should be living and let living, and writing and let writing. I said that to RZ during her episode, I’ll say that to anyone. I’m not happy with any disrespectful tone that put in my comment, and (heart on my sleeve) I was pretty upset about responding in the way I did all day. And yet it contains ideas I believe ultimately carry water, presented in a voice that is a crude mimic of how I perceive this particular manifestation of Nick’s voice.

    I created some theater here, based in how I feel and what I believe, to demonstrate and extrapolate how quickly this kind of online theater gets damaging to people who aren’t playing the same game. And, I know this wasn’t as clear as it could be – because I’m not here to hone my writing talents – but I did note that what I what I was saying is a clearly unfair and unreasonable characterization of what Nick is doing here – as unfair and unreasonable as some of his more lucid characterizations of what I’m trying to do with my blog – or what Mac does with his, or Isaac does with his. It’s judgement, and I can choose to respond to judgement if I think it’s BS.

    Why care? I don’t know. I did yesterday, I don’t today. I share the fear of the publish button, and yesterday’s comment was no exception. I nearly erased it three times, because I knew on some level it was a bad idea. But then I thought – Nick would publish. Paul would publish. If I shut my mouth, who cares what I believe in? I sometimes wear my heart on my sleeve, just as you gentlemen do from time to time (nick wears four by my count). There are certain things I can’t turn off about myself that generate positive things and ugly things. One of them is the desire to do my part to create and improve a thriving theatrical community. That’s a desire that Nick and PRekk, bless you, have expressed disdain for, and that disdain has honestly cast a great deal of doubt into my efforts. Nick’s been at this a long time, and I wonder at what he’s seen. If I’m another blowhard advocate Johnny come lately. I let that bother me, because that disdain might carry some weight to it. I need to work through that doubt, and it meant engaging yesterday. It also meant apologizing today. I’ve seen the value of cooperation in my work, and the current online and physical status quo of propose and cut down isn’t sufficient for me. I see the same individuals habitually seeding unreasonable conflict out of a belief that cutting commentary makes better commentary, and I need to call that out because I just plain disagree. Once — I don’t need to beat a dead horse, and yeah, this one sure is maggoty.

    I don’t say any of this to shut Nick or Paul up. This would be an awful strategy to get anyone to shut up. I say it to make it known that there is dissent to that belief. To test their beliefs against my doubt for once. And you’ve done the same for me now, dv.

    On some level I was trying to communicate on your terms, Nick – using a mask of condescension which isn’t really there. I don’t hate old punks and I don’t expect you to rot in a corner – but there is some generational conflict at work here. I can see a creeping doubt in claims like “The relationships in these social networks in FaceBookNation (including the theatrosphere) are based on weak ties when compared to peer production” – perhaps he’s starting to see that facebook is this generation’s punk. It’s a rejection of the individualism-centric boomer and Gen X ethos of rock and punk in favor of the emergent Gen Y collective mind. It may be scary, or disappointing it’s in its own way revolutionary, and it makes the older folks twitch just like the Charleston.

    Ultimately trying to fit another’s mask to my voice is a foolhardy approach, and not one I could ever be adept at – our approaches to blogging are so different there’s absolutely no reason to listen to each other, for one thing. Comments like mine above are why I prefer to stay out of conflict. I don’t operate well in it. My thoughts aren’t clear, and my words aren’t fair. I get too aggressive, and let go of the principles of a balanced action and reaction. This is why I believe I don’t and shouldn’t use another persona – as neither a writer nor a performer, It’s just not my strong suit and I’m gonna hurt someone.

    My ‘teacher’ statement comes without context, and without that context, I do sound like I’m calling for Nick to be Yoda. That context is that I believe that teachers and students and peers are the same thing, exchanging roles whenever experience dictates it. I’ve learned UNIX tricks from a fourteen year old. Learning from each other, but with a focus on the sharing of knowledge, not the patronization of a teacher / grasshopper relationship. Perhaps you don’t see our back and forth as teacher and student, dv, but on occasions for me it has been – in both directions.

    Ultimately, I apologize for sharing my beliefs not because of the beliefs themselves but because I felt I couldn’t wrap them in anything but blades and pointy sticks here to get them understood. Please do carry on with my blessing. Or leave the blessing on the floor if you prefer and back away slowly.

    Or sharpen your next commentary.

  8. See, this is the sort of discourse I can get behind. I’m only sorry (honestly) that it’s not a style of discussion that you prefer. Because I don’t hold disdain for your ideas, and even in the moments I may have doubts, I have no desire to pass those doubts on to you.

    I’m reaching a realization here of my own unawareness of the tone I hold. What you see as barbs and razor blades just reads to me as regular conversation, the kind I would have with any casual acquaintance. I exude a certain passion about my ideals, to be sure, but it honestly comes as a bit of a suprise to read such an uncertain reaction to the words that I have written. And yet, as I write this now, I wonder if I am unknowingly inserting what could be viewing and jabs and hooks. It’s not intended, and that’s about all I can offer to the contrary.

    This is the sort of area where other bloggers might send out personal e-mails making sure everyone’s cool and nobody’s feelings are hurt. In line with the rat sass view of blogging as every bit a conversation as the everyday, I tend to avoid that approach, as it gives a further air of posturing to the blogs and ‘real life’ to the e-mails behind them. It’s an idea that further stems from my sense of stubbornness and obscurism and a convulted idea of public anonymity: all faults that I acknowledge but still somewhat embrace as well.

    So, what to say in place of a “Hey, Nick K., we cool?” e-mail? Only that the online commentary I offer (at any blog) is as much a building block of my own ideologies as it is a comment on anyone else’s. I blog from a place that is in a constant state of discovery and I speak with a complete sense of ardent assurance, as nick termed it, with the (self)understood paradox that whatever it is I am so assured about is completely malleable.

  9. Paul, we were always cool. Ideas are Ideas. This is the sound of working things out when you hold beliefs so dear that, as nick says, you can no longer separate your words from your actions. They are interconnected. That idealism is powerful, and it can be a positive force and a fiercely destructive force when wielded carelessly.

    The way I take something IS my own problem, and I’m sorry that I was unable to communicate my core message – that our respective voices can be misheard and cause unnecessary damage beyond the intent of the writer – without lashing out.

  10. Keenan,

    I get your teacher analogy now. For me “teacher” implies more intent on the part of one “teaching” than I’m reading from your comment. Teaching is a little holier for me than just sharing knowledge due to intent…my perception I know.

    “Ultimately trying to fit another’s mask to my voice is a foolhardy approach, and not one I could ever be adept at – our approaches to blogging are so different there’s absolutely no reason to listen to each other, for one thing.”

    I agree that wearing another’s mask is foolish. And if the thought of persona is too synonymous to a mask for you then you should not have it in your toolbox (consciously that is…again I think everyone online has a persona that does not necessarily equal their offline personality). And if you ever become comfortable talking to different bloggers in different voices that doesnt have to be a bad thing. I talk to RVC and you very different than Scott or Don. Not to condescend or placate or cradle…just because did folks want different styles of discourse and I like talking to lots of different types.

    But, I’m not sure I understand your last line about different approaches and not listening. I like listening because of the different approaches. For me there is enlightening “alien-ness” and that is what I get out of listening to everyone from Nick to Hunka.

    Regarding the johnny come lately metaphor. OK I’ll say here that Nick F’s explanation of his metaphor has a lot of presumption in it about why “quieter” bloggers are there. If that was the button that got to you…you’re right that I didn’t get that from the first comment.

  11. If I may speak for myself for a moment . . .

    I really don’t care how you guys talk to each other on your own blogs. Whatever reasons I have for saying or not saying something are my own. Frankly, what everyone else has to say about that says more about them than it does about me. To be honest, I’d rather talk about the new play I’m working on instead of – oh, I don’t know – the relationship between dramaturgy, the theater scene, and white male privilege. Or something frivolous like that.

  12. @RVC

    Congratulations. You’ve gone from needing to be asked (remember that?) to speaking for yourself regardless…which is I think what my point was after all.

    Question…

    Am I or Nick(s) or others supposed to read a subtle rebuke in your comment based on how you perceive my gender/race? Are you accusing other bloggers of acting on some sort of “privilege” when posting on their own sites? Or maybe it is just “privilege” when commenting on others?

    I get that you want people to read your blog (dont we all) as well as comment on your play (you’ve been very dilligent about asking people to do so)

    But these requests of yours… not always but occasionally… seem to be accompanied by subtle accusations…could you clarify for me?

  13. Am I or Nick(s) or others supposed to read a subtle rebuke in your comment based on how you perceive my gender/race?

    No.

    Are you accusing other bloggers of acting on some sort of “privilege” when posting on their own sites? Or maybe it is just “privilege” when commenting on others?

    Neither. I was speaking in general. I posted on my blog about it a while ago, but it didn’t go anywhere.

  14. I’m just catching this now. I actually didn’t have much problem with your first comment here, Nick K. That johnnies-come-lately paragraph made me livid as well. I’m one of the most persistent guys on the civility tip, and I’ve been out of school for ten years, writing and producing plays. Nick F. likes to refer to his longevity in the discussion a lot, but I would argue that that by itself is not proof of wisdom. It could just as easily be proof of entrenched habit and accrued defensiveness. There has to be more of an argument than longevity.

    The more I think about this argument, the less I think there’s a moral high ground. Nick F. is, like me, advocating for an environment in which he feels comfortable. In his case, he takes comfort in the punk ethos, which just seems worthless to me. Nick F., like others, is continuing to push the false dichotomy – belligerent truth-telling vs. polite lying – that has utterly distorted this entire conversation. I wish he wouldn’t do that, but again, he, like me, is trying to make the world a more comfortable place in which to practice the habits he likes to indulge.

    Nick K., while I do think your comments were quite well-expressed, I think this is probably a discussion worth abandoning. People who wish to be uncivil won’t change. And Nick F. does have moments of civility and lucidity that are quite valuable, and I will continue to profit from those. The only way to push this forward is to create civil conversations that thrive to the point that others want to be part of them. Good old fashioned competition, I guess.

  15. Mac said: Nick F., like others, is continuing to push the false dichotomy – belligerent truth-telling vs. polite lying – that has utterly distorted this entire conversation.

    I like truth-telling and honesty. Polite or belligerent, or any other tone between those extremes works fine with me. I dislike lying. I especially dislike self-deception. So I try to monitor self-deception as closely in myself as I do in others. I might wear a polite or belligerent mask in service to the truth. I have never varied from this representation of my intent. However, this does not stop Mac and others from misinterpreting and/or misrepresenting my intent as something other than that.

    Mac said: Nick F. likes to refer to his longevity in the discussion a lot, but I would argue that that by itself is not proof of wisdom. It could just as easily be proof of entrenched habit and accrued defensiveness. There has to be more of an argument than longevity.

    From zines and small presses in the late ’70’s and early ‘80’s into the Internet, Web, and the blogosphere, I have been a writer, editor, and publisher. As such I have been in the lead on many experiments and innovations in how writing interacts with theatre and more generally in culture. My only “entrenched habit” is my continued participation in that cultural flux. But there is more than just an “accrued defensiveness” to censorship on my part. I stalk out its incidence and its practitioners with a vengeance. I make no apologies for that obsession.

    Experience has some authority, but the terrain is always fresh. So old dogs have to learn the new tricks or go find a pasture. Teachers in theatre and art appear as retirees to me, or as I said above, big fish in a little pond. So I am not a teacher, unless a competitor and peer is also a teacher. There only is one worthy instruction anyway: Follow your instinct and the scent in the air. Either run with the dogs, or go sit on the porch with the rest of the puppies and retirees.

    Mac and Nick K, I appreciate that you have taken on the task of a public characterization of me. I consider this as the opposite of censorship. I will try to return the favor. (I know, you wish I wouldn’t) I am frustrated that you both need to classify me simply as belligerent, patronizing, and misanthropic, especially since both understand in part at least the humor and parody of the Rat Sass mask. Most readers may not even get that far. But you still judge that my intent is to be malicious not instructive.

  16. Actually, Nick, I do appreciate this candor, and I welcome that you’re interested in returning the “favor”. Your Loose Lips post got under my skin, to be sure, and thinking about it – seething about it, really, though I saw that particular post as valid parody – did serve to help clarify a better expression of my own position. For me, that’s a messy process – you’ve all seen the comments here, but this discussion has for me opened up another wave of writing – my last two blog posts are a more productive expression of the results of thought in the face of criticism.

    It’s helpful to me to plumb the context in which divergent opinions like yours operate, and it has always been frustrating to me to crack the enigma of the Rat Sass shell. I also read your work on International Culture Lab (and I share your enthusiasm for Guillermo – his work was instrumental in my education. And he spewed Chicken Guts all over one of my professors, which was one of the highlights of my college years), but I do see persona on the net as more cloak than craft, so it heightens the frustration for me when there is true divergence of thought that I want to address. I get that others dig it though, so I try not to knock it too hard.

    On your side of things, I can imagine that It must be frustrating to continue to have to explain yourself to newer folks to the game like me – to the point where you just refuse to do it anymore. Of course blogging as a medium doesn’t promote cultural memory (we assume servers and google will do that work for us). In fact, I’d argue that blogging erodes memory, and the shifting context of the theatrosphere and its relation to the real world is an occupational hazard we all must endure.

    I think to conclude the lesson for myself here (because we also teach ourselves), my take away from this unfortunately toned exchange (largely my own doing) is that we have explosively different core beliefs about how to communicate lessons and criticism to a peer. As patronizing and maddening as that process can be for both parties, we still MUST express the malformed ideas that stand in the way of our better ideas. You have to write what you have to write, and if you don’t, you get blocked. In my case, your parody of my work as a simple PR strategy did shut me down for a time, because I have that doubt about my work. It hit home. It was the first harsh criticism that I have given real weight to for a long time, so you can pat yourself on the back for that.

    But you pushed the issue too far with the Johnny Come Lately quip. You parodied your peers – and then sought to directly belittle them. I don’t believe that’s what you do to a peer, that’s what you do to a fool when you are acting a fool. You invited this dialogue with that comment, and I simply gave it to you. I had to respond in the way that I did simply to clear the air and make it clear that yes, I do value my work, beliefs, and even my writing enough to speak. I will defend and strengthen my work, as you will defend and strengthen yours. I know you believe in this kind of expression, you practice it all the time, and I appreciate that your response to it was “Thank you for your thoughts.” You processed the criticism, weeded it out from my vitriol, and responded.

    I absolutely welcome your feedback now, in whatever form it may come. And of course, you can expect dissent when I feel that you have missed the point.

    Smash that Chicken.

  17. I mean more pointedly that the blogosphere is the Johnny-Come-Lately to alternative publishing. It is this publishing aspect of blogs that has been taken so lightly by so many.

    Transcribed chat and opinion doesn’t need me to belittle it. It is what it is. And if posts can later be deleted (“unpublished”) when a blogger misspeaks or “thinks better about what was said” or receives too much flak from other bloggers or a debate gets out of hand, then the intrinsic value of the publication is belittled.

    This publication medium is fluid. I can edit and/or expand this particular comment in front of the reader, or not. But can I pull it away now, delete it, and pretend that it has never been said?

  18. Nick F., I apologize if I have misrepresented you. I may not possess the proper cognitive tools to understand your writing much of the time. If it’s all right with you, I think I may stick to lurking for a little while.

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