Questions from the chalkboard #2

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Three questions for Sedition

  1. Have you ever lost an argument badly?
  2. What do you think is most likely to cause your death? (I don’t mean governments, I mean more like, you know, heart attacks, car accidents…)
  3. Do you ever read your older stuff and hate it/love it?

Those are excellent questions. And because I am the most vain mother… guy online I’ll dig in.

One: Have you ever lost an argument badly?

Well… I’ve been wrong and sometimes been wrong while “winning” an argument. To me winning an argument has been about the conclusion of the exchange; social, emotional, rational. I’ve made persons submit when I was wrong because I can be something of a verbal chameleon; verbal only means words so this can apply to writing too. Arguments, in the past, for me have been more about winning than about any position. Because of that, I have been able to shift, manipulate, and devil’s-advocate myself on top most of the time. I can be verbal wrestler able to take any position to gain advantage in part because I can see most sides of a thing. It’s a sort of hyper-empathy which is a strange mix with my general sociopathic tendencies. But what are you gonna do? Am I right?

This easy abandon has bothered some of the persons close to me. For example, I often say things like, “Oh, this is my favorite song…” about a song when it starts; about 500 different songs when each starts. They think I’m being disingenuous or affected or confused. I mean it though. When it’s on, it is my favorite and I cannot for the life of me consider liking any other song as much. Ask when there is no music… I can’t even pick one.

The argumentative immersion—keep talking until I get the pin—is something I (mostly) left behind about fifteen years ago. It was exactly the same time I (mostly) stopped engaging in arguments at all. I lost all defensiveness or care that anyone agreed or could be forced to pretend to agree. This is something about which I don’t know what to feel. I really don’t care if anyone agrees. As liberating as that is it also seems alienating. Then again, why would Hawaii be jealous of Oklahoma?

The losses, as such, involved stand-offs where I said something stupid or false and can’t forget that I said something stupid or false just to try to win an argument. Again, that’s long gone behavior. It would have been much easier to grow out of if… well, no. It’s on me no matter where it came from.

Two: What do you think is most likely to cause your death?

If my lineage is any indication, it’ll be cirrhosis or tuberculosis.

Really? I’ll probably kill myself when I’m old enough that life is more painful than joyous or beautiful. I do put this event 45 years out. I do find my life joyous and beautiful. That probably doesn’t come through here much. Sad that. Oh, uh…

Three: Do you ever read your older stuff and hate it/love it?

I resort to quoting the writer dressed in pine yet again–

“Do you ever do awful stuff?”

“Probably more of it than any other [writer] and with less excuse. The only distinction I can claim is that my botches end up in my own wastebasket.”

I read an interview with David Bowie once where he said he couldn’t stand to listen to his older music. I was enraged. How the fuck dare he? How dare he release music he himself didn’t love?

It’s difficult to discuss your own writing. This is especially true when your writing isn’t a single style or strain. I consider myself foremost a poet and secondly a musician, then a story teller and then a humorist, then a painter and then a novelist and then… I don’t know? Essayist, critic, absurdist, photographer, philosopher, blogger…?

My short stories are second to few. My poetry is second to none. These are two genres about which the world does not give an aerial intercourse. When I’m working a full time job I can’t do any creative writing. For me it takes a deep time and effort commitment. What can I do? I want to write. I want to be productive. So—this. Sedition·what-the-hell-is-this-anyway.

The punchline being, excepting a few regrettable dalliances—or pointless or badly done wastes of “ink” which I leave posted here in the spirit of honesty—I am perhaps too in love with my writing. That’s what made me so mad at Bowie. Why would you do something you weren’t in love with? He became no better than an accountant to me then. Just another schlub doing XYZ for $$$ because life landed him there and not for any particular love or joy or sense of purpose. Nothing there to respect. Just a different flavor of Larry.

That 45 years out will revert to 45 minutes should I ever discover myself in the same strait. Would that the world agreed with me on this point. Oh, uh…

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Discussion

Comments


Jules

Re: Questions from the Chalkboard #2

Sweet, thanks for these answers. They were (or they appeared) thorough and thoughtful. I like the way you put yourself in your writing, I feel as though I'm actually listening to someone speak. I find this valuable in today's society where everything that is cleverly or freshly written seems to have some sort of purpose that ultimately is advertising/marketing/selling.
I do have one comment. On the point about David Bowie, about how he hated his music/your irritation upon realizing he didn't love what he did.
I don't know the man so I can't say, but as an artist, I find that, a lot of the time, I hate things I have done after a few months, and usually the more time passes, the more I hate them. In a sense, becasue I feel that I am growing and getting better, I feel that the things I have done in the past are either childish, or without much thought.
I guess I felt your assessment that, becasue he hated it therefore he was "another schlub doing XYZ for $$$..." to be a little hasty, if not slightly misguided...but maybe not. (you may know more about Bowie than I do, I know very little about him or his music.)

By Jules on 1 August 2009 · 15:32
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Ashley

Ziggy played guitar

Sure, sure. You’re quite right. I write in here, and in some other places, in an oral, storytelling, broken grammar fashion which can be easy to hear in your head.

I understand about Bowie but I felt he was saying that “Changes” and “Heroes” and such—songs that mean something to me personally—were beneath him. Not that he had done bad work he regretted; which though he has and he should, it wasn’t those songs. These are distinct and the core of the Rand quote.

All artists do bad work. The best learn to tell the difference and don’t foist the trash on the world insisting that it’s gold if only considered correctly and it’s process that matters, not product, and all the other things said by artisans with pretensions to artist. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right editor or the right agent or the right… There are actors who are generally terrible but land with the right director and… wow.

That previous example is too kind and unfair to artisans. An artisan photographer, for example, would be able to develop a beautiful shot with deep and perfect contrast, even if she were unable to take a picture that would survive ages. Most of todays “artists” are neither artist nor craftsman but a psychologically damaged middle ground whose work can only mirror that. Con-men only really conning themselves and perhaps a few coffee-table-collectors that appreciate all the finery the Emperor has on his back.

There is a huge range of what might be art though and I’m not a prescriptive type. We all have to find our own ways through. Being unsatisfied with your own work is frustrating but generally excellent. It drives you forward. I’m not entirely sure where the line is between knowing you could have done something better and regretting and despising something you’ve done. Some of the first, most simple, songs I wrote 20, 24 years ago are still some of my favorites. Music in particular I feel is a reflection of the soul that may become more complex in expression but never actually grows…

That said, Shakespeare could not have done what he did without a fair certitude it was what it was. And I think a lot painters in particular get worse as they progress. Pablo Picasso’s only decent stuff was his earliest and it was quite ordinary. Mondrian did some really striking things early on and degenerated into well-ordered nonsense.

But enough about my opinions, let’s talk about my desires!

By Ashley on 1 August 2009 · 16:52
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