Thursday, March 20, 2008

Talking is only half the battle...

Yesterday there was a nice little thing going on about theater and value and what not. Will the energy of yesterday turn into anything other than self satisfied meowing when we occasionally go to look back at our own archives?

Something that came up more than once yesterday, and I found on two different blogs today...This notion that it isn't nice or constructive even to frame negative comments about things you read on the blogs, to call BS when you smell BS...

And to this I call...wait for it...BS. Not a very popular position to take I guess.

Where as I agree that talking things out is important, It is equally important that we have the courage to direct and honest with each other as well. Pleasantries in the face of ideas that we feel strongly don't work, that too does not further the equation.

We here in the theatrical blogsphere need tougher skins. Especially if we are going to forward the conversation. Where the fuck is our sense of humor especially about ourselves.

Yesterday, I heard a few interesting things. I also heard an echo and echo and echo of tired things I've heard before. When I call bullshit, it isn;t for the vicious thrill of shooting someone down...it is because if the goal is better future for theater...holding our pinkies out politely ain't adding anything to end result either.

Why is it every time someone attempts to debate an idea, someone posts something about their feelings getting hurt.

Toughen up Nancy. Have the courage to not only speak digitally but to listen, and when someone says something like "That has been tried"... either ask for more detail, figure out a new angle, defend your thought vigorously...anything other than the equivalent of "yeah, but not by me..." or "Don't be mean" or "Don't call BS"

Debate your thought. Shake it up. Fucking Act. Action!!!!Action!!!More Verbs please!

Let's assume we are all friends here and that none of us are going to hook a book deal from the conversation, and get down to business of debating rather than reciting. Anything less is a waste of our strength.

Sometimes voices are raised in anger. Sometimes polite discourse leads to nothing except more tea please. I'm not advocating insulting each other... if you don't get that then your skin is too thin.

Please someone give me an amen?

20 comments:

Tony said...

I think, for me at least, it's helpful to differentiate between types of calling BS.

One, "you're argument is bs." That I'm okay with, if one can say why, or at least make an effort to say why. It may take a couple of tries to articulate why one thinks an arguement is bs.

The other, I find problematic, "it's bullshit that you're even discussing this."

But then, I've never been one to backdown from a discussion or misunderstanding.

I'm all for calls to action, but I take action in the real world and discuss it on the blogs. That maybe why I'm less likely to put in a call for less talking online.

Often I'm thinking aloud, like those wtf is art posts back in the summer, and opposing--at times heated--voices help me to test and sharpen those ideas. But that can't happen if I'm so thin skinned I can't take having ideas and thoughts argued with.

The other side of the coin is if one gets so angry that instead of saying your idea doesn't float, hurt feelings spiral into "fuck you and your mother's a whore", as happens on occasion. That's not helpful either.

Thankfully that's one thing that is mostly absent from most of the Chicago contingent of the theatrosphere--at least the one's I read.

Of course that probably sounds like the bragging Chicagoans historically are known for.

Devilvet said...

Hmmm...

I don't care how or if or what have you regarding BS. I mean in the end, we all have control of our blogs and can wittle out what we think has no value. You do it, tony...so do others...So this isnt a defense of trolling that I'm speaking to, it a defense of debate, it is a call to those of us who speak to withstand criticism, even quick criticism. To not take such quick criticism as a opportunity to admonish, but as an invitation to elaborate (divorced of rhetoric)

What I see happening is ocassional castration of dissent and contention out of fear of seeming impolite. What I see is anger at the notion that 'it is not enough to hypothesis'...What I see is folks who can not stand not being congratulated constantly for their lofty intent.

Someone once said the road to hell is paved with good intentions...I'll amplify that to say that the road paved by good intentions doesn;t go to hell...actually it goes nowhere. it goes in a circle. not a cycle but a circle. not a circle of life, but a circle of stagnation.

What good was yesterday if all we do is reaffirm and recite? Yes, it might give us (lot of us and them talk yesterday) a momentary thrust of catharsis...I want more!

Paul said...

If there's one thing the Internet has proven, it's that talk is very, very cheap.

And snarky criticism is even cheaper.

Devilvet said...

I dont fear snark on the internet. i don't need a flame war. I don't defend the trolls. But, I get glib comments on occasion.

Thick Skin

nick@ said...

Amen, brother. Speak the speak.

Paul said...

And I'm among the first to get all Barry Glib on a comment page.

But more to my point, we can talk until our balls fall off. I'd like to see more 'doing', TYVM.

Don Hall said...

Bob,

Here's the thing:

Action without thoughtful intent is knee jerk and a waste of time. The constant refrain that you come back to is "ACT" but that doesn't really contribute to the debate, does it?

As a source of non-trolling contention, beyond working for yourself to create your own theater, what the fuck are you doing to address the issues that we are discussing - and "I'm an artist with my own destiny" is some weak shit if the discussion centers around the national neighborhood.

Tony said...

I agree with the need to act. But, I don't know how to do that online. If someone does, I'm all ears.

So I act, and test hypotheses, in the real world and discuss and theorize online (and in the real world.)

The notion that talk is cheap rings bogus to me in a medium that centers around written and visual communication. What would be helpful, and I myself can do better at this, is reporting on results when ideas are tested.

But action comes off-line. IMHO

Devilvet said...

Don,

OHHHHHHH brother!!!! No you di'int!

Saying I didn't contribute to the debate yesterday...is disingenious. I attempted to challenge quite a few people and evolve the conversation...

Even today, I am trying to keep the conversation up in the air and trying to get us all to question the value or our little 'value' talk...I am trying to keep it from being a blimp on the map. There are enough bloggers out there congratulating our intent from yesterday, so why not speak with a different equally relevent point of view. Why not say, 'Not enough" why not say "Yes, but"

I am trying to get the debate to a place where I dont have to worry about hurting feelings...and I am trying to challenge myself and others to yes ...ACT.

You're challenge to me is also disingenious...I dont call you to the carpet for not having totally fleshed out ideas you talk about on your blog or when we speak in person...just becuase I haven't seen the Freedom charter doesnt mean i question you'll get it done when you can.

i am trying to get us to place where we seriously question our assumptions rather than recite them...(ie. theater is about story, community, well wishing, etc.etc.etc.)

I did and do what I can to push the mission statement rhetoric to be more active...

I am doing just as much as you with just as much sincerity. If you dont like my points, well boo hoo.

I try to write plays and direct works that demand they be active...
I try to question as actively as i can.

I will not apologize to you or anyone for wanting more action!!!!

You are only responding to what you want in what I wrote, Don. I say that talk is half the battle...I dont call for an end to the talk. I want us to Talk and Act, even on the blogs I want us to get more active...

But, you know what...you are right...I could be doiong even more...I'll try harder...but I wont just shut up and I wont stop calling a spade a spade...just like you do. The only difference is when you do it...I dont try to force you to justify even raising your voice...the way you just tried to with me.

Thick Skin, see you at rehearsal...I am going to ride your ass so hard (wink)

Devilvet said...

"Action comes offline"

I agree with that. But, i would also argue that where I see passivity on the blogosphere, where we recite rather than recombine...that that informs how we act offline.

So, if you are convinced you are doing enough offline, fine...

i actually agree with Don, that I am not, but I also think most of us aren't.

i think we stuck in our ways of thinking about art and commerce and marketing and playmaking...the same way in which a creationist is stuck in the thoght abot how the world came to being.

I think we are so busy and obsessed with defending how we got to where we are, that we have trouble thinking of new ways to get to even newer places.

I want more, i want bolder talk, becuase bolder talk , bolder thought can lead to bolder action...

Tony, even though I dont agree with everything about the critic or critics, it is bold...

Even if I dont know if tribal models are possible I think it is bold

Even if I haven't seen a freedom charter it is bold

Even if people dont want to be succint about theater cookbook strargeies i think it is my first attempt at something bolder.

But, again if you are doing enough...well then fine...

but then also, why even care about the question yesterday.

if enough action is being taken why the question?

Tony said...

I don't think I'd say I'm doing enough off-line. I don't know if I ever could do "enough." I'm doing what I can without living in a van down by the river.

"I think we are so busy and obsessed with defending how we got to where we are, that we have trouble thinking of new ways to get to even newer places."

I'd agree. But sometimes the wheels spin till they make a spark. And if the wheels can't spark they can't start a fire. So I don't necessarily see the need to immediately halt the wheels from spinning because I've heard it before, either.

Cause lets face it--there is a big difference in experience between You, Don and I (and others) and someone fresh out of school. So what is old news to us may not be to someone else. And who knows what they might do with it.

I'm am all for boldness, but I wouldn't negate a passive onlooker either.

ps. I like the cook book idea, I just haven't had time to add anything of use to it yet.

Devilvet said...

"So what is old news to us may not be to someone else. And who knows what they might do with it."

Maybe...but maybe if we know that certain routes led to pastures not as green as those who just hear of said routes...We do them a better service to say..."Hey, the horses already ate all the hay that way"

But too often when the canary starts coughing on our little blog here, the response is "Will someone please tell that canary to shut up"

GreyZelda Land said...

"Why not say, 'Not enough" why not say "Yes, but"

Why not start saying, "Yes and" ... that big but gets in the way.

Heh heh.

Big but. Get it?

I'm with Tony ... I'd like to start seeing things get physically experimented with and then start hearing about people writing about the results. As always, I'm pro-Elvis. "A little less conversation, a little more action, please." But I ain't saying cut out all the conversation ... it's just time to figure out how to streamline some of the brainstorms into a game plan.

I'm going to speak for myself, personally, but I know that right now I'm bogged down with our GreyZelda show and this bebe that's on its way, so thinking of starting something new, right now, doesn't seem in the cards.

But, what if we started talking and putting our own selfish interests aside ... or at least come up with a way to combine them and take that sacrifice in the constant need to put up a season by trying something new. Could we put all of these voices in a room and would we be able to make sense of each other?

I think that's the next step. Nick at Rat Sass suggested a festival/conference idea.

Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah. (If someone can name what movie that sung line comes together, you'll be my new favorite person.)

RZ

Tony said...

"We do them a better service to say..."Hey, the horses already ate all the hay that way"

But too often when the canary starts coughing on our little blog here, the response is "Will someone please tell that canary to shut up""

That I can wholeheartedly agree with

Nick Keenan said...

It's been a long time before catchin' up wid you, Devil Vet. Good stuff.

I'm surprised you didn't link to the specific comments that pissed you off. Would have liked to read those to understand where you're coming from.

Yes! For me, blind affirmation and hand-holding is just as empty as blind denouncement. I love affirmation and hand-holding when it freaking MEANS something.

I think the "affirmation" vs. "calling BS" argument distracts us from the work that we're trying to do - as I call them, the projects. What pisses me off - and I can hear you getting pissed off as well - is when we waste a great deal of energy - seriously, when do we all sleep? - arguing about our different approaches of problem solving rather than the problems themselves. I personally don't operate well in aggressive debates - I do just fine, but it brings out the worst in me, so I take a different tack. Loud debate and BS-calling becomes more about dominance and volume than progress - so I try to work on questioning ideas without threatening them.

You want to know where the hay isn't? In the search for action being done upon the blogs. That said, we have TONS of action going on right now in Chicago - what I'm guessing is that action isn't satisfying you or you're not connecting with it somehow. You've got your recipe book, Don's got the charter, I've got freaking four or five web applications in the oven that I think will be game changing for small and large theaters alike, and one of them, the CTDB, is being beta tested already. I think we all could use more time talking about these, (Don's also gotta open up his idea more, unless he already has and I just missed it) and I think the value conversation blew some fire and urgency into that discussion. Lap it up! Use the momentum! I haven't slept in four days so much delicious crap is going on! I've never seen so many theater folks eyes GLEAM about stuff we've done in the past week!

I absolutely think it comes down to your observation of horses and hay - except I think you draw the wrong conclusion. Hay grows faster than you think. By the time you get done telling the other horse that there isn't hay down there... well, time has passed and you might be giving them wrong information. If you're calling BS, and that triggers that aggressive, violent impulse in either you or the person you're having a "debate" with, one of you isn't using your critical thought anymore.

I think I'm there. So yes, let's discuss possibilities. They all take work, and we've got roadmaps in the works for all of them.

RZ, you're right on. E-chat doesn't carry emotional information, so the conversation often spins out of control because we substitute another voice, and we can't see when the conversation is veering way off course. We need a face to face. But to justify that face to face, I think we also need a common goal or project that's really worth having. I don't know about you, but I hate waffling meetings.

Our work is local, so what can we do locally? What can we accomplish? I've made some suggestions on my blog and my forum, but I get the feeling that those initiatives aren't getting traction with y'all yet. What would?

Gotta build a web site. ta ta.

Devilvet said...

Nick,

Good to here from you. The comment was in a post on Scotts blog. And it might have even had something to do with your and mine first digital meeting back a few weeks ago on don's comments...

There has been lots of back and forth..and some folks dont like how i say something even if they might agree with a piece of what my message is.

I get that some people feel there is an absurdity at the notion of calling for action on a blog...

I guess for me it has something to do with how to enable ourselves. I think I said it to scott (somewhere on some comment...these waters run deep sometimes)

Ian tried to corner me on my action talk...on scotts blog...I was not converted...but I think a good time was had by many talking things through

In the end I think the debate has had value, I think we are doing a good job communicating...sometimes my voice is raised digitally, but my respect for all is there still.

We should keep pushing and challenging each other. I am attempting to find a voice that pushes my agenda but doesnt turn others off...A work it progress...at the very least you know what your get with me...so, lets keep it up...both of us...I cant stop calling for action...I believe...but at the same time I am anxious, I am impatient...I am contentous...I am devilvet...you dont have to love me....so long as you dont leave me....

Seriously, I'd love to buy you a beer real soon.

Devilvet said...

"I absolutely think it comes down to your observation of horses and hay - except I think you draw the wrong conclusion. Hay grows faster than you think. By the time you get done telling the other horse that there isn't hay down there... well, time has passed and you might be giving them wrong information. If you're calling BS, and that triggers that aggressive, violent impulse in either you or the person you're having a "debate" with, one of you isn't using your critical thought anymore.'

Uno Momento ...where you use the word violent...I would say some thing more like contentious. I dont think that the two are necessarily synonym.

Sometimes a tension leads to an even better resolution...like in theatrical narrative, you know?

Anyway, enough justifications...I agree we are moving forward... Even if we all dont agree if the gas pedal is being pushed had enough...there is definitely more pressure on the pedal than before.

Devilvet said...

"Our work is local, so what can we do locally? What can we accomplish? I've made some suggestions on my blog and my forum, but I get the feeling that those initiatives aren't getting traction with y'all yet. What would?"

I know I said I was done...here comes more...

I think your initiatives have traction...lately I think the value/mission 'community' needs a second draft was my major thing...have no doubt, I think your initiatives have value...

I still want more though...I'll try to elucidate in the future, right now I got to get ready for tech week...Clay Continent opens next Friday!!!!!

Nick Keenan said...

I hear that, Buckaroo Bonzai. Best of luck with your wireless mics. If it's any consolation, I'm jumping into a 40-child musical this week at the last minute.

Yeah, violent: not the right word. Like I said, Blog comments can encourage us to spin our wheels a bit because in the interest of time they get posted quickly. It ain't my dissertation, you know?

I think though that there is a tendency to become habitually argumentative, and it removes us from our ability to act - especially from some director mentalities. Likewise, there's an opposite tendency to act before thinking things through - especially from the designer mentality.

Tension is great, it just needs to be managed, is all, and I think the theater that you're interested in is a black sheep in this discussion, so you in some ways are at the greatest risk of getting entangled in defensive / aggressive arguments with us Kum-ba-ya types. That's absolutely a good think: I can see all of us here getting more agile at managing that tension to question our own assumptions, especially since we're all now involved in a kind of national conversation. The stakes are higher, and that's good.

I don't like tired words either. I kept calling our theater process "organic" until someone rolled their eyes at me, and that made me change the description to something else. Dirty, consuming, rewarding. Community has definitely become a meaningless buzzword to the non-profit sector, and that's not healthy.

My only worry for that style of debate - and perhaps this should feed into that "3 things I learned the hard way" meme that I owe you - is that you can get intoxicated by your own insight when your doubt becomes habitual cynicism. Habitual, blind cynicism is the disease that plagues our generation (no, this isn't a dig on you or Don, I think you guys aren't all that blind about your cynicism) - but it has removed us from connecting with our own lives. Bush was elected twice because our generation thought other people would take the initiative, and we could get away just by voting and not taking to the streets and building an army.

I know you get that. Your post on mortality resonates big time - I lost a lot of people in 2007, and that makes me want to do this work to really connect with the people I still have.

So: Be well, keep your health.

Devilvet said...

Nick said 'We need a face to face. But to justify that face to face, I think we also need a common goal or project that's really worth having. I don't know about you, but I hate waffling meetings."

maybe the goal of the face to face (the first one) should just be to break bread.