Other Ten Percent 6/17/13

Jun 17 2013

I kind of think I should let the RSS roundup part of the blog die with Google Reader because part of me just feels like it’s a message from the universe. That message is, of course, “Google can’t monazite this approach and it’s taking attention away from Google+ and social sharing” but hey, at least the universe is being super specific.

My initial impulse was, as always, to replace it with some of the other stuff I’m doing in my free time and I have been writing comedy and some scripts lately. But there’s two problems with that approach. One is that I feel like OTP is about having a sense of the present moment in a way that I’d really miss if I just switched entirely over to that approach. The second is that you guys don’t really have time to read 10 pages of spec script stuff from me every few days and even in you did I kinda wouldn’t wish it on you. “Guys, look, in the future this TV script will be good enough for somebody to air it on television” doesn’t really jive with our mission statement here. I need readers for that stuff (e-mail me!) but I need to rethink what it looks like when I get them because OTP isn’t the outlet.

Part of me considered just swapping over to a totally Twitter focused version of the blog but that’s got its own problems. The nice thing about the RSS format is that it was relatively passive in a way that the constant monitoring of Twitter and Facebook feeds isn’t. I can get everything I need from Twitter but I need to constantly be checking it throughout the day to stay a part of the conversation in a way where just curating my RSS feed is something I really could pick up for an hour and then be done with. I can’t write a Twitter based OTP in a burst it has to be an underlying part of my headspace all day and I’m not sure I can really afford it that headspace anymore.

The thing that makes the whole task so difficult is that the problem Other Ten Percent is trying to solve has evolved. When I started sending out an e-mail every morning content overload was such a real problem nobody’d even managed to cash in with a book about how it would be the death of society yet. There really were too many news sources and filtering them was a specialized task.

Now everybody has some equivalent of an Other Ten Percent solution to the problem. It’s still impossible to read everything everybody’s writing but we seem to have passed over the existential dread period about that with admirable quickness. Instead we trust in the fact that we’ve all, collectively, read everything and we’re probably filtering it well enough to stay an informed populous.

It’s a lot easier for me because it means that the work of doing Other Ten Percent is now distributed across 150 people for everybody instead of me trying to do it myself but it makes the job feel a lot less satisfying. It’s like I’m just reading the answers from the back of the book and then writing something about drones over them.

It’s a different metaphor now. We were sitting around trying to read a 10,000 page newspaper every day and feeling overwhelmed by it but now we’re at a 10,000 person dinner party and we have no idea which of the half heard conversations we should be jumping in on.

So how do you reconcile Sturgeon’s Law (hey, remember when the title of this blog was about something?) with a model focused on conversing and not on reading. As I see it there’s two main paths forward I’m going to be testing out in the immediate future.

The first is to simply relay the most interesting conversations as if they were stories. We’ll call this the Hearst approach in reference to one of William Randolph Hearst’s best known and most effective dick moves.

During prohibition Hearst used to have the biggest and most raucous parties in California. Everybody would be there and everybody would be drunk. Except Hearst who’d just sit, and listen while stone-cold sober. Hearst managed to build a multi-million dollar empire by knowing all the best gossip and he knew it because everybody in Hollywood would just drunkenly tell him everything he needed to know. He was the calm, all knowing center of the party and you could feel free to pay him so he’d let you know what he knew.

This approach is a lot of work and, as established, a total dick move. But I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that I have a certain level of respect for the sheer Lex Luthor level mastermind-y-ness of it. Plus, in an age where everybody’s posting photos of every object they come across that looks like it has a face it’s not that hard to implement a significantly less evil version of it.

An Example:

I’m not sure if you guys have heard about Patton Oswalt’s huge rant on joke theft, heckling and rape jokes. Even if you have I’m not sure you’ve actually read it because it’s 6000 friggen words long and the relevant bit (Oswalt has realized rape culture is real and white dudes getting criticism for saying really offensive things about rape to get chuckles out of frat guys isn’t actually the Nazi Germany style censorship stand-ups present it as) come in about 200 words from the end of the piece. The rest of it’s just Oswalt talking about what it feels like when the audience doesn’t understand your art well enough to respect you for it.

Those long, largely boring paragraphs about Oswalt’s lived experience though are actually really interesting when you’re viewing them in context of trying to bridge two separate diametrically opposed conversations. On the one side you’ve got Lindy West explaining rape culture to comedians while being genuinely funny enough to single-handedly make Jezebel worth reading again. Oswalt never specifically mentions Lindy West in the post but it’s plain from his Twitter feed that he’s been reading her and struggling with what she, and other female comedians, have been saying. On the one hand you’ve got a bunch of (almost entirely white male) comedians who have taken it as gospel that the most important “right” of the standup is the ability to say whatever you want and that threatening that threatens all of comedy.  Whenever you say rape culture to people in the second group they freak the fuck out and start making Hitler comparisons fast enough to make your head-spin (or just threaten to rape the person that said it. Stay classy unfunny twenty-something white dude standups.). So the long, rambling lead-in Oswalt does before he gets to his conclusion can actually be seen as a sort of rigorous proof trying to dismantle the standup’s usual arguments about censorship and how hecklers are so evil you have the right to do anything you want to them.

Is it going to work? I mean…no. I think “Hey, Patton Oswalt says for you to shut the fuck up” is going to be way more effective at getting young stand-ups to actually think about what the hell they’re trying to say when they talk about rape than “let’s talk about the many distinct parallels between comedians attempting to forge some connection with an audience that makes a lot of unfortunate assumptions about them and women who have suffered physical and sexual abuse because of assumptions forced on them by men.” And if just explaining why bullshit arguments don’t actually address the issue got people to stop making bullshit arguments we’d have had this sexism thing licked a long time ago. Still, I kinda respect the completeness of the effort, the way it speaks to the privileged bullshit of mediocre stand-ups and gives them no real avenue of escape.

Maybe wait for Lindy West to do a tl:dr version if you’re not part of the comedy scene though. Oh wait she already did. Lindy West is awesome.

So yeah that’s what that would look like.

Then we’ve got a second approach. Don’t worry I don’t have an example of this one yet so we’re almost done. We’re going to call this second one the salon approach and it’s actually going to be a lot less work for me and a lot more work for you guys. This is the one where I see a conversation that should happen, find two people that can have it and then drag them here for your amusement. Feminist theory and stand-up gospel is a conversation that’s needed to have a conversation for a long time, in fact it’s been going on for a while already and tragically I don’t think Oswalt is going to have the last word. Point is I could have set up a similar conversation between people I actually know and done that here when I saw this conversation was sort of happening months ago instead of waiting for Patton Oswalt to be the flashpoint. I could do a similar thing with online privacy or the next generation of gaming consoles or a whole shit ton of things.

These discussions don’t always have to be fights either. I’d love to have my Dad and Ivan both discuss Joss Whedon’s new Much Ado from a textual and industry stand point and come to common ground on why they loved it on both levels. The point is that I’d be curating the conversation by actually curating a conversation between two people that might not normally talk to each other. I’m going to set one of those up too and see how it goes.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed today’s entry including the 600 word digression about how somebody else wrote too many words. Bye!

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