A lengthy, passionate diatribe about how much I love swear words. Pretentious as hell.
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There’s some potential for controversy… maybe it’ll spice things up??
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Thoughts on this podcast thing? Like it, hate it?
My first shot at being “clearer,” articulating a point of view and not overwhelming. Let’s see how this goes:
Assuming you’ve thought about implications (even saying, “I don’t care” is would qualify), this idea is sound.
See, the point of writing, or art (because hell, yeah: essays contain art, too, and you know what I think about what art “is” from my “Snowdrop” written/audio commentary), you want to take into account the various senses in which you will be understood or perceived. There’s the tone you use and diction, and other stuff like that. It’s an internal debate about payoff and what’s “more important.” If you *intend* and aim to actualize a dissonance, and want a particular effect, nobody can say you didn’t intend it, or shouldn’t have intended it. What people can do is discuss and debate aesthetic effects—which indirectly have social and moral effects, the ultimate good of which people debate.
You know how, for example, Byter puts periods after single words? Uses sentence fragments? I see what he’s doing—sort of—but it doesn’t work for me. The effect is too blurry, too cloudy, mannered, distracting. I don’t get why he does it, not really, because speaking in person has a different nature than writing. We don’t speak like we write, although some writers have tried to narrow this gap. Ever noticed how so very bullshit conversation seems to be in Hollywood films? “Real” people talk more like Louis CK in that heckling clip, sort of lamely, hinting at their points or saying them too strongly, clumsily, and needing to correct. If you script your words, speak carefully as a matter of principle, or are just a miraculously epic person, then this would apply less to you. It’s about hitting that sweet spot: “viscerally drawing the person into the story may require some suspension of disbelief regarding diction.” Or, I’m a narrator filtering the events so that you get it most meaningfully. If you want to consider drama, this is exactly what Magical Mystery Cure is. We don’t quite know what happened at the metaphysical or literal levels, and pretty strongly arguably, we’re not meant to.
I used to be fascinated by swear words. I once wrote “FUCK” in giant capitals in window frost on the school bus—I was nine, I think. The bus monitor told me, and I just stared; I think she knew that I didn’t quite “get it.” My mother, who’s a fluent English speaker, but has epic fails with nuance, shrugged (she swears pretty often in French). There was no punishment for it, no “talk.” She and I have always just been…weird that way. The day I moved into my senior year dorm, we got into a petty argument over how ready I should have been to leave, what I should have packed, what I didn’t plan for. It was beginning to rain, and rain hard; I was in a T-shirt and jeans. In a miscalculated moment, I slammed the trunk really hard and totally fucked up my finger (left a scar, had to rush to go get it dealt with). I screamed, clutched my finger, swore really loudly, and my mom just looked at me with this weird expression of, “You never swore around me before. I raised you to be inoffensive. I get you. This seems right. I see the dissonance.” It was confusion, guilt, distaste. It was awesome. And the argument just died. It moved her; she didn’t know if she was right to argue, or if I was right to swear, but it moved her. Like shit clashing in her mind. Whether there was actually “a time and place” was irrelevant. It was about the perceived gap between the two being used. There was meaning-making, and it worked.
Back to the example. If you were writing a story, and it was structured a particular way, you might more appreciate the effect. But as it is, there’s all this extra baggage associated with his process. The conventions of written English are a “translation” of numerous ideas that include spoken English, and they rely on certain assumptions. Same in your case, it would seem, with respect to this particular issue. Well, to a weaker extent, to be precise; expletives already exist, and people have a myriad of conflicting or contradictory viewpoints on swearing, because it covers a lot of spheres. Expletives pad or intensify meanings. Saying “I fucked her good,” is not using an expletive. But it’s BULLSHIT to say, “I porked her, “or “I drilled her,” or “I mounted her,” or “I appropriated her,” (this is from Tess of the d’Urbervilles) “We copulated,” or “We made gravy” or whatever if that’s not what you actually want to achieve, if it doesn’t work with what you “would” (really, “find it right to”) say. Siding with culture is not supposed to be the rule here—valued and precise communication is. If people don’t get your meaning, either they are “dense,” or you have “failed to communicate.” Note the quotation marks.
We absolutely should conflate issues, if we can help it. Expletives need not be swears. Swears need not be expletives. It doesn’t matter if a “nicer” word can be used; it matters if a more precise one can be used, or a more “beautiful” one, or a more “unified” one, thematically speaking (again, you may intend the dissonance). Expletives intensify. Why should you use a lower-resolution one (like “cheese and rice”), just because you’re padding meaning? Why not maximize the meaning? Why change your meaning and say something you don’t really feel, if you’ve decided in the first place to get at precisely what you feel? Even expletives have an effect. A divine oath used to be a serious thing (and some people still take it really seriously, mysterious effects and powers, etc.). To do it offhand causes people to wonder. If you’ve thought about what you want them to wonder about, even a bit, then you’re doing something decent. Maybe you can improve the resolution, but everyone can, really, and the avoidance of swearing isn’t necessarily the way to go.
There’s another layer, of course, in that you’re explicitly doing more analytical work (though you’ve already made it clear that your views are necessarily colored by your values). You’re ostensibly (heh) stating “facts.” If someone compares waiting in line to sodomy, or someone’s concern for you to asking for sodomy, then that’s low-resolution meaning. We need more; we need to feel like we really get it. Yes, people will stereotype you. That’s their prerogative. They will judge the morality and effects or your decisions, but we’ve been doing that forever—does it really matter more in this context, and do we have the necessary empirical data? Your videos contain art, and a historical trajectory. The question is not whether you’re wrong, but what you’re trying to do, elicit, evoke. Nobody’s asking *that* question, I bet, huh?
Yeah, cultural context matters. Yeah, conventions matter. But they only matter to the extent that you’ve considered and judged social and moral context as you begin to communicate. What you believe *is* part of the process. Who cares if people like you less, merely because of this vid? Pettiness. Fuck ‘em. Of course you care about what you say, and you care about certain elements to speech more than the claims that people have brought to the table. If you had pointed this out way ahead of time, accusations might have been averted—but again, why attempt to shame someone for something that most people never even bother to do, when he’s actually articulating his beliefs? That’s just boorish. Good art creation presumes general knowledge of rules and effects. But “communication” that disarrays or distorts meaning is unproductive in terms of visceral sharing, connection. The point is to communicate “effectively,” not to communicate according to someone’s individualistic presumptions.
Hurting feelings? Depends what you find offensive. Being mean? People are mean. Turning away viewers? That’s just taking offense; it doesn’t mean that the person has nothing of worth to say. Fallacy there. Art isn’t nice or appropriate; it cares about the truth. If words hurt, they hurt for reasons. Art investigates them. We should do that, too, rather than throwing dust into people’s faces and thumbing noses at people who have differing views. Interest may fade because we dislike a personality. Being a good person according to a paradigm is…well, just that. You don’t have to be a good person in order to try to make better sense. I do it by extensive walkthrough, and little tags like context clues (good call, picking up on that), and interjections. Puzzle keys, so to speak; I do that more subtly in my fiction writing. Trying to make better sense does not mean swearing less.
Swearing “all the time” is a boring, prosaic concept. It’s fucking lazy. Swearing “imprecisely,” however, is a more interesting idea. That’s where you ask people, “What did you mean?” and “What do you think?” Takes balls, takes humility, takes trust. That’s what art’s all about.
That was fucking beautiful, bro.
Your story about slamming your finger reminded me of a few lines in this fucking brilliant spoken word poem (warning: you may cry): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VrZE8MCnIA
Wow. So, so dense. I had to pore over the text, too. Just…so much.
And, ohhh yeah, I noticed people crying at the end. “Trying-hard” stories are my weakness.
(even saying, “I don’t care” is would qualify)
I wish I’d proofread a second time…
I really want to know what you think about MovieBob’s episode of The Game Overthinker (episode 86), wherein he bashes the usage of “Ludonarrative Dissonance” on the internet, criticized it for being “a made up term”, and insinuates that people who use it are “trying to sound deep and intelligent, without actually having to be”.