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March 17th, 2004 - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal

March 17th, 2004

March 17th, 2004
09:14 am

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Things The Ferrett Does Not Get #2,742: It's Not Unusual To Be Loved By Me

Quick. What's the argument that has cost Ferrett more online friendships than just about anything else?

Oh, you'd think it would be politics... But it isn't. Usually, if I get to the point that I'm chatting with you, I'm either in agreement with you, we like arguing, or we have agreed to disagree. Try again?

My incredible raging arrogance? Well, that's not really a single argument as it is an underlying factor. It's like groundwater; since it seeps into just about everything I talk about, it's kind of like saying, "Gravity is what caused the plane to crash." Try again.

Nope, never mind, you're wrong. The argument that's cost me three online pals has come from supposedly intelligent people. Two out of three have been artists. All have baffled me.

The argument is twofold:

"If a TV show, book, or movie is popular, it must automatically be crap. And if it's crap, that means anyone can do it."

I must be alone in this universe, because my line of thinking goes something like this:

"If a piece of art can appeal to a wide scale of people, it must have something going for it, even if as a work it is flawed. I wonder what that is. And I know damn well that not everyone can do it."

I think the main point behind most of it is snobbery and failed expectations. Most of the people I know who hold this viewpoint in real life or online to some extent are - let's face it - failed artists. They're irritated that the kind of stuff they like and want to produce will almost certainly not be commercial; they know, intimately, the struggles their creators had to go through to get to the second season, and they themselves are usually the sorts of people who could never find the movies and TV shows they liked before DVD burners and eBay came along.

Therefore, an interesting catalyst begins to appear; because they know they're a minority, it's not enough to just be a minority and say, "This stuff is good. I wish more people liked it." No, because they realize that what they plan to do is likely doomed to failure, they start seeding their life with reasons for it: People who don't like what they do are clearly idiots. It's not that people largely view art as an escapist topic and what they personally like takes a lot of effort to watch; it's that everyone is a moron, and only I am smart enough to hold these standards!

In this way, when you're still in your parents' basement five years from now, you've got yourself a nice little excuse.

And then, for many, follows the second reason: King is a hack. Spielberg is a hack (or was before he started doing more arty flicks). ER's a hack. Rowling's a hack. And the people who create those shows and books and movies, which appealed to seventy million people around the globe?

Well, shit, anyone could do that.

This is patently, 100%, ridiculously, off-the-beams, gonzo absurd. I'll be blunt here: If you think writing some multimillion-copy bestseller is easy, you're an idiot.

You're assuming, of course, that nobody else has tried to do it. Look, I'm an author, and if I thought I knew of a way to toss off a couple of million-sellers, I fucking well would. Maybe it would be artistically unsatisfying to write it - but sure, I'd pour five zillion bucks into my bank account, at which point I'd have endless time to spend the rest of my life farting around, writing the quality books that would fill my life with sunshine.

I know I'm not alone. There are at least a million other people out there who'd sell out in a minute for fame and fortune. But we don't know how to do it.

Oh, I don't doubt there are a couple of rare ducks out there who would refuse fame and fortune if it was within arm's reach - but if writing a potboiler was that easy, if creating something that connected in a straight line with the public's consciousness was simple, more people would do it.

We're all trying to write bestsellers. We do the best we can and hope that we have that magic touch that catapults us into the stratosphere. Most of us don't.

Doesn't that tell you that whatever it is that pushes Clancy onto the bestseller charts is fucking rare? That it's difficult?

And if you're still not convinced, keep in mind that there are more than a few high-level executives who thought, "Well, I'll just retire and write a book! I've done the analysis. I know what people like." And they write their book, and they fail.

Even the people who are purposely slumming, who have nothing to say in their own art except "Give me money," can't do it.

But yet the argument I got was a cocky, "I can do that. I just don't want to." Well, you try it, pal. Lemme know how far you can get. I'll be waiting, because it isn't that easy.

I don't know what it is - but man, I wish I did. Then again, I don't need to identify it to know that it's not a gift that gets parcelled out to everyone.

Look. I'm not saying that all bestselling art is good. It isn't. The mass consciousness wants easily-digested, escapist fiction that doesn't really make them do a lot of thinking. That means that as much as I love brainbusting, in-your-face movies like Brazil and Pi, they're not going to be massive hits. While I adore science fiction, most of it takes too much effort to pay attention to what's going on, since you have to understand both the world and the characters.... And that's not what America wants after a hard day at the office and kid-wrangling. And movies that treat relationships in real ways, like Chasing Amy and Requiem for a Dream, are not going to be popular because they're really depressing.

Titanic, on the other hand, has cardboard characters and a silly romance. But on some level, it works. It whisked people who normally don't watch movies out of their houses for awhile and sucked them wholesale into the movie.

That's an accomplishment that can't be just handwaved as "crap."

And I'm not saying that everyone who disdains a popular movie - or even disdains most of them - is wrong. Not every flick's going to be to your taste, and I don't demand you start gushing about how great Finding Nemo was because it sold a jillion tickets. You can make up your own mind; there's nothing wrong with liking niche movies. Hell, half my DVD collection is stuff most of America hasn't heard of, and I intensely dislike romantic comedies. You're free to claim that Vampire Hunter D is vastly superior to Lord of the Rings.

But you have to see said movie, or at least the trailer, before you start bitching.

What I am saying is that if you disdain a movie because it's popular and for no other reason - "I know Titanic sucks. It sold a million tickets, didn't it?" - you're probably a worried snob who's desperately seeking to prove that he's a lot smarter than the rest of the world.

There's something good about each of the Top 100 movies of all time. Most of them are actually pretty good at what they set out to do. And that means, to me, that the public isn't as stupid as you think they are.

They just want different things than you do, is all. And that ain't a sin.

Current Mood: chipperchipper

(153 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
07:33 pm

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Little Graces

I am usually an inconsiderate asshole. But sometimes, I get very lucky - a lot luckier than a guy like me deserves. Like on Saturday, for instance.

On Saturday, I was in the middle of trying to get the new StarCityGames' test server to work. It should have been simple, but as usual there was the ever-popular "This isn't in the manual" frustration glitch that required me to call tech support and hunt through a few FAQs to get it working.

In the middle of "the fix that the documentation said would solve the problem, but didn't," Gini called. I was supposed to fill the fountain out back the other day, and I forgot, and she was calling from the hairstylist to remind me of it.

"I said I'd get to it!" I snapped.

After I solved the problem, I realized that Gini didn't really deserve me yelling at her like that, so I called her back on her cell phone and told her that I was sorry.

Good thing, too. Her muffler just had a hole in it, requiring her to hang around boring ol' downtown Rocky River for another ninety minutes. Her perm had gone poorly. She was having a shitty day, and though it probably would have been better if I hadn't snapped in the first place, I made it better by letting her know that I was good enough to car.

I lucked out. There have been other days I didn't bother to apologize, and should have, but if I was going to do it that was the day. Thank God.

Likewise, it had been two weeks since I called my mother and my Uncle Tommy. This isn't that unusual; after a trip home, I'm usually burnt out and don't call right away. But still, eighteen days had passed and I thought I should call.

Time got away from me, though, and Dmitri and Melissa were coming over tonight. I only had forty-five minutes to talk. "Fuck it," I said, "I'm not calling."

Then I thought better of it.

Good thing, too. My mother's eyes are hemorrhaging blood, worsening an eye condition she's had for years. I didn't ask a whole lot, mainly because she didn't want to talk, but the word "blindness" was hovering over the entire conversation. It was mostly me who talked, blathering away to try and get her to laugh, and it turns out that if she's going to have emergency surgery, it's going to be at 10:00 tomorrow.

If I hadn't called, she would have had to go in without hearing me say "I love you" one last time.

Say a prayer for my mother, Patricia Anne Bosworth nee Lucas nee Steinmetz. You might not believe in prayer, but I do, so put a packet of hope on the line for her, okay?

But that's not the point. The point is this: Twice now, I've been lucky as to call someone when I didn't want to, when they were having a very bad day. I'm not always going to get lucky. I'm not always kind. But I hope in the future that I remember this, and how much the little things can mean if they're done at the right time, and get off my ass and do what I know I should at the right moment, if not a little bit sooner.

And if any of you are feeling that little twinge of guilt, knowing that you should get in touch with someone and apologize, or say you care, or even just say hello... Do it now. Show them that you love them.

You might not be so lucky. But I hope you are.

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

(41 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
11:47 pm

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Two Notes
1) Having just watched it in 55" surroundsound glory, I remain firmly convinced that Fight Club is the best movie of the 1990s. It is the closest thing I've seen to replicating a novel wholesale; the density of plot and characters and philosophical explorations, the tiny elements that gather into a whole, the satisfying plot finale that signifies more of a moment of revelation than a gigantic explosion.

I've seen it at least seven times, and I'm still finding things to admire in it. If there's a better movie made in the 1990s, I can't think of it.

2) Dmitri and Melissa came over to watch it, and we wound up talking. They're really good folk. I'm glad we met them. It feels kind of nice to be making new friends and explorations, settling deeper into Cleveland.

And since I haven't mentioned it yet and Melissa's trying to get her web comic off the ground, I should note that she's a talented and devoted artist who is four months into her storyline of Edge of the World - a comic about magic, elves, human-owning cats, computer gremlins, and tiny mermaids (also known as "mini-mers") who live in Cleveland. As usual with this sort of elaborately-plotted webcomic, she's just getting started - but drop by, check her out, and if you like what she's doing pass the word on!

Current Mood: creativecreative

(71 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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