Whoever gets annoyed by that title, just calm the hell down. I was doing a cute reference to this movie title, which you have to admit is pretty memorable.
Well, OK, I want people to calm down but in fact this entire weblog entry is about flipping out, so feel free to get all wound up again. Actually, do whatever you feel necessary; in today’s wonderful world of online discourse, we’ll get to do anything we want to so that trend might as well continue on here.
I promised I was done writing about that movie and I am, I totally am. Instead, I’m going to write about some back and forth related to it that you might not have been aware of, and what that means in the greater totality of stuff.
After I started getting dozens and dozens of links back to my weblog entry, I knew it was just a matter of time before people related to the production would find it. It’s not that hard to find me and I’m not being Mr. Ego when I say that stuff I write about tends to get the attention of the people being talked about, if I talk about them. Witness that whole thing about the Electric Slide, where I got the Electric Slide creator, the plantiff and defendant in the only dance copyright case, the EFF lawyer, and a bucket of Greek Chorus. I’m not saying what I did necessarily deserved their attention, but for the current golden age of weblogging, my doing so held enough prominence, arbitrarily, to get the focus of all those related people for some short time. It’s nice. It will eventually go away.
When people write to you with opinions that you have written about, you don’t always get positive responses, especially if you compare their creative output with sodomy. Hence, they tend to write rather energetically in a direction non-parallel to your own. I like getting those perspectives. None were forthcoming from the producers of The Movie. OK, fine. I have a lot of pillows and they absorb a lot of tears. But I couldn’t imagine they didn’t, you know, stumble upon what I wrote.
This lack of imagination on my part was validated when I found out they had read about it and were writing about it. Not to me, mind you; that would be too easy. No, they were writing to people linking to my writing to “set the record straight” or at least try to dissuade them from talking about it too much longer. Major mistakes were made in this process.
The writer, Ed Cunningham, who was producer of this film, insisted the writing be confidential. Well, dude, someone has totally misjudged what the concept of confidentiality is. You implement confidentiality in two fashions. You demand confidentiality because someone is under your chain of command. You insist it be kept confidential that your company made X dollars selling things one way and Y dollars selling another. Trade secrets. You demand this of your underlings or contemporaries or you add the “confidential” marking on the communications you do so that it is clear to people within the chain of command above or below you this is sensitive. There’s a whole science to it. You’re doing it wrong.
The other way you demand confidentiality is this. You write to someone. “I’d like to speak to you, but it has to be confidential.” The person you are speaking to either tells you they’re totally down with this or you should go fuck a couch. If they say they’re down with it, then you speak to them confidentially. I’ve done this myself, both as the receiving and providing parties of the confidentiality. Upon acknowledgment, the receiving party gets your confidential missive and you are communicating. Pre-emptively declaring confidentiality is poor form.
Oh, there’s a sort of third way, but it has less and less meaning these days. The third way is that if you demand confidentiality upon the writing of your communication and the person “breaks” this confidentiality, they are revealed as a harlot and can never work in this town again. This third way depends on three premises that are not very valid: that anyone gives a toss if you’re a harlot, whether there’s a “town” to no longer work in again, and whether you have any sway whatsoever to get someone declared a harlot in this town. This is, as I said, a nearly impossible conflagration in the modern era. Go fuck a couch.
Anyway, so the confidential but not really confidential message got forwarded to me, and the positions were, roughly:
- We have chosen not to engage Jason publicly.
- This letter is confidential and we’re sending it to you.
- Jason is wrong.
- Jason uses information from people at Twin Galaxies, who don’t like the film.
- Jason is a biased filmmaker who hopes to one day make a documentary about arcades and so he’s bitter.
I disclaim that these are my summarizations and feel free to post the real letter somewhere and then call me wrong.
Anyway, I can’t speak to the fact that I have had to rely on Twin Galaxies and related folks as one of the sources of my complaints, beyond the fact that I definitely did. Yes, I used other parties to discuss this film, parties that felt wronged by the film. Yes, yes, I did.
As for any amount of “oh no, Arcade is ruined” thing, I can completely assure you that Arcade is not ruined. I have 20 hours shot already, and I expect by the time I’m done I’ll be at the 200 interview mark and it will be longer than the BBS Documentary was. When you live your sad little existence thinking of everything and everyone as “fuckoverable”, “fuckupable”, and “other”, then I could see where you think I’m non-positive because my movie’s been “killed” or some sort of zero-sum game bullshit. But let me assure all parties: Not the Case.
It is remarkably cheeseball to go about this by sending back-routed letters about this whole thing to people linking to me. It is definitely less cheesy than having strawmen make fake accounts and implying something untoward about me and my motivations and the rest. But make no mistake, OK? It is cheesy. I realize that the window for your little flick’s sales is about six weeks from time of release, which was four weeks ago, so you’re just gritting your fucking teeth hoping my untoward statements will just stay out of your goddamn way until the release window is over and you can relax. I know how it works. I don’t like it but I know how it works.
But let’s get beyond all this and even the sleazy tactics of Ed Cunningham, who appears to have an excellent future in the world of filmmaking, and whose name I expect to show up mysteriously and spontaneously in the future releases and discussions of my future films. Right now he is working hard to make a highly fictionalized movie based on a shortcut-filled documentary. His comfort level with this sort of activity is why you will never see me doing the “Hollywood” thing. OK? OK.
Now, to get to what I am primarily trying to say.
Realize that online discussion is very useful in some ways and very problematic in others.
On the plus side you get immediacy, truly global access, and (more than a pool hall debate anyway) permanence. You can cross-reference, you can engage immediately, you can argue like hell while home, then go to work and keep arguing, then get out your phone while out at a restaurant and argue even more. You can, in other words, never stop arguing. With BBSes, you had the problem of one caller at a time, so you only had a short time to make your stuff count. You might back off, then. With in-person debates, you are less likely to use language like cretinous fucktard in the course of describing your collaborators. When you engage online, you totally lose all those self-limiting conveyances and can get right to pure, uncut argument.
Unfortunately, this position of mine is, even though it’s laced with profanity and apparent cynicism, idealistic. The question of a debate is, how much is too much?
We’ve all seen this. A guy says something. Someone responds negatively, in a paragraph or two, or maybe even more. The original guy responds even more to that person. To some people, the debate is now over. This appears to be magazine limit, the rate at which most magazine debates end; article, letter to editor, response from writer. You cross some threshold then. I am going to coin it. I am going to call it the zota threshold.
Here’s zota’s weblog. zota’s name is Jason. He’s an engaged guy. He’s smart. He’s definitely not a slouch. And, if you spend the time going over all my stuff, it is zota who has pushed things to the level they are now. I can’t imagine I would have written an eight thousand word weblog entry about a subject if I hadn’t gotten such a tough customer in zota.
Watch him in action over here at Will’s weblog. This is not run of the mill discussion. Seven go-arounds occur, each one is progressively hostile on both sides, each one draws in more facts and suppositions, and I think each of us has a point when we go “Oh, come ON”. Not, and this is important, not because there’s nothing left to say and not because all the points brought up have been addressed, but because this medium, this immediate, global, permanent medium is being stretched in very odd places and the format of weblog entry and comments is obviously not the best container for the ocean of discussion being brought up.
In fact, and since zota has more than once come up with theories as to how I do things, my own impression is that only if we were to assemble in a room myself, Ed Cunningham, Seth Gordon, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Steve Wiebe, Michael Moore, Robert Shaye, Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi, strap us to chairs, videotape the whole thing and then ask an unbelievable amount of questions under oath would he be satisfied. This is, utterly, his right, but there is a point when the diminishing returns of such an approach outweigh the aspects of truth being plumbed.
For my own bit, I try not to get hung up on the specific debate but what the greater meaning or context is. Teach a man to punch someone in the face and you get a boxer, but teach a man to punch anyone in the face and you get a weblogger.
The reason half of the mongo entry was about BBS Documentary was because I wanted to draw parallels to how these sorts of films are made and what they mean, or else I would feel I was truly wasting my time. The number of people who were so explicitly unhappy with my verbiage up to that point that they enunciated it to me was one: zota. So instead of being stuck in a zota-loop, I made the context greater. I think the essay has more meaning. Some, however, don’t get it.
Some, also, don’t want it! For many people, the zota threshold is not three go betweens. It’s one! They don’t want this stuff gone into beyond what’s there. They might make commentary on it, but not in the way one comments on a work to bring greater meaning; they just want to squirt a little whipped cream of themselves on someone else’s work. Comment pages encourage this, and I’ve begun to see a trend where sites are starting to put the commentary elsewhere, on a separate section, linking back to the work. I can see why they would do that. I could see that very much indeed.
These extremes of the spectrum (I don’t want to talk about it, I wish to talk about it until all relevant parties die of old age) belie the number of people in the middle. The whole reason I got any attention at all was that a lot of people would see The Work, then go online and see Commentary on The Work. They wanted to know more. They didn’t need to read a book and half on it, but a nice set of paragraphs with greater context was just what they were looking for. Being sucked into a debate regarding truth and editing was perhaps an unexpected dessert, but OK, they’ll browse a little of that crap before they get bored and see what else is up. It’s not their job to know every single last debate and detail, especially when it appears some aspects are subjective. At that point, a 14-round comment go-between of two people pushes from an interesting discussion to a rapidly fading noise down the hall that you’re walking away from very briskly.
This problem of the zota threshold is not going away. I’d like to consider more of it.
But not for that long.
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