MAY 24, 2009 4:16PM

So That’s All I Want to Say About Vaudeville

Rate: 4 Flag


Michael: Here you go, love.

     (offering other half of candybar)

     Here’s your evil bar.
     
Melissa: Save it.

     (rushing to keyboard)

     Saveitness!

     ’kay, don’t say anything.

     I have to record what we said on our walk.

Michael: See, it looks like I was carrying both bottles, but as soon as we got out of sight, I handed one to you so I could eat the candybar. And somebody looking at that would say, “Look at that guy—”

Melissa: That’s so narcissistic to think that anyone even notices. You live your life as if you were in a movie. As if there were an audience watching and interpreting everything you do.

Michael: I think it’s because I was raised by television. And television makes you conscious of the fact that you’ve been sitting there eavesdropping on all these television lives, so it’s natural for you to begin to assume that even your own life is being eavesdropped on. Not by some government entity or something weird like that—

Melissa: “Nothing weird!”

Michael: But maybe that’s what you start to think if you start thinking bad thoughts. What I mean is, a benevolent camera eye, always pointed at you, always conscious of everything you’re doing—

Melissa: That doesn’t sound very benevolent. That sounds scary!

Michael: It depends on who’s at the other end. In my case, I assumed that the other end was this appreciative audience—

Melissa: Now, hold it right there. Because you are constantly perceiving the world to be judging you—

Michael: That’s because I’m paranoid. I can’t help that.

Melissa: So exactly—then how can the observer be benevolent and appreciative?

Michael: Because, I’m not talking about a single individual when I’m talking about the audience. I’m talking about a group of people. With a group, every little thing you do doesn’t have to appeal to everyone all the time. One person might think, “Oh, I just love the way they say that.” For another person, it’s a different moment. They could hate each other’s moment. They might say, “Why does he ruin it with that?”

     That’s not possible with only a few people. And if there’s only one person, well, then you’re completely at their mercy.

Melissa: Not if you’re not doing it for them in the first place. But I guess that’s the difference between you and me. You were raised on television, so you think life is a performance. I was raised on books, so I think life is a novel.

Michael: Do you think that’s true?

Melissa: To a certain extent, yeah. I definitely see underlying themes in our life, motifs, like you would in a novel. There are coincidences. Strands. Chapters. Epiphanies. There’s a certain logic to the narrative.

Michael: Well then, what’s the true difference between a novel and a performance?

Melissa: The size of the audience.

Michael: What?

Melissa: With a novel, it’s very intimate. It’s author to reader. Period. With a performance, you’re up on a stage or on a big screen, and you’ve got a bunch of people sitting around watching you, applauding—or not.

Michael: Well, I clearly see that what we’re doing here, to bring this back down to earth, is the more intimate thing. Author to reader.

     In this case, authors.

Melissa: Yes!

Michael: But, we are needing to perform what we’re writing, so we are actually doing both.

     Not that our performance would be worthy of any audience.
     
Melissa: So we’re performing—by conversing—and I’m typing it as we speak. We’re also adding another layer by tweaking, writing, and even later, coming back and editing when we perform it again to check its authenticity.

Michael: It’s interesting that you use the word “authenticity,” as this process shows there is a certain phoniness behind the art—the lie part Picasso talks about—

Melissa: That tells the truth.

Michael: Right.

Melissa: Like the part below that was written earlier, on a different day.

Michael: You wanna know what I think we’re like right now?

Melissa: What?

Michael: Vaudevillians. We can give each other lines—you know, we can make good setups for each other, or we can leave each other nowhere to go. It’s just like vaudeville, and vaudeville was really a lot of—

Melissa: Wait!

Michael: What?

Melissa: (typing)

Michael: See that’s the thing, I shouldn’t be talking about vaudeville, because I don’t know that much about it. So that’s all I want to say about vaudeville.

     You should have an idea of what you’re talking about. I know no one can be like a computer and have perfect facts all the time. People are imperfect. Their memories are imperfect.

     (pause)

     I’m pretty sure your experiment isn’t working right now. You’re just recording what I’m saying, and you’re not getting a chance to say anything.

     We’ve gotta make sure it doesn’t become these long-somethings.

(later)

Michael: (calling from kitchen)

     Here’s that evil candybar.

     “Haha, Michael! Not for you!”

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:)

"I’m pretty sure your experiment isn’t working right now. You’re just recording what I’m saying, and you’re not getting a chance to say anything."

What experiment? Is that a fair question or would it compromise the results?

- added, rated, dj
Michael: Yes, dj, fair question. The experiment I'm referring to here is a sub-experiment of the overall experiment, which is metaness.

Melissa: That's a good question, actually, since it took us a few moments to remember ourselves! I believe the sub-experiment refers to a slight variation in our process.

Michael: Which was what?

Melissa: It was that I had just begun typing what you were saying—

Michael: See, this is what's been going on all along. How is this any different from our original process?

Melissa: What's different is you didn't know at first that I was doing it, so you were speaking more naturally and freely. But the truth is, that has actually happened a number of times in the course of writing metaness—sometimes, the fragments wend their way into one of our posts, sometimes they languish in the—

Michael: Wait, stop. Sorry, David. I guess your comment has spawned a sub-post.

Melissa: As for your question about compromising the results—not at all. This is a collective experiment, and we're grateful for your participation in the creative process.
I liked this. You two have interesting conversations, whether you really said that or you faked it. If we wrote the conversations around here, it would be like:

Me: #@!#%%! Pope peed in here! Right after I mopped.
Mama: Where? Where is he?
Me: Here! He peed here! Right where my foot went...^%%$$#@
Mama: Where is he?
Me: He's probably hiding in the closet!
Mama: (fearing me) I'll put him out.
Pope outside, trying to intimidate bigger brothers who live outside, like the new guy in prison: Snaaaarllllllll
Melissa: Welcome, Delia!

Michael: Yes, happy to have you here.

Melissa: I can't tell you how relieved we are to hear these conversations *are* actually interesting to at least a few kindred spirits. We were beginning to wonder :-)

Michael: On the authenticity of these conversations, the resulting text is very true to the original, but some artistic license is used to glue fragments together and fill in forgotten dialogue.

Melissa: And wherever that happens, we try to give clues, so the process is as transparent as possible. This definitely falls in the category of documentary, but there's always a teeny bit of editing that goes on--especially if we don't finish a post in one sitting. That's when we have to stitch the future (now the present) into the past and make it all work as a coherent piece.

Michael: Your conversations with your mom—both this one and the one in your interview with Mary Wollstonecraft (which you did a great job with, BTW)—are very entertaining.

Melissa: Yes! We laughed out loud while reading this.

Michael: Now we wanna hear more about Pope and friends!
First thougth:
I kept waiting for a live link to "Big Brother is watching you!" Perhaps this at Wikipedia: In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state.

Second thought: I sure hope you two continue to get along and don't stop speaking to each other.
Hawley,

Doubleplusgood bellyfeel, goodthinker Hawley!

Reminds us of an article we recently came across titled "The Masterpiece that Killed George Orwell":

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/10/1984-george-orwell

As for your second thought, we'll be celebrating our 17-year anniversary in August, so we're pretty sure you don't have to worry about this one :-)

See you and the other ownlifers at the Chestnut Tree Cafe,

m&m
I came here from remarks in your last message and yes, there it is:

"Melissa: That’s so narcissistic to think that anyone even notices. You live your life as if you were in a movie. As if there were an audience watching and interpreting everything you do."

Narcissistic, but sometimes maybe, for some people, painfully self-conscious: like you're acting in a movie and having to direct it and watch it at the same time - Oh, god, why did I say that? Who wrote these lines? Is there spinach in my teeth? Did they see me wearing this same outfit yesterday? ("Continuity!")

People are imperfect. And if that weren't enough, we take an already complex situation, life, and then we get to work on complicating it. Complex isn't enough, it has to be complicated by our twitchy insistence on ourselves. Their memories are imperfect. And we often see what we want to see, or expect to see. Memory might be a myth. (Have you seen those eyewitness experiments?)

Tin hats be damned! You can have my thoughts and good luck with 'em!
@consonantsandvowels:

consonantsandvowels: I came here from remarks in your last message and yes, there it is: "Melissa: That’s so narcissistic to think that anyone even notices. You live your life as if you were in a movie. As if there were an audience watching and interpreting everything you do."

Melissa: Yes, exactly!

consonantsandvowels: Narcissistic, but sometimes maybe, for some people, painfully self-conscious:

Michael: Once again, your observations are unsettlingly spot-on. Of course, I kid about the “unsettling.” It’s one of the things we like about you the most!

Melissa: The accuracy of your observations, consonantsandvowels, not your unsettlingness.

Michael: You’ve hit on the core difference. I’ve never thought of myself as narcissistic, but I have always been painfully self-conscious. Thank you for making that distinction clear in my mind.

consonantsandvowels: like you're acting in a movie and having to direct it and watch it at the same time - Oh, god, why did I say that? Who wrote these lines? Is there spinach in my teeth? Did they see me wearing this same outfit yesterday? ("Continuity!")

(both laughing)

consonantsandvowels: People are imperfect. And if that weren't enough, we take an already complex situation, life, and then we get to work on complicating it. Complex isn't enough, it has to be complicated by our twitchy insistence on ourselves. Their memories are imperfect. And we often see what we want to see, or expect to see. Memory might be a myth.

Michael: I would like to expand on this bit of brilliance: “Memory might be a myth.” Memory might be a myth we tell ourselves so often we forget we’re telling it, until we forget to remember to tell it to ourselves anymore, and then it’s gone.

Melissa: Wow, that’s really sad. And convoluted.

Michael: Haha. It’s convoluted?

Melissa: Yeah, but you’d expect a statement reflecting on the nature of human consciousness to be just a tad complex.

Michael: Seemed perfectly straightforward to me. I said it straightforwardly. But seriously, this is of particular interest to me because I have so little of my childhood left. I don’t have any physical things from my childhood up through my high school years, other than a colorized photo of my mother and a birth certificate. Other than that, I only have my memories, and I’m trusting them less and less as time goes by. I believe part of the reason for metaness is just so that I can get some of these memories down somewhere more permanent than my “memory.”

consonantsandvowels: (Have you seen those eyewitness experiments?)

Melissa: This is really eerie, because I was trying to remember where that came up in one of our recent comments so we could cite it in our comment to you in “You Know What I Just Realized Our Apartment Is Like?” But I got lazy and never got around to looking it up.

Michael: What eyewitness experiments?

Melissa: Well, we’ve heard about a number of studies proving the unreliability of eyewitness accounts, but consonantsandvowels may be referring to a specific study. If so, we’d love to learn more.

consonantsandvowels: Tin hats be damned! You can have my thoughts and good luck with 'em!

Michael: I just imagined if you could hear everyone’s thoughts at once that it would sound like bacon sizzling in the distance.

Melissa: Mmmm, bacon . . . oh no! We’re vegetarians. I forgot for a second.

Michael: Did you really forget?

Melissa: Yeah, because “I’m feckin’ hungry, you know.”