MAY 26, 2009 2:42AM

And Meta Plus Meta Doesn’t Equal Double Meta

Rate: 5 Flag


Melissa: Okay, now we can eat.

Michael: Don’t worry about “eat,” let’s get back to the text.

Melissa: Okay, okay.

Michael: I don’t wanna work on this now.

Melissa: Whaddyou mean?

Michael: We’ve got six others started. I wanna finish one of those first.

Melissa: But what about the one we started this morning?

Michael: That’s the one I want to work on.

     We should say goodbye—until the next line then.

. . .

Melissa: You realize the post we referred to as having started this morning was actually about a week ago—and it was also the first to be wished into the corn field.

Michael: This is the weakest transition we’ve ever done.

     I know what the difference is now.

Melissa: What difference?

Michael: The difference between the lines you write and the ones you speak.

     It’s the difference between what you’re saying with your spoken words, and what you’re thinking with your thought words.

     See, what you were recording right then—those are my spoken words. They came out naturally, and the dialogue works better as a result.

     But that last line was more like the thought words. I said them, but they’re nowhere near as natural—

Melissa: Yeah, that’s where self-consciousness comes in and mucks everything up.

Michael: But it’s ever-present in what we’re doing.

Melissa: Not when we’re lost in the flow of conversation. But that becomes difficult when we’re recording simultaneously.

Michael: Impossible, really.

Melissa: The transcribing is constantly getting in the way of the expression. But it also becomes part of the creative process, as we reflect on the recording experience itself.

Michael: Well, that’s what this whole metaness thing is supposed to be about. Us writing about having to write this, but what we’re writing about is the conversation that we have about the writing of this conversation, which by its very definition is meta.

Melissa: It’s like double meta.

Michael: No, it’s just meta. Look, where it says, “what we’re writing about is the conversation that we have about the writing of this conversation.” That’s metaness in a nutshell. For instance, meta-history is history about history, the manmade component. Or should I say, personmade.

Melissa: Yes, but by double meta, I mean—we’re writing about writing about the discussion about the discussion about writing. Help!

Michael: It’s still just meta. You’re just picking things from the two different levels and seeing more layers than there really are. When we’re writing about writing, that’s just meta, and when we’re discussing about the discussing, that’s just meta, too. And meta plus meta doesn’t equal double meta.

Melissa: Here’s where the complexity comes in—like you said earlier, we’re operating on multiple levels simultaneously.

     “Si-mul-taneous-ly, simul-taneously.”

     Okay, so I mean, the written and the spoken—

Michael: Writers have been working on multiple levels for centuries now.

Melissa: Aha, but they aren’t co-creating it in conversation with another party—usually, anyway.

Michael: Okay, well the problem here is that now, we’re drawing parallels between our writing and earlier writings, which is a mistake.

Melissa: I’m not sure what you mean.

Michael: I’m not comparing what we’re working on right now to anything. To me, it’s an experiment.

Melissa: Exactly. So let’s outline the layers—

Michael: No, wait. Why are you going to do that? We haven’t even mentioned our subject yet. And even though I want to say as little about our subject as I can, I still always want to mention the subject so that our reader is encouraged to find out more about it.

Melissa: You can’t say “our reader,” love.

Michael: I like saying that because it implies we only have one reader. The one reading this right now. God bless you, one reader.

Melissa: Ha!

     So why do we have to keep saying so little about our subject, again?

Michael: Because the moment we start talking about it, we begin to trivialize it. The more we say about something, especially if we only have passing knowledge of the subject, the more trivial it becomes, to the point of cliché.

Melissa: I don’t know that I agree with that premise. There’s such a thing as consciousness-raising, and that requires one to speak more in-depth about a subject.

Michael: I know. I’m not really talking about writing outside of metaness. I just want to say as little as possible about our subjects out of respect for the fact that we don’t know enough about them to do them justice. We’re not authorities on anything.

Melissa: We’re not pretending to be authorities. But you also can’t deny that we’ve learned about issues outside our realm of experience. The point is, we should discuss things we’re passionate about.

Michael: When we first began writing about Alien Nation, I was going through the motions of writing an article—assembling facts and attempting to present them in a coherent, entertaining fashion. But then it occurred to me that I don’t know anything more about Alien Nation than the next fan—

Melissa: But that’s not true—or it is, but just because someone else can talk about it, doesn’t mean they are. And they aren’t bringing your lifetime of experience and insights to bear on the discussion. So you have a unique perspective that is worth sharing.

Michael: Can we? I hate this. This is too—

     This is becoming a group hug.

Melissa: We still haven’t picked our subject yet.

Michael: I’m beginning to dread coming up with a subject.

Melissa: Me, too. Especially when we don’t get to talk about it.

     (pause)

     I know!

Michael: What?

Melissa: We can pick a subject we don’t want to talk about.

Michael: Great idea!

     (thinking)

     Our subject! The subject we don’t want to talk about is our subject.

Melissa: So “our subject” is the subject?

Michael: Yeah, the subject we don’t want to talk about.

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subject, double meta, difference

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Comments

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Michael: (thinking to self after reading PeytonoO OOO's comment)

What does this have to do with with our post?

(checks PeytonoO OOO's blog)

(still thinking) Hmm, no posts. Not even a photo. Aha! Four identical comments. And only the default Joan and Kerry for favorites.

(outloud) This guy's bogus.
Gosh, guys, you a have a lot to say about a subject you don't acknowledge and then change (?) or was the subject you don't want to talk about the subject you started out with?

What would your individual stream of consciousness writing look like with no editing or discussion?
@Hawley:

“Gosh, guys, you a have a lot to say about a subject you don't acknowledge and then change (?)”

Good point! This was back when we were trying to understand what metaness was all about. We were still shackled to a strict interpretation of meta that didn’t allow much leeway for tangential conversations (especially since it was before we developed the lettering system).

“or was the subject you don't want to talk about the subject you started out with?”

We think it turned out that the subject itself was the subject of the post, which we agreed we didn’t want to talk about—if that makes any sense ;-)

“What would your individual stream of consciousness writing look like with no editing or discussion?”

Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Perhaps an experiment for a future post?

( m&m )
Wow, I'd love to see how you talk about something you *will* talk about ;-) I think a lot about editing, because it's all I can do. I have a lot of trouble coming up with text, but once I have it, I can edit. Subjects, on the other hand, seem to come by themselves. You guys seem to be able to produce a lot of text even without the subject, which is a gift. It's my belief that you can take text and edit it to mean practically anything, so you might well be able to write something wonderful and decide what it's about later.
it's been a while since I got to your metaness conversations. I just love this stuff. It's so real and, well so real, it's like being there listening to the two of you construct these conversations.
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