JULY 12, 2009 3:53PM

Snippets Sunday: Propaganda

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Uncle Sam Is Watching

 

Welcome to the first installment of Snippets Sunday. Since many of these were written a while ago, you may find some anachronisms. Happy snipping!



Snippet No. 1

Michael: You know how on American Chopper you can tell the dialogue has been coached?

Melissa: Oh, you mean the formula they follow?

Michael: Yeah. One of the things they told them was to start a lot of sentences with “You know.”

(later)

Michael: Let’s work on our work.

     Come on.

     You don’t have that much here.

     I said, “Let’s just work on our work.”

Melissa: No, you didn’t. You said, “Let’s work on our work.”

Michael: No! You wrote, “Let’s work on our work,” and you’re quoting that. Not what I said.

Melissa: I have a very accurate auditory memory of the last ten seconds. That’s part of my superhero Recorder abilities.

Michael: The minute you claim to be a superhero is when the challengers will begin to queue.


Snippet No. 2

Michael: So, here we are again. With my doubt in the experiment even stronger.

Melissa: How can you say that? I think it’s going great.

Michael: Well, you would. You’re an optimist.


Snippet No. 3

Michael: I was wondering about those story songs. Back when I was little, they dominated the top ten and—

Melissa: Wait, wait—

Michael: I knew you were going to say that.

     Anyway, they would play the top ten songs over and over, and it got to where you just started hating those songs.

Melissa: I didn’t think you hated them. I thought you loved story songs.

Michael: I do! That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I was wondering about those story songs and how sick you could get of them.

Melissa: We’ll have to pick this up tonight because Cass is waiting for me.

Michael: All right.

(pause)

Michael: (thinking to self) Now that Melissa’s gone, I can’t keep working on this.

     But look! I still am.

Narrator: At this point, Michael introduced a narrator. The narrator began by pointing this out.

Narrator: With Melissa off to work, Michael sat quietly at the computer, settling into a mild depression. After a few moments, his mood suddenly lightened. Drawing the keyboard closer, Michael began to excitedly tap away at the keys. Once finished, he read aloud from the narrator’s part. After a few corrections and tweaks, he considered it finished.

Michael: (thinking to self) At least for now. And right now, I’m gonna stop before I make things any worse.


Snippet No. 4

Michael: So what were you saying about narration?

Melissa: I was just overhearing that what-is-it—some reality TV clip—

Michael: What’re you saying?

Melissa: What is that show?

Michael: The one I’m watching right now?

Melissa: I mean, what would you call that kind of show?

Michael: The one I’m watching right now?

Melissa: Yes.

Michael: Um, that’s interesting ’cuz I remember when the phenomenon of this first began, when people would send in the videos they’d made with the relatively new handheld cameras. I mean the cameras themselves were relatively new. So, I guess these shows are video clips stitched together with inane chatter—

Melissa: That’s what I was talking about—their narration. It’s totally superfluous, but when I was listening to it from the other room without watching the picture part of it, I realized all they’re doing is describing what you could see for yourself with your own eyes—only they’re not just doing that. They’re overlaying the interpretation of the image they want you to go away with.

Michael: Yeah.

Melissa: So that’s the propaganda layer.

Michael: Did you say “layer”?

Melissa: Yes.

Michael: Well, the whole thing would be propaganda. It’s not like it’s a regular show with the propaganda added on top of it. If you consider PR propaganda, too, just about everything we see is propaganda. It’s someone trying to get us to believe and act in a way they want us to.

Melissa: Yes, but what I meant by the propaganda layer was the voiceover is where they interject that propaganda—

Michael: Well, they’re interpreting for us what we’re seeing, which is unnecessary in most cases, as you pointed out. But in the course of interpreting it, it’s very clear that they’re fomenting fears about certain people and puffing up others. Usually, the police are puffed and young black men are vilified. Now, perhaps it was racist of me to even mention young black men, but—

Melissa: No, because that’s your point.

Michael: Well, the truth is it’s not just black men. It’s poor people.

Melissa: Yes, the disempowered.

Michael: As they have throughout history, they suffer the brunt of everything.

Melissa: Right. The ones who go and die in the stead of the sons of those who make the decisions about them going and dying.

Michael: Yes.

     (performing) “Thank God for the all-volunteer military, because if we can afford it, we can send our own sons and daughters off to college, so they don’t have to go into the military. Or, if they don’t wanna go to college, we can just set ’em up in something.”

     But if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, the options for your children are slimmer. They’d better be really good academically, because they’re gonna need scholarships. Or athletic excellence. ’Cuz you can’t afford to pay for it. But you know, the military offers to give you matching funds for scholarships, so they’ll help you get in there. And you’re not gonna be setting them up in anything, ’cuz you’re not set up yourself. So, the options for the poor are narrower, the prospects bleaker.

     You know, they’re given hope in the form of, “Oh, well, you’re gonna get a basketball scholarship, and you’re gonna go on and be in the pros and get out of the ghetto.” Well, how many children living in a ghetto somewhere who have been told that all their lives are still not that? The few who make it aren’t an example for us. They’re the freaks. We like sitting around watching freaks. Everything is a freak show. And no one can seem to stop watching.

Melissa: What you were saying earlier reminded me of OT: Our Town.

Michael: Right.

Melissa: Once the students were actually given an opportunity to practice a collaborative, creative process, they blossomed. These were the students who were ignored in the Compton school district, which focused its funds almost solely, extravagantly, really, on the athletics programs.

Michael: Right.

Melissa: Completely to the exclusion of the arts. But you get this teacher, or two teachers in this case, who actually care and believe enough in the students to help them see there are other forms of expression, ones that feed something inside, as opposed to the material wealth that’s dangled in front of them through popular cultural mediums—music, television, movies, etc. So once that happens, it’s like these windows they thought were walls all their life just open up to them. There’s hope, and not defined in terms of the narrow parameters culture promises them, but in terms of their own creativity and inspiration. Their imaginations.



L  E  G  E  N  D
letters = sequential meta conversations
                   (C occurred after B, B after A, etc.)
numbers = mini-meta tangents within meta conversations
quoted letters = prior meta conversations










































 

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Comments

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Michael's Narrator in Snippet No. 3 is the most wonderfully perfect bit of meta ever! And it's equally wonderful, Michael, that metaness's OS blog provides you with such a great outlet to display the funny whip-smart side that you so often claim that strangers never get to see (even when - or especially when :) - they comment on your Kids in the Hall T-shirt). Can we look forward to more inches for the Narrator in future posts?

And could you guys post a link(s) to any information about OT: Our Town? Sounds depressingly fascinating. And familiar - too many small-town schools near my hometown put athletics up on a pedestal at the expense of brain-molding arts. My mom, head of our town's Music Boosters organization, and her fellow parents just spent years in a titanic battle with the district superintendent, who was doing her sneaky underhanded best to squash the district's school music programs. Fortunately this evil little woman has since left and been replaced with someone much more sympathetic. But music and art will never be able to coast along on community support like the athletics programs have from the start. A real shame...
I love that the discussion went from propaganda to: "There’s hope, and not defined in terms of the narrow parameters culture promises them, but in terms of their own creativity and inspiration. Their imaginations."

It points up the contrast between getting spoon-fed whatever's on the buffet and independent thought - and that creativity and inspiration are an important key. Fabulous, folks!
I love this! Y'all are living up to the moniker with this one:)
Amazing how the narration colors the writing colors the thoughts colors the execution of your words as they leak from the screen and into the execution shell in my mindscape.

I agree about art and music in the schools. Perhaps the single way in which we can all find a shred of commonality as a people and it is what gets cut first. We were fortunate growing up in our small town.

This post is in good company with your others. They never fail to interest and inspire.

:)

peece,
dj
@keenoctopus:

keenoctopus: Michael's Narrator in Snippet No. 3 is the most wonderfully perfect bit of meta ever!

Melissa: I like it, too! What’s funny is that snippet was written probably during the first week of metaness’s existence, oh so long (almost two months) ago. We just tangented in so many different directions after that, we never got a chance to go back to all of these earlier pieces. Which is why we started Fragments Friday and Snippets Sunday :-)

Michael: We’ve actually already come up with the names for the other days of the week, too:

Morsels Monday
Trifles Tuesday
Wisps Wednesday
Threads Thursday
Fragments Friday
Scraps Saturday
Snippets Sunday

Melissa: Yeah, we’ve got so many of these remnants lying around, it’s nice to be able to sew some patchwork posts out of them.

Michael: Wait a minute. I just realized we didn’t leave room for our regular metaness posts.

Melissa: Well, we can just do them whenever the spirit moves us. And time allows.

Michael: spirit + time = regular metaness post

keenoctopus: And it's equally wonderful, Michael, that metaness's OS blog provides you with such a great outlet to display the funny whip-smart side that you so often claim that strangers never get to see (even when - or especially when :)

Michael: (blushing) Well, I’m not sure about “whip-smart”—maybe “boomerang smart.” But thank you for the compliment, keenoctopus. I admit it has been strange having people acknowledge me. I usually feel pretty invisible.

keenoctopus: they comment on your Kids in the Hall T-shirt

Michael: As soon as I started trying to explain the origin of the shirt, he lost interest and went back to working. I speak very softly.

Melissa: I don’t know that he lost interest; he just needed to keep bagging groceries is all.

Michael: Okay, like I said, I’m paranoid.

keenoctopus: Can we look forward to more inches for the Narrator in future posts?

Michael: That depends ;-) The Narrator was an idea we came up with very early on, and it just simmered in the background, waiting for the perfect moment. Well, it never came.

Melissa: Or rather it did, but we didn’t realize it. We just decided to plop it into these snippets as a curiosity because we’d already considered abandoning the idea altogether since metaness had evolved in a different direction. But maybe we should reconsider, thanks to you.

keenoctopus: And could you guys post a link(s) to any information about OT: Our Town?

Michael: Oops! Thank you for pointing this out.

Melissa: Yes, we did have a link in there but hadn’t realized it was broken. Good catch!

keenoctopus: Sounds depressingly fascinating. And familiar - too many small-town schools near my hometown put athletics up on a pedestal at the expense of brain-molding arts.

Melissa: Actually, it’s far more inspiring and funny and thought-provoking than depressing. But you are right in that it is fascinating.

Michael: It also helps to dispel the myths about what it’s like to grow up in Compton.

Melissa: Well, you would know a bit about that, since you did live in Compton for a while when you were little. You even recognized the big donut sign in OT as they were showing scenes of the neighborhood.

Michael: That’s true, but we moved as I was just entering the first grade back in the late sixties, and a lot has changed since then.

keenoctopus: My mom, head of our town's Music Boosters organization,

Michael: I bet your mom knows all about uphill battles.

keenoctopus: and her fellow parents just spent years in a titanic battle with the district superintendent, who was doing her sneaky underhanded best to squash the district's school music programs.

Michael: What the feck is wrong with people like that?

Melissa: They derive their sense of purpose from depriving, humiliating, and hurting others. It’s a power thing. Sadistic.

Michael: A bully! You’ve just described a bully.

Melissa: Yes, in a way. Call them petty bullies.

Michael: Fecking petty bullies.

keenoctopus: Fortunately this evil little woman has since left and been replaced with someone much more sympathetic.

Melissa: Huzzah for your triumphant mother and her fellow crusaders!

Michael: Goodbye, evil little bully!

keenoctopus: But music and art will never be able to coast along on community support like the athletics programs have from the start. A real shame...

Melissa: This is especially tragic considering the number of documentaries we’ve seen that show the transformative power of the arts on people. Aside from OT, there’s also The Hobart Shakespeareans, War Dance, Arna’s Children, Born into Brothels, A Touch of Greatness, Shakespeare Behind Bars . . .

Note that we actually tried linking all of these, but OS kept preventing us from posting this comment, so we had to remove the links. Sorry!

Michael: I guess until there are spectators cheering on an artist’s paint strokes—or stadiums being built for theatre, dance, slam, or symphonies—we’ll continue to be forced to beg for scraps, pleading with this or that overseer . . . for our futures, really.

Melissa: That’s what happens when you have a society being shaped by forces of greed; consumption is valued over creativity.

Michael: Unless it’s serving corporate advertising and marketing. When will artists stop selling us out?

Melissa: When will artists be able to feed themselves because their work is truly valued?

Michael: Well, for centuries, most artists starved. Their work obsessed them more than their own well-being.

Melissa: Or you had patrons. And those were just that day’s version of corporate sponsorship.

Michael: Precisely. Having a patron meant your work was gonna change somehow. It was going to become more flattering, especially of the people who paid for it.

Melissa: “They paid for it.”
Melissa: I have a very accurate auditory memory of the last ten seconds. That’s part of my superhero Recorder abilities.
I love this line. I love this post. The whole conversation about our children and school and creativity. It's so well represented here. Another wonderful ride.
Rated
@Owl_Says_Who:

Owl_Says_Who: I love that the discussion went from propaganda to: "There’s hope, and not defined in terms of the narrow parameters culture promises them, but in terms of their own creativity and inspiration. Their imaginations."

Michael: That’s definitely metaness in a nutshell: all over the place. But in a good way, we hope.

Owl_Says_Who: It points up the contrast between getting spoon-fed whatever's on the buffet and independent thought - and that creativity and inspiration are an important key. Fabulous, folks!

Melissa: Thank you, Owl! I like that metaphor—a spoon-fed buffet as opposed to an individually crafted meal. But maybe that’s just because I like cooking :-)


@nanatehay:

nanatehay: I love this!

Michael: Thanks, nanatehay! It’s a pleasure to welcome you to the meta-neighborhood.

Melissa: Even if you did used to use your kitchen for unsavory recipes ;-)

nanatehay: Y'all are living up to the moniker with this one:)

Melissa: Hmm, I wonder if that’s because of the Narrator.

Narrator: Melissa thought about it a moment longer. She placed her hands on the keys and began to type. After finishing, she read the line, wrinkled her nose, and then deleted all but “Narrator:”. Inspired by Melissa’s failed attempt, Michael slowly and painfully typed the words you have just read.
@David:

dj: Amazing how the narration colors the writing colors the thoughts colors the execution of your words as they leak from the screen and into the execution shell in my mindscape.

Melissa: What a beautiful way to describe the process.

Michael: It’s interesting because we’ve actually been writing metaness in code. I mean using a programming language. Once we’re finished, we run the code, and the script outputs the html that we paste into the OS editor. So metaness actually executes twice: once to produce the html, and once in the minds of our readers.

Melissa: Ah, but doesn’t it then execute ultimately an infinite—not really, but you know what I mean—number of times? Because it executes for every single reader, but it also ricochets around in each person’s mind, causing further executions, and then when the reader comes back and responds, that generates yet even more iterations as we respond to the response. And so on ad infinitum. So I’d say that’s more than twice.

Michael: No. In the same way I didn’t count all the times we had to run the code in order to obtain the proper html, I’m not including all of the individual executions in all the individual reader’s minds. I’m lumping all the first group into one, and I’m lumping all the second group into another so they can be representatives of each. Two executions. The execution to produce the html and therefore the post itself, and the execution in the mind of the reader. Which includes us!

Melissa: Ohhh, I get it! You’re actually talking at more of a meta level. Or at least a classification level. And I realize that’s actually true of how software engineers might discuss a program.

Michael: Yes, speaking of classes rather than instances.

Melissa: Exactly! Like a species as opposed to a specific animal of that species. The European Starling rather than Franny and Zooey. That’s how you can talk about common attributes, as distinguished from specific behaviors. Patterns.

Michael: “Yeah, nice . . . ”

dj: I agree about art and music in the schools. Perhaps the single way in which we can all find a shred of commonality as a people and it is what gets cut first. We were fortunate growing up in our small town.

Melissa: Yes. I was talking with one of my old English professors about how public schools in California used to among the best in the nation. Now they rank fifieth, and the state is on the verge of bankruptcy. So sad, especially when you think about how so many talented students are getting cheated out of a decent education. But then maybe that serves the purposes of the ones making those decisions. The more uneducated masses, the fewer people there are to critically analyze the system and see how they’re getting screwed. And then corps also have the added benefit of getting more near-slave labor, not to mention an ocean of consumers.

dj: This post is in good company with your others.

Michael: Thank you, David. The other posts are usually pretty accepting of the newer posts. But sometimes little jealousies do spring up. (performing) “He got a better picture than me!” “You made her post longer!”

dj: They never fail to interest and inspire.

Melissa: We feel the same about your poems.


@micalpeace:

micalpeace: “Melissa: I have a very accurate auditory memory of the last ten seconds. That’s part of my superhero Recorder abilities.” I love this line. I love this post.

Melissa: Thanks, Mical :-)

micalpeace: The whole conversation about our children and school and creativity. It's so well represented here.

Michael: It is amazing how much gets covered in these little snippets. Then again, it’s also amazing how little we say about everything.

Melissa: Or how much we say about so little. Like spending fifty lines talking about an exclamation point.

micalpeace: Another wonderful ride.

Michael: Glad you got the letter :-)
I can't be bothered to come up with a segue for this comment, but that's never stopped me before: years ago I read this book a friend recommended, a vaguely chicken-soupy book, and the author wrote this short passage about how if you walk into a classroom of kindergartners and ask who can draw, all the little kids throw their hands up into the air. But if you ask a few years later, in second or third grade, only a fraction of arms go up in the air. Ask still later and maybe one hand goes up in the air.
This all brought to mind Will Smith's magnificent monologue in the film "Six Degrees of Separation" - His discussion of "Imagination," specifically.

I have wondered in regard to your process: Are you two speaking speaking (than transposing here into written form), or writing-speaking to each other ... You may have 'splained this already but if so, I missed it...But there is so much these days to miss, here, there, and everywhere...and so much to be uncovered/recovered/discovered...
@consonantsandvowels:

consonantsandvowels: I can't be bothered to come up with a segue for this comment, but that's never stopped me before:

Melissa: Segues are never required in metaland.

Michael: No standing on ceremony or tradition here. Just come on in and make yourself at home.

Melissa: “Welcome! There’s a fireplace and a well-stocked library. Well, the fireplace is in our imaginations, but there is a well-stocked library.” I think I quoted that verbatim.

Michael: Maybe.

Melissa: Is that kind of weird to be quoting our website, which is a quote from you?

Michael: Mmm, I thought it was a quote from you, so I thought you were quoting yourself, which seemed weird to me.

Melissa: No! You said that. Don’t you remember?

Michael: Melissa, I can’t even remember ten minutes ago most of the time.

Melissa: Haha. It was pre-metaness, but it really was metaness in a way. Early talkies.

Michael: Hmm.

Melissa: Was it command-line jockeys?

Michael: You mean this is from a song?

Melissa: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

Michael: I don’t think so.

Melissa: I remember it was one of our early recordings. And I’m pretty sure I remember the phrase particularly because you put it in a talkie.

Michael: Like I said, I can’t usually remember ten minutes ago.

consonantsandvowels: years ago I read this book a friend recommended, a vaguely chicken-soupy book, and the author wrote this short passage about how if you walk into a classroom of kindergartners and ask who can draw, all the little kids throw their hands up into the air. But if you ask a few years later, in second or third grade, only a fraction of arms go up in the air. Ask still later and maybe one hand goes up in the air.

Michael: This immediately brings to mind Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The author shows how the older a student gets, the more self-conscious and awkward their drawing becomes.

Melissa: Yes, and you were also saying something earlier about the pressure to conform to realism.

Michael: Yes, she explains how peer pressure demands of us that we produce more and more realistic drawings as we get older, which, unless people continue to draw regularly, they don’t usually progress to. The irony is, most great artists spend a lot of their time after leaving school trying to unlearn everything they learned because it always poses the danger that you will just simply produce things in a mannered way.

Melissa: “Once I drew like Rafael, but it has taken me a lifetime to draw like a child.” Oh, but I think I was actually thinking of Picasso’s other quote about that: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Michael: Exactly. Cy Twombly’s breakthrough came when he began drawing in a darkened room so that he could no longer see to guide his hand. So rather than making long, flowing, beautiful but ultimately uninteresting lines, he was making lines the same way a child does, with amazing vibrance and vitality. Lines that were literally alive.


@Angie:

Angie: This all brought to mind Will Smith's magnificent monologue in the film "Six Degrees of Separation" - His discussion of "Imagination," specifically.

Melissa: That’s one of the few films we haven’t seen, but the “Imagination” discussion sounds intriguing.

Angie: I have wondered in regard to your process: Are you two speaking speaking (than transposing here into written form), or writing-speaking to each other ... You may have 'splained this already but if so, I missed it...

Melissa: The short version is yes, we’re “speaking speaking.” The long version is actually outlined in a response to a comment by keenoctopus in this post. Look for numbers 1 through 12.

Michael: Our own little twelve-step program.

Angie: But there is so much these days to miss, here, there, and everywhere...and so much to be uncovered/recovered/discovered...

Melissa: What consonantsandvowels calls “the quicksand” :-)
Oh, you MUST see this movie then - It was the first one Smith was in, and he is simply brilliant. As is Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing - I believe you two would like this film very much...("chaos/order/chaos/order" - this comes up as well, as they flip a two-sided painting back and forth, back and forth...)

Plot:
Paul (Will Smith) is a con artist who, out of the blue, prevails upon the good graces of a New York City couple in the wake of his supposed mugging in Central Park, claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son and masquerading flamboyantly as a close friend & classmate of their Harvard-enrolled kids, and in the process upsetting their shallow upper crust world.
(John Guare wrote the play).
@Angie:

“Oh, you MUST see this movie then . . .”

Okay :-) We’ve added it to our Netflix, but considering it’s taken us a couple of months just to get around to watching one of our Netflix, it might be a while.

Thanks for the recommendation!

( m&m )