October 18, 2010
the mutation of embarrassment, art & random thoughts of the morning.
i was reading an interview that neil did with new york magazine (it’s really good, and extensive…you can read it HERE) and i came across this….
“I’m fascinated watching the fact that I have a fiancée whose public and private boundaries are absolutely different to mine. If she was completely out of the public eye and did not blog, she would have one kind of privacy. As it is, she now tends to be much more private about stuff that she would have been much more public about. You know, the Amanda Palmer of before she and I were a couple not only thought nothing of, but positively delighted in doing a giant horror story of the day her sponge had to be extracted. You know, she’s in the emergency room going into toxic shock with the nurse having to get out the sponge — and I don’t think she’d do that now. And she wouldn’t do that now because at that point, her boyfriend then was absolutely anonymous and it had no knock-on effect for anybody except her. If she was going through that now, she probably wouldn’t do it. I say that. Well, I suspect that … So you are forever negotiating, on the web, public and private, in a way that you genuinely weren’t even five years ago, even ten years ago.”
and it made me stop and wonder if it was true. and i’ve been wondering about the blog in general.
the blog doesn’t so much evolve – which seems to imply some kind of improvement or forward direction from stooped ape to jet-pack wielding superhero – as mutate…sometimes i think the heyday of my blogging is behind me, and sometimes i think i’ve yet to fully grasp its true artistic power…and if i would only discipline myself to do something different, something better, discovering the absolutely balanced chemical mix of personal to promotional, and not blog too seldom or too often and and and…i’d….and then i realize that this way of thinking is completely out to lunch.
this is what bothers me about blogging, and it’s an interesting reflection on the rest of my life.
i don’t want this blog to have to BE anything.
this blog is a diary….and it’s also a conversation. i need it that way, that’s why i read and answer the comments. and it’s also a store, and for all intents and purposes lately, it’s a record-store newsletter, and a tour date updater, and a filter for other people’s art, work and thoughts. it’s…what it is. i am terrified to define it, for fear that it will become something i need to serve.
do i listen when people tell me that they’ve tuned out because i’ve promoted too much STUFF on my blog and not done enough warm-and-fuzzy-philopsophical rambling? sure.
but i usually don’t do anything about it. i figure it’ll all work out in the wash, and that if i happen to post three blogs in a row with tour dates, records for sale, and video clips of random shiznit, that my readership will simply have patience that This is What’s Going on Right Now, and appreciate it for what it is…or tune out. tuning out is fine, too.
i’d rather people tune out and leave the room than become a slave to some format.
i open books nowadays with titles like “HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL-NETWORKING MUSICIAN IN UNDER TWO WEEKS!!!” as if having a life that held together artistically online was on par with flattening your abs or getting a bikini-perfect bottom in time for That Upcoming Reunion. it sort of sickens me to leaf through these books and see things like “HOT TIP!! keep your twitter feed personal, but don’t reveal TOO much, some things are not appropriate! HOT TIP!! make sure you balance out your blogs with information about your upcoming tour dates, but throw in something personal, like a picture of yourself and your band!!”
it sickens me because, of course, these things are all true at some level. but i never want to feel that anything i’ve done intuitively can be hammered down to a set of rules or a science any more than people want to be told that their marriage has a very statistical lasting probability of 78%.
what does this have to do with the private vs. public question? a lot, i think. i think neil’s right on some counts. maybe i’ve mellowed in the over-sharing department.
but i’ve noticed that a lot of my personal bursts of despair, joy, complaint, and signature amanda-palmer too-much-information dispatch find their way onto twitter, which is strangely mutating my old blogging habits.
i think it’s possible that if i were to find myself trying to extract a menstrual sponge nowadays, i might simply take the time to tweet on the walk over to the emergency room, ”heading 2 hospital to extract menstrual sponge which has been hiding 4 longer than is healthy” and watch with unmitigated joy while thousands of people react in various shades of horror, delight, and (most importantly, i find) commiseration. my favorite part of so-called over-sharing is cracking other people open. but twitter is even more ephemeral than blogging. it reflects in small doses, it doesn’t ramble. this rambles. rambling gives way to more information.
i enjoy, no doubt, breaking down the online walls of what is acceptable to chat about in the public forum and simply SAY THINGS – things that you discuss amongst your close friends, but don’t usually share at the workplace, or the community lunch table – but why? people always ask me this.
i think because – in addition to making me feel less alone – it changes the rules, or the non-rules, of the world a little bit. a tiny little bit. but a tiny little bit is fine.
i noticed this backstage at cabaret the other day….
i was combatting a urinary tract infection. a nasty discomfort that had persisted throughout the day and left me feeling tired and terrified that it was going to ruin my week…so i was draining gallon-bottles of water laced with cranberry juice and taking cranberry pills and cranberry everything and would have glady mainlined pure cranberry extract had someone come along with the works and a tourniquet. when anybody asked me how i was that night upon arrival for our collective show-putting-on, i told them with a smile: “i’m shit! i have a urinary tract infection!”
this was, perhaps, more information than anybody necessarily wanted. but they’d asked. eh? eh. but here’s the thing:
one of the actresses had a worse problem, an actual medical scare…something possibly really wrong. she opened up about it and told people what was going on.
i don’t know if my TMI-chatting paved any sort of path or if she, like me, is simply the sort who will share uber-personal feminine information with a bunch of men and women in a crowded dressing room where we all run around seeing each other’s junk on a nightly basis, but it still made me think.
if my blog, my twitter feed, or any one of my songs has de-embarrased anybody by even a few percentage points, i think i can die happy.
neil and i actually had this talk a few days ago. he’s british so he’s inherently embarrassed.
we have the cunninghams, my edinburgh folks, in town with us and they got into a discussion about What They Do As British People when they’re watching television and they sense that some character on the screen is about
to be caught in an embarrassing situation. they get up, make tea, or go to the bathroom.
to be caught in an embarrassing situation. they get up, make tea, or go to the bathroom.
i find this remarkable. and how it is that neil gaiman manages to hang out with me without having to make non-stop shuttling Trips to the Loo may wind up being a life-long anthropological research experiment. he claims he’s only seen me genuinely embarrassed once: the time we were together in a walgreen’s and i yelled across an aisle to a walgreen’s staff member that i was looking for “lubricant and tampons” and “were they in the same aisle?” (or something equally cringe-worthy) and then turned to neil, quite proud of myself, until he informed me: “you’re blushing”. i think he was overjoyed. score one for the british.
what was the point here?
i may not have one. it doesn’t matter. i think the point was: there is no point to this blog. score again. i get to sit down and ramble with no goal.
and reading neil’s article probably infected me with a subconscious urge to write one that included menstrual sponges, tampons and lubricant.
maybe this, for food for thought:
there was a point when i realized that i was putting a certain kind of mental and artistic energy into my blog and that energy was specifically not going into lyrics.
images would come that would have once belonged to songs, and instead i was creating blogs.
i think the same is now true of twitter.
images, symbols, aches and pains…they fit into twitter in tailored 140-character chunks, the same way you can try to cram the infamous “3 minutes of truth” onto a 45.
those characters are shouted into a standing crowd of real people, where an answer awaits.
i’ve never believed songwriters who’ve said they’re making music/writing music/singing songs for themselves.
i think the odds are one in about a thousand that a songwriter can find fulfillment playing a song to four blank walls.
it’s the romantic myth of the artist….the idea that something cosmic & mysterious drives you to create, and if your creations happen to land on an appreciative audience, it’s wonderful luck.
i’ve always created with an audience in my imagination. i didn’t Find Them until i was 25, but i was writing for Them from the time i was 12.
maybe i’m just a certain kind of artist, a certain brand of hungry narcissist, a social hole more than a poet. but i think it’s more likely that the songwriters who claim that they simply must write or perish, and the idea of someone hearing their work is secondary….are just lying.
for this reason, things like blogging, twittering, talking over coffee and sharing life stories…these things are infinitely more attractive to me than making music, which is – simply put – harder.
is it embarrassing to transmute energy from music into twittering? shall we make a pie-graph of how many deep and profound things i necessarily have to create through the medium of song and performance to feed my ability to twitter and blog to a group of people that will still view me as an artist and not simply a hungry celebrity, reaching into the protective arms of an enabling public?
so, when faced with the choice to twitter a brilliant lyric or make my way to the piano and start a song….what shall we do?
i’m really curious to see if other artists and writers have felt a direct drain from the ability to get instant metaphor recognition through the many channels of the internet.
love from pamplona,