communication arts

I’ve actually been thinking fairly deeply about communication recently. For our Capturing the Moment sessions, Andrew and I have been doing some independent soul-searching about what works and what doesn’t when we are reaching across the Interwaves to people. I have often thought about the issue of civility in discourse; where politeness is useful, and where it becomes pointless. Is it impolite, for example, to call Dick Cheney an evil motherfucker, if he actually is one?

And if he is one, does bringing it up have any positive benefit for society? I can say that it has a huge positive benefit for me personally, as it allows me to use a reverse magnet to move a certain kind of people further away from my sphere. This is crucial, because I don’t want to wake up somewhere to find out that my workshop host is a scary freak with Uzis in the kitchen who listens to Glenn Beck on the radio. (OMG! This has happened!)

So I try to make sure that from time to time I can make things clear about what sort of person I am, both to encourage like-minded souls to have me over for breakfast, and also to repel the people who wouldn’t like me anyway. And it’s safer that way.

Doriot’s desk. SHE had me over for breakfast! Twice!

Profanity is one of the great dividing lines in discourse. And profanity really rolls off the page differently when it is wielded by a woman. A man swearing is a man swearing (as Jane Marple would say) but an old lady asking questions is just an old lady asking questions. And a woman swearing is somehow extra-profane. If I say “cocksucker,” for example, it makes me feel fantastic, light as a feather, it’s like a little firework went off in front of my ice cream sundae. It might make you feel sticky. or angry, or mildly annoyed.

I have to balance out my joy in life (motherfucka!) with your threshhold of horror (blowing Ted Nugent in a Wal-Mart parking lot next to a car with a McCain/Palin bumpersticker on it), and be certain that if I ask too much of you, I give you something to clear your head fairly quickly:

I also find that certain words can be cancelled out if they are immediately followed by images of flowers.

Like, check this out:

“I’d rather lick underwear clean for a living than watch a single episode of Jersey Shore!”

Awful, right? But scroll down.

photo by kate mckinnon, lautrec, france, aug 2010

See? by the time you get down the wall to the pretty yellow flowers, you are like, “Whatever!” Context is everything.

I find, on the whole, that it is simpler, safer, and uses less time to be up front about who I am, and what I might be likely to say or do. I would love it if more people did the same, so we could sort ourselves out in a manner that gave everyone joy.

Because joy is where it’s at.

19 thoughts on “communication arts

  1. Kate, we call this skunk energy in our house and travels.In other words, if you say or do something or
    make something, we expect some people to love the smell of it all, hang with it, praise it, come back for more and some people(who do not like skunks)will hate it, walk away, protest, and be offended. I like to lift my tail and spray knowing there are lots of folks who just love skunks.

    Love the new layout!

    I am playing with new Oly Pen and having my ups and downs in the learning curve.

  2. In our house, we (as a family) believe there are no bad words. Each word has a meaning and power. You just need to wield that power judiciously. A word overused loses its power. I try to be upfront with who I am with my students… so far there hasn’t been any misunderstandings. (cross your fingers! Another semester starts tonight).

  3. I admit, I abbreviate my worst one. “C U Next Tuesday.” I love that one. It is so vulger yet hidden in code…it works for me. Sounds so benign compared to the actual word. Whatever works to get your point across….

  4. I have said it before, I’ll say it again. You are bitchin’ brilliant.

    Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice. I learn this daily from you!

  5. I think it’ll be good for people in the workshop to have both of us there. Because for as similar as we are, we are also very different. I try not to talk about sex, politics, or religion on my blog. Very rarely do I make these feelings and opinions known to anyone outside my personal circle. On the other hand, I have ads, occasionally participate in paid content, and believe in social networking. I also try not to swear, especially on the blog, but it’s more has to do with the fact that once I start… it is hard to stop.

  6. When I stop laughing, I’ll have something intelligent to add to this beautiful group of comments. Or maybe not. I’ll just thrill in the joy and bask in the glow.

  7. If you haven’t enjoyed the comedy of Lewis Black, get thee to Netflix and order Red, White and Screwed. All his videos are hysterical, but RW&S is by far the best. Lewis says that there are no bad words. He says that the so-called bad words exist so that we can say them instead of just flying off the handle and beating some innocent bystander to death. Picture a man who has worked at the same company for thirty-five years. One day he goes to work only to find that his job is gone, along with all his retirement. He’s jobless and pennyless. What’s he supposed to do? Go home, sit on the sofa and say, “Sassafrass, sassafrass, sassafrass, gosh darn it, golly gee whiz?” Black was banned from the Kennedy Center because someone said that he had said the word “fuck” 42 times in a previous comedy hour. So he had his HBO special at another theater where apparently there’s an 80-fuck limit. He’s priceless, irreverant, can barely utter a fuck-free sentence, and will make you laugh until you hurt!

    As far as fur goes, I don’t wear it, but I have a dirty little secret; when I’d put on one of my mother’s furs, I always felt like a very wealthy, well-kept hooker! Let’s be honest – wearing fur is sexy. Of course we shouldn’t kill animals to wear their skins, but damn, it feels marvelous, doesn’t it? *->

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