March 6, 2012

Epilogue to the Impertinente Curioso Entry or, why my goal should be to learn to write more concisely

"Be kind to the other readers, particularly if the blog uses inline comments - write a short comment, linked to your blog. Don't write a book, attached to somebody else's blog."The Real Blogger Status
This picture is not particularly relevant to the post...
I just put it here because of Damian's fixation on the CAC
debate over iconic. And also because I want this to show
in feeds rather than some less iconic, non-Valencian image.
So apparently Blogger puts a limit on how much you can post in the Comments section. I learned this today because I was trying to reply to heartthrob Damian Corrigan's comments on my previous post about the Impertinente Curioso in Spain, and kept running up against a limit of 4,096 characters. It is one more sign that I need to make it my priority to learn to use brevity in this blogging world. The funny thing is that even when I try to post multiple shorter comments, blogger demurs. It's almost as if Damian's comments broke that entry's comment capacity. Apparently, Blogger puts this limit on because spammers were exploiting a weakness of the comments section where, if you put a long enough comment, it was impossible to remove the comment.

In the interest of continuing the dialogue, I encourage you all (yes, even you Damian) to post your thoughts on life, the universe, and About.com Spain Travel here. I've also decided my reply comment will have to fill my quota for the overdue post for this past Monday, since I'm busy prepping for a trip and Fallas.

...

So Damian, given that these were quite long replies from you, I'll start by thanking you for your time. (I think we are still keeping up the pretense of courtesy, right?)

I have had arguments with others online, but somehow with you I feel like holding up a mirror is the most useful way to reply… For example, why do you continually resort to dismissive personal attacks in your argument? E.g. "Should I care what you think? No." And I have never had the epithet "ignorant" lobbied at me with such frequency and incautiousness as in these exchanges. Yes, I acknowledge that I have insinuated many things about you, but thought better of saying them outright, conceding I don't know enough about you personally. With a close reading you'll notice that only twice do I really say anything directly negative about you (as opposed to your site, your statements, or "impertinente curiosos" in general). First, I more or less call you ignorant about paella. I didn't use the word "ignorant" (a poor choice of adjective if the intent is to persuade), but instead say "limited understanding". But since you insist on throwing around what is generally taken to be quite an offensive adjective, I'll stand by a statement that you are ignorant about paella. It shows in everything you write about it, and in your limited experience with it here in Valencia (one beany-paella a paella expert doth not make). It's okay. I'm ignorant about many of the things you write about. So don't take it as a personal failing. (BTW, it is "arroz a banda", with no article "la". "A banda" is Catalan for "a parte" in Spanish.) Second, I call you prideful. If other readers want to add "ignorant" to that, that is for them to say. But I think you yourself have made a pretty solid case in all these tweets and these two replies that you are proud to a fault. My only regret in pointing it out, is that to call a proud person proud is usually to throw fuel on the fire. I sincerely would like to see you change your mind and concede your mistake about Valencia. So this second affront was poor argumentation on my part.

(Though while we're on the subject of personal shortcomings, another peculiar thing about this dialogue with you is that at times I feel like I'm talking to an imperious child. You have this recurring habit of stating outright that this will be your or really "the" final word… "Against my better judgement,I have responded […] I will not do so again." "The fact that you wouldn't invite me to a VLC meeting […] invalidates your argument." Or the tweet that particularly amazed me: "No, I have a responsibility to be honest […] End." End! Full stop! Period! Who says this in an argument? And yet you keep talking and arguing. If you were so certain you had already won or made your case, why do you do continue?)

[Personal digression: This reminds me of something I learned in grad school about the often notable difference between a person's personality in person, and someone's written persona. Early on I read this academic's book, the prose were warm and inviting, the analysis thoughtful, and left you with this glowing feeling about the subject that person wrote about. But then, upon entering the program where said person taught, I was surprised to discover a cantankerous, quite rude and mean professor who was quick to tire of the students and was locally infamous for being someone best to avoid. When I mentioned this to my undergraduate advisor later, he simply laughed and said (I'm paraphrasing from memory): "Yes, it is funny how some writers/academics can have a rich and warm voice in their works, but in person are as personable as a rock." From this I learned, it is best not to judge a person's character strictly from what they write, to deduce the personal from what is generally an impersonal and affected textual medium. But perhaps blogging is a more personalized (honest?) writing form...]

Now let me say, I try not to be so flustered by an opponent's insults and attacks, even those as grandiose and unmerited as some of yours, to be incapable of appreciating his or her finer moments. So as an interlude, let me add that there are a couple of places in your replies that are real poetry and brilliance. For starters, you had me LOLing with "Mr. Earnestly Not Hemingway." Please don't be angry if I plagiarize that for future use. And the paragraph which starts with "In my travels through Spain and my time living here" was like a breath of fresh air, a pleasant relief from the general rancor and stench of your reply: 
"In my travels through Spain and my time living there, I have seen the beautiful green countryside of Northern Spain, walked from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Finisterre, seen the waves lap at the Rias from the top of the Hercules tower in A Coruna, had my aversion to Pulpo turned to a love in Santiago, seen the amazing cathedrals of Santiago, Burgos, Leon, Palencia, Salamanca, Zaragoza, Seville, Cadiz and many others, drank cider in all its forms of escanciar in Oviedo after hiking up to its Romanesque churches. I've seen the obvious and less-obvious sights in Madrid, Seville and Barcelona, had tapas and pintxos in Granada, Seville, Leon, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Logroño, seen the three faiths of Toledo, the turrets of Avila, the fairytale castle and viaduct of Segovia, the ghastly but historically important Valle de los Caidos, the Alhambra, the Roman ruins of Merida and Tarragona, etc, etc, etc."
I only wish all your travel writing on Spain was of this poetic, inspired stuff. While reading this passage, I almost heard Frank Sinatra's "My Way" playing in the background… "I've walked, from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Finisterre, and I did it myyy way." (Though I did notice the admission that you no longer live in Spain. How long did you live here? And how long have you been away? Because Valencia has changed _a lot_ in the last 5-10 years.)

But then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like… "I don't say that to gloat." (I'm sorry. Now I've got Frank Sinatra songs playing in my head.) "Gloat", what an ugly word. You put it out there claiming that you are not doing it. But me thinks he doth protest too much. Indeed, in many of your remarks it is hard not to read between the lines, and speculate as to whether your denials are in fact admissions of guilt. There are certain defenses you've drawn upon, with words like "honesty" and "responsibility", which have that —what is the word I'm looking for?— "truthiness" aspect to them, but which you repeat and repeat and repeat in a way that leads me to wonder if you're overcompensating. I think you've made clear how you "honestly" feel about these places, among them Valencia. But is that an argument beyond personal appeal? To me "honesty" here looks like pathos dressed as logos.

One issue Damian raises is what exactly About.com looks for in its Guides...
"They interact with our users daily" ... they are "a combination of passion and expertise"

Which maybe gets us to the heart of the matter. There's a moment in your avalanche of words when you use a very interesting, colorful turn of phrase: "subjective opinion". Somehow you think I'm dissatisfied because your opinion is, in my opinion, subjective. Alas, I would seek no other kind of opinion, as I eschew objective opinions, subjective facts, or all other similar sorts of deceiving paradoxes. So here it is, to be crystal clear, I am not bothered by your subjective opinion, but rather by your _bad_ opinion. Not just your bad opinion of Valencia, which started all this. But your bad opinion of people. To put it another way, your incredible negativity. And in your second reply we find a space for agreement. It has been unfair of me to take up my problem with your site on Spain with you. What can you do about your bad taste and "mala leche" (literal translation, "bad milk", but means more figuratively negativity or nastiness)? I suppose what I really want is somebody else to be writing the About.com Spain pages, and that is really something I ought to take up with whoever pays you, not with you. In that respect it has been unfair of me to bother you about it. (Mental note to self: on next spare day, look into where at About.com I can lodge a complaint about bitter, aggressive staff.)

As I've said before, if there's one thing Spain has had to deal with too much of
it's negativity from outsiders.

To know, that with all the amazing travel writers out there in Spain (I direct you to my blog rolls in the left column) who would have done both a better job on the site, and shown more grace and quality in taking critical feedback, and further, that many of them are currently seeking gainful employment… to know all this, and yet know that it is _you_ who is paid to write about Spain. Well, you are right. That is precisely what upsets me. Thank you. Now I know it is not you who has broken my heart, but rather the horrible irony of it all. I'm already on the road to recovery.

...

So reader, if you've made it this far, I really could summarize all the above with the following: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. How true!

Query: Dear (other?) readers, do any of you know how to submit a complaint about an About.com website or writer? I've run a couple of searches on About.com ("complain about staff", "customer service", "complaints about About.com"), and the one "about" I can't figure out how to find is how to log a proper complaint with About.com. Now isn't that irony? The best I could come up with was this "Contact Us" page, which seems to be directed towards advertisers. Any suggestions? (Maybe I'll write an email to questions@about.com?)

I did find this fun read on "Rude Hotel Staff"... "Too busy to be nice"
seemed relevant to my search, as did "One word: Nice" and maybe "Just no help"

Addendum: Oh my God! I just realized why Damian has been able to get away with writing such sour things about Valencia (and the rest of Spain). Everyone here (my fellow Valencians) are all outside too busy enjoying this beautiful city and its beautiful weather! Why get locked up inside long enough to reply to him? This morning I woke up, and was feeling all this negativity from his comments. I sat down to write this reply, and still felt all that negativity. But then I went for my run in the Turia Riverbed Park, and it was like rebirth. I feel much more relaxed. Now I have a new perspective on all this. For those of you who find yourselves feeling sullied by these encounters-of-the-Damian-kind, come visit Valencia! Its fair weather and beautiful parks are like a balm for troubled spirits.

3 comments:

Tumbit - Mr Grumpy said...

Lengthy Comments = unnecessary

An Expat in Spain said...

Touché.

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