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Last Saturday I was a participant in a panel discussion, as part of the Richard Hugo House's Annual Inquiry. Oh shit -- you know, I totally meant to announce this last week, so my local readers could come see me. Well, the nice thing about having both a blog that allows backdated entires and a complete lack of scruples is that I can just go ahead and create that post now, and then pretend like it was always there. Done!
I was originally scheduled to be the token blogger on a panel called "Persona in Media." I was looking forward to it for two main reasons. First, the question to be explored by this panel was "Does writing about yourself automatically put you in a world of inauthentic, fabrication and fiction?," and, insofar as I make up like 80% if the stuff on this site, I thought that I could provide a fairly definitive answer ("Yes"). Second, another panelist was to be John Richards, morning DJ at KEXP, and I pretty much revere that guy.
But, for whatever reason, it was eventually decided that I was going to be on another panel instead, this one called "Persona in Culture." In retrospect, it's probably best that I did not wind up on the panel with John Richards, as I probably would have spent the whole time trying to impress him.
Q: Matthew, while I agree that all journalism is inherently subjective, wouldn't you agree that honest reporters can and should work to identify and isolate their biases so as to at least strive toward the goal of objectivity?Unfortunately, there was also a problem with my being on the culture panel: namely, the average cup of yoghurt is more cultured than I am. Yes, there was a time when I saw arthouse films and read books by Milan Kundera and spent Friday evenings watching experimental theater that didn't make a goddamned bit of sense to anyone, but these days the closest thing to the arts that I experience on a regular basis is Ernie singing "The Honker Ducky Dinger Jamboree" on the Sesame Street "Silly Songs" CD. Still, I figured that I could bluff my way through the event.
I took my seat on the six person panel, next to moderator Brian Goedde, who was sitting on the end. As we began, Brian asked the panelists to introduce themselves, starting with the person farthest from him. The first was a professor at a local college; the next had two master's degrees and founded a Writers Institute; another was the 2005 Grand Slam Poetry Champion and author of several chapbooks. When they got to me I was all, like, "Hi, I write a blog where I tell fart jokes and mock people for giving money to charity!"
It was kind of liberating -- by this point I realized that I was so far out of my league that I just kind of settled into the role resident philistine.
As it turned out, having a boorish rube on the panel was a great boon to the moderator. He would ask some thought-provoking question and, while the rest of the people would furrow their brows and gaze into the middle distance while actual thoughts were provoked, I would rush to fill up the dead air by gamely offering up some profoundly uninformed opinion, thereby allowing someone else to follow up with "well, I think I would take exception to Matthew contention that contemporary fiction is quote-unquote 'totally gay' ..." or whatever boneheaded thing I said.
At one point Brian Goedde hesitated before answering a question and then justified his delay with, "I just don't want to blurt out something without thinking it through ahead of time" and then I said "As a blogger, blurting out things without thinking them through ahead of time is pretty much my medium" and then everyone laughed. Laughed with me, I'm sure.
Also adding to the fun was that fact that there was a whole side discussion going on about James Baldwin, so people from the audience would occasionally chime in with "I couldn't agree more with Baldwin when he talks about how themes of personal importance include the significance of community identification" and I'd be sitting there thinking, "whoa, I totally don't even remember saying that."
Anyway, a great time was had by all, and it's too bad that they'll never invite me back again.
The Fancy Words Matthew Used While On The Hugo House Panel To Sound Smart And Their Actual Meanings