The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Artistic Licence and Registration, Please (reprint)

"There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently."- Robert Evans quote from the beginning of The documentary The Kid Stays In The Picture.

I haven't been blogging often, but the Mike Daisey story has compelled me to weigh in as a fellow, albeit far less successful, non-fiction storyteller.

One of the biggest problems I face is credibility, especially in regard to my retail stories. It doesn't happened much with fellow retail soldiers, but there are many that are still burdened with faith for humankind. The benefit of the doubt is given to the total strangers that I tell of rather than me or the story is dismissed as outright fabrication.

I'm not a man prone to anger- at least outside of my retail job- but this infuriates me. It's a denial of experiences have ruined my day and/or night and added to the cumulative stress that led to several, very real, breakdowns. I've tried to use the bullshit to fertilize the topsoil in which my anecdotes and observation have sprouted.

Wow, I have to apologize for that last metaphor. Tried to come up with something less hackneyed than, "When life gave me lemons...".

I included the quote at the beginning because I recognize my perception by its nature is biased. But the truth is in no way affected by believability; the elements of my stories that give them their "what the fuck" qualities absolutely happened. Have I overstated? Maybe. But more likely I understate, because I don't want to completely bum everyone out completely, myself included.
In the Surviving Retail show, I talk about misspelled tattoos. I attribute the phenomena to one job, when I actually saw them at a couple different places. Since I go job-by-job in the show, I didn't want to keep bringing up the subject so I wanted to simplify and clarify.

In the Surviving Retail book, I talk about- and have blogged about- the most annoying customers that weren't mine. Stuck in a line at Borders, a dad behind me prattled on about how long the line was, but at the end didn't hear the cashier calling him to their register again and again. Every single part of the story is EXACTLY how I remember it but the end. Not to say it didn't happen, but I wanted to get the hell out of the situation quickly and don't remember it definitively. My mind MAY have plugged that part in.

But have I seen-as a cashier- people complain about waiting in line, then not come to the register when I repeatedly try to end said wait? ALL THE FUCKING TIME! So it happened, maybe just not literally as written or told. That's the artistic license that I take, to edit for clarity and give you a feeling for my experience rather than a straight account.

This seems to be how Daisey is framing his argument as well, the problem is some of his story was flat out made up. His justification is a need for shedding light on unfair and unsafe labor practices in China. Everything's been made in China for decades but Americans have remained blissfully ignorant about where the things in their life came from, that was the genesis of Daisey's story. But obviously the real story needed some "punch-up".

My question: why? Because it was "theater"? That argument would work a lot better if Daisey himself had mentioned that before now and didn't attempt to represent his story as a 21st century version of The Jungle. If a real story is worth telling, it shouldn't be necessary to fabricate important details. Any awareness or change raised by Daisey's story has now been undermined by sensationalism, one of the cheapest commodities of contemporary culture.

So Daisey joins the long list of folks better known for putting a "non" on some of their fiction than their actual talent, and that's a shame; Mike Daisey is a hugely talented storyteller. My favorite video was when a bunch of audience members- reportedly members of a church group offended by his cursing- left at one time with one person pouring water over the notes he uses on stage. Daisey took this bewildering situation and turned it around with quick wit and bright mind. That really happened. Here's proof:

This just makes it harder for us who depend on actual facts to add weight to our stories. Artistic license in non-fiction is a seasoning, not a entree. I'd hate to think I lived a weird life for nothing.