I'm the Next Charlie Finch


When other people read what Charlie Finch wrote about art bloggers they were very happy to express outrage -- our own controversy, compared to which a tempest in a teapot is an extinction-level event. But I steadfastly refused to say anything bad about Charlie because I could see how easy it is for an art writer to end up in a perpetually defensive, angry, sarcastic crouch. I've only been writing for two years or so to an audience of about fifteen people and already I've had a couple of people angry at me in a way I consider unreasonable.

I didn't start writing this blog to be nasty to people. I wrote it, and I continue to write it, for one main purpose, and that is to keep myself going to see art. It's easy to walk by a work of art and dismiss it; it's much harder to stop and explain what you don't like about it. Developing and expanding your opinions is a journey of self-discovery, of exploring yourself. And that's what this blog is all about: It's me, exploring myself. I knew if I started writing it and gained an audience -- an audience of six or even an entirely imaginary one -- then I'd keep writing it, which would keep me on my journey. Otherwise it'd be too easy to stop. I set myself an assignment, in other words. And part of that assignment was -- is -- that I'd be as honest, open, and truthful as I possibly could. I'd write down what I truly felt and thought without editing it and without trying to water it down. I'd be true to myself.

I knew, if anyone noticed me, that I'd probably make some people angry. As long as I was being true to myself I didn't mind. Curiously, though, the people I've heard from have not been the people I've reviewed badly; they've been people I thought I was friendly with. Not to exaggerate: I didn't think we were friends, but I thought, when I'd met them, that we'd gotten along and enjoyed each other's company for a bit.

I've been of the opinion, for a while now, that everyone speaks their own language. Any linguist will tell you that every language has a number of dialects, some of them mutually unintelligible. For example, early in 2007 it was officially recognized that Venetians speak their own language distinct from Italian. What I think, similarly, is that every individual speaks their own dialect. Whenever you meet someone new, then, both of you need to learn each other's language. You may both appear to be speaking English, but you're actually speaking two different versions of English, and it can take a little while before you can really communicate. Until that happens you may misunderstand each other because one word may mean two different things in your dialects, or a turn of phrase might have wildly different interpretations.

The closer your dialects are when you meet, the easier it is to communicate. People with whom you "hit it off," then, are just people speaking dialects very similar to your own. People who "rub you the wrong way" or who "make a bad first impression" are people whose dialects differ so much from your own that clear communication is difficult.

People who speak different languages meet and manage well together all the time, partly because, I think, when your languages are obviously different you both understand that neither of you understand. The trouble comes, not in misunderstanding people, but in being certain that you did, in fact, understand someone. The trouble comes when you talk to someone and you think you're speaking the same language when you're not.

So I've been contacted by a couple of people who I completely misunderstood. I thought we were friendly but we were not. I thought things were going well but they were not. I thought the things I'd written were acceptable but they were not.

It's easy to extrapolate from this to imagine what it might be like if I had a large number of readers and this was my job. I can easily see myself becoming very cranky and doing nothing but sending out screed after screed attacking everyone. Because how many times can you go out there being open and honest and truthful and friendly when what you get back is anger and unhappiness?

And I admit I'm sensitive about these things. If an artist was angry with me for a bad review, I can understand that. We're speaking the same language as far as that goes. But when someone is upset about something I consider trivial or amusing or friendly, that I take badly. I can dish it out and I can take it, but I don't deal well with ambushes from people I thought I liked.

I'm not sure that anything's going to change around here -- I'm still going to be as open, honest, and truthful as I can be. I'm not sure I know how to be any other way. I'm not saying here I've never lied, cheated, or stolen -- I have -- but I'm not good at those things, they're not in my nature, and I don't want to be that way. I want to continue to be open. And so I will be.

And if that turns me, eventually, into Charlie Finch, so be it.


It's easy to be angry at complete strangers. But beyond that, if a person learns that their expressions of anger are getting them zip zero nada of what they think they hoped to get, then it tend's to be discarded. Oh, there's probably going to be bitter fuming and sniping, but the frontal assaults will go by the wayside.The bottom line is that most people think *much to highly of themselves*, (myself included) and that leads to all sorts of lame excuses for being angry. You *have* to be able to laugh at yourself, and even parody yourself when you see yourself being ridiculous.

Yes, people are strange... is this the first step to give Charlie a hand? Did you invite him to the Blogger Show ? Often, not always, relation changes eye-to-eye, but may worsen too. I really like your opinions, the fact you write and discover. Best regards, Hans

I think you handle getting beat up and insulted very well:) I get very upset when I am involved in that sort of thing, I say the wrong things and do NOT communicate well at all. Which is why I am much more of a lurker than a participant in those situations.I have always enjoyed your observations about art and even though I don't always agree with you, I appreciate that you are honest. I imagine the anonymous types who persist in insulting you have a few anger issues that are not really about you. You are just an easy target because you are out there and are expressing your opinions.

Hey Chris,I might not agree with you all the time, sometimes your so dead on I find myself laughing and cheering.We have had some disagreements, but I would like to think that it comes down to being rational with a good does of critical thinking to converse on this level.If there are some who are snipping at you well let them fume and ignore them. I don't hold a grudge unless money is involved or infidelity, even then I come around to life is to short to be to angry.I think you do a fine job myself, and I really don't like Charlie Finch so I hope your sites are higher than that.

Chris, my dear:1) Do not ever change. I have full confidence that you will not; however I must state that the essential Chris is an extraordinary original who has glorious value in his wit and integrity. Those who do not understand this are not worth your time.2) Sometimes it is simply not possible to be friends with people. Either you do not resonate, or they're not open to it for some reason having little to do with you. Finally coming to terms with this fact has done a lot toward relieving the excess anger in my life.3) Some people deserve to be mocked. They do not deserve to be mocked for sincere efforts gone awry; they do not deserve to be mocked for genuine ill fortune, honest mistakes, genetic sensitivity, or any factor over which they have no control. But when a person demonstrates gross incompetence, coupled with flaming arrogance, coupled with flagrant insincerity, coupled with obvious apathy, coupled with an attempt to control and suppress the responses of those people affected by said incompetence, arrogance, insincerity and apathy, that person must properly be first mocked, and then ignored.It is only basic karma.

I realized, after I posted this, that I needed to write out my post about the Blogger Show. So I was writing that out, and thinking about it, and I realized further that, while I've met maybe two people with whom I didn't get along in the art world, I've also met a bunch of really great people, too. And the great ones so far outweigh the lousy ones that I really shouldn't complain. I mean, I had to hug Tracy. How great is that?My site is acting up so I didn't see these comments as they came in, but then, after my realizations, I found them, and I'm glad to find people on my side.Thanks to all of you. And Pretty Lady: I often find myself thinking of Bob from What About Bob? saying that people are like phones, and sometimes when you call you get a busy signal.

I can confirm the peculiar happenings around these parts. Your posts have been vanishing and reappearing. There was a post above this one (about the show), and yesterday evening, even this post was missing for a time. Hmm hmm...you got a bloggergeist?

Chris, loved you in the video. It's been a while since I've seen him, but I would say that you and Charlie are of the same approximate enormity, but his ego is bigger. The opening was really fun, it was great to meet the faces behind the blogs and it was also nice to meet Dawn.

DC: Unlike most of my blogging brethren and sistren -- and I'm frightened to put it that way, believe me -- my blog is run through Blogger but hosted on my own server at crywalt.com, which is actually a machine shared by a whole bunch of people at WestNet, which ISP is owned by a friend of mine. So posts and comments need to go to Blogger, then get copied to my server. Something went weird with the copying process yesterday (which, for the technical among you, is no more arcane than an FTP connection). So, no geist, but just one of those Internet things.Oriane: I passed along the inspiration for this post -- an e-mail exchange with one of those people I misunderstood who shall remain decidedly nameless -- to Stephanie, whose reaction was one of righteous rage. She said all the things I thought immediately when the e-mail exchange began.But what I realize is that I quite simply do not have the self-esteem -- the ego -- to believe immediately that I am RIGHT and the other guy is WRONG. I've been wrong too many times. Once upon a time I was an arrogant bastard -- some people would probably say I still am -- but, believe me, I've mellowed. So when someone writes me a message saying I've done something wrong, my immediate reaction may be "Who the hell is this asshole to accuse me of wrongdoing?" but it's followed immediately by "Well, maybe I did do something wrong. Let me think about this."Which may be sane and reasonable and all that, but when dealing with someone unreasonable, sanity isn't always the best reaction. It just gets you beat up more. It's like trying to have a discussion about motivations with the bully stuffing you into a locker.But it's who I am these days. I found a quote from Robert Frost today -- serendipity, it's the foundation of the Internet! -- which sums me up nicely: "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel."

my blogging brethren and sistren -- and I'm frightened to put it that way, believe meOh pfft. You can hate me if you want, but as long as I'm a "blogging brethren" I'm fine with that.

I'm just horrified to be aligning myself with any group. But especially one of [gulp] bloggers, who are pathetic smelly basement dwellers. I guess that makes me a self-hating pathetic smelly basement dweller. I should accept my pathetic smelly basement dwellerness!

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