Monthly Archives: March 2012

Truth, Apple, Theater, Mike Daisey

Foxconn was trending before Mike Daisey. When I clicked to see what the fuss was about (new abuses?), I surprisingly discovered a bajillion retweets saying this: This American Life had retracted their version of Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs monologue due to numerous falsehoods. One example was that he didn’t meet the workers poisoned by n-hexane because they were poisoned in a different factory, not the one in Shenzen. Mike Daisey confirmed the falsehoods, defended his work in a statement on his blog. You should read it in full. The gist of it is that he stands by his work. Since it is theater, it is okay to use dramatic license to drive home an emotional point.

His defense works for me, at least qua his work. I’ll get to Mike Daisey himself later. I watched his play when he was in Berkeley (and The Last Cargo Cult). For me, his monologue is no less powerful knowing that he didn’t literally meet with certain people he said he met with or that he wasn’t challenged with guns. The emotional impact is the same. The message still stands. The guilt is still there. I know that human dignity was violated to make the iPad I’m typing this blog post on. We should still pressure American companies who make the products we love to make them in a humane fashion. And guess what, Apple has felt the pressure. Mike Daisey achieved some level of victory. How empowering that is to a cynic like me.

I defended Mike Daisey’s monologue in my own way on Twitter, stating, “And I bet Mike Daisey’s Mac didn’t actually bleed when he took it apart.” I was referring to the powerful ending of the piece (at least it was the ending when I saw it) where he’s taking his computer apart and putting it back together and all he can see is blood. Daisey didn’t need to see literal blood for this point to be made and it would be absurd to demand that level of realism. In fact, the emotional impact is still the same if he didn’t actually have that epiphany during that activity. This could be concocted for dramatic purposes, but it doesn’t matter at all. (Any narrative contains falsehoods because it flattens a life that isn’t so linear.) The same stands for the content of his interviews. The fact that someone was literally poisoned during the manufacture of Apple products is enough to make Mike Daisey’s monologue work.

Now what of Mike Daisey himself? This blog post would be over if it wasn’t for something Lloyd tweeted: “Daisey’s problem is that the falsehoods he conveys onstage (for obvious dramatic effect)… he has repeated as fact in actual interviews.” So now I think that Daisey’s credibility takes a hit. But how does this affect his art and his goals?

I think it doesn’t really affect the monologue. Like I said, the emotional impact is still the despite what literally happened. Dramatic license in theater is okay. Imagine an alternate universe where the falsehoods were made clear from the beginning. Does it change the credibility of the original monologue? No, it doesn’t.

Art retains its own value apart from the creator. To use extreme examples: Hemingway’s books are still great despite his drunkenness. OJ Simpson’s touchdown runs are no less impressive because he killed someone. Ray Lewis isn’t any worse a football player because of his involvement in a man’s murder. I also think a womanizer with a wife (lying is implied here) who is a writer deserves to have his work judged by its own merits. (But it is okay to examine the comtext in which the work was created.) However, is it the same when the credibility claims are so central to the piece? I think if we are adult enough to recognize the difference between theater and facts, we will be okay. We can hold the differences in our head. We can draw on the emotions of theater to spur our activism, and we can draw on journalistic fact to guide what we do. Yet we should know what is what, and theater shouldn’t be presented as fact, especially by the creator.

So what’s next? Is the movement destroyed? I don’t know. Questions about future human behavior are the ones I usually answer wrong. I still admire Daisey’s art and the spark he has created. Even if he were to knowingly lie to others outside the context of theater, it would be fine if it were done in service of his larger goals of sparking change. I just hope he didn’t hurt this spark. I, though, can only speak for myself. I don’t know how this news affected other people. How do you feel — about theater and Daisey himself? Will this change what you do?


Ever since DST started, I have been so fucking tired. It takes forever for the morning fog to lift from my mind and I’m so tired at the end of the day that it takes a massive effort to even do my comic. I don’t really have the energy for anything other than reading, even though I should be drawing.

A Book Allowance

I’m allotting myself a monthly book allowance so I don’t feel guilty about buying books, but I make sure I make the effort to learn new things. I’ve purchased 4 books so far this month. I’m not sure I’ll even finish one book this month, though. I gotta spend more time reading.

Oh wait, I already finished 3 books this month. I read all the Hunger Games books. Haha.

There’s a scene in Musashi where Musashi has to stay in a room for several years, kind of like he’s in jail. But the room has lots of books, including The Art of War, and he comes out a much wiser person. I am actually kind of envious.

Expiration Date

There’s an episode of HIMYM where Ted and Robin realize their relationship has an expiration date. They want different things out of life and they’ll be incompatible in 5 years.

I think I may be heading towards an expiration date with my current comic. It’s been great, but I don’t think it’s a proper vehicle to get me where I want to go creatively. I want to tell better stories. I want to make more expressive characters. I can’t do it with one-liners and stick figures. The more I want to promote my current comic, the more I can’t shake the guilt that I can’t draw.

I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. There are some really good comics that I’ve done, at least in terms of what the words say. I mean, otherwise I wouldn’t have got some praise from the author of xkcd. (I sent him an email many, many moons ago.) The body of work is much better than my old comic, TPV. In retrospect, I wish I had just started drawing instead of doing a sprite comic. I couldn’t draw then either, but by now I’d have some modicum of ability.

The breakup won’t happen right away. I’ll ease into it. I still have much training to do with both writing and drawing. I actually purchased Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice and I’m going to work through it. I want to be more attentive to my craft. I also bought Musashi, and I didn’t expect this, but it has given me some resolve to do some good work and take pride in what I do.

So yeah, I’m going to outgrow Chalkboard Manifesto in a few years. We’ll see what happens next. It may not even be a comic. When I outgrew, I thought I’d make a new humor website, but I just focused on my comic.

Thoughts on Hunger Games

* At the end of the trilogy, it’s clear that this is an anti-war story. The girl ends up broken, physically and emotionally, and never fully heals. The noble war for freedom turns out to be a sham. War is ugly, always will be.
* In fact, the girl turns out to be less a heroine and more a victim.
* One point is kind of Battlestar-esque in terms of theme with the idea that this has happened and this will happen again. There’s not much hope, though, in Hunger Games that people will learn. They’ll forget and do it again. I guess the book wants the reader to learn from it, but there it is implied that viciousness is an escapable part of human nature.
* Despite being anti-war, the best parts of the books are the violent parts. Ironic in a way.
* The main character becomes increasingly whiny in the third book, which is understandable given that she’s a teenager and under a lot of emotional distress, but it makes the book a less compelling read. Although in retrospect, I think it’s less the whinyness and more the disjointedness that makes the book less enjoyable. She’s repeatedly knocked unconscious, which gets kind of repetitive. Each part doesn’t feel very connected. The violent part is the longest narrative thread.
* Poor Peeta. I would never wait that long for a girl to put out. #TastelessJoke
* Overall, it’s a fun read. I enjoyed the first two books, but the third is necessary to get the theme. I guess skim the first half of the third.
* Given that the drumbeats of war are sounding again (some people want us whipped into a fury to attack Iran), this kind of anti-war narrative is refreshing and necessary.

Santorum and Torture

I liked Andrew Sullivan calling out Rick Santorum on the torture issue. Seriously, how can you claim to be a moral person and yet condone torture? This isn’t a simple disagreement on issues, or even a major disagreement on issues; this is an issue that trumps all else. To be a proponent of torture is to lack all moral grounding, to eschew what makes us civilized. I don’t care what else you believe. I mean, even if you are a small government fiscal conservative (which Santorum is not), this should trump everything else. He lacks a core moral principle. I mean, it’s like being a great fiscal conservative but also a child molester. Unacceptable! And with the presidency comes the power to act on that evil, to torture as Bush did. Santorum belongs nowhere near the presidency.

Plus, what’s up with the Republican war on contraception? If you’re Rush Limbaugh, a mother of two who’s having sex with her husband while using contraception provided by her health care provider is a prostitute. I know, trolls don’t care about logic, so I’ll stop there.

Shirts and Mistakes

I just put t-shirts on pre-sale for the Chalkboard Manifesto. And I have no idea what I’m doing. I put an arbitrary number of shirts I have to sell that’ll net me a healthy amount of profit. Or at least that’s what I’m assuming. I don’t really know how much shipping will cost, so I just decided to price it into the shirts and worry about that when the time comes. There’s a lot I don’t know, but I’m fine with figuring it out as I go. I’m okay with messing up.

I’ve already messed up. I accidentally set the quantity to 1, so my t-shirts were sold out after my first purchase, haha.

I figured that I’d learn more by throwing the shirts up for sale and learning as I go, rather than planning and planning. It’s like programming: You learn more by actually coding than reading. Coding and messing up and fixing things. Well, not to say planning should be ignored. Maybe I didn’t do enough planning, but I guess that’s something I’ll learn.