Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Not Quitting

Well, I pretty much lost it yesterday.  I'm not sure at what point I completely lost my patience ... to me, it doesn't matter.  I talked it over with my partner and she told me, "You've been holding it in for months - have your say and get it off your chest."

So I guess I did.

Apparently a lot of the people who like me took from yesterday's post that there was some chance I would be quitting the blog.  I would like to reassure people that I have no intention of doing that.  Particularly after the series of conversations this last winter that gave me the inspiration to put the Conflict system together, it's clear that dialogue on this blog has helped me structure rules and concepts that help my own world and keep it going.  I very much wouldn't want to stop.

But ...

With the comments yesterday that turned up on other posts than the rant, which clearly ignored the sentiments of the rant and which just pissed me to blazes, I'm afraid I'm going to have to introduce comment moderation into the blog.  If people want to know why, they can look at tsojcanth's telling me that a truffle is a mushroom (duh) and that it doesn't belong in a confectioner's shop (don't see why not) and that surely I must mean a chocolate truffle (like I'm an idiot who doesn't know the difference).  I mean, there's no evidence I've researched these tables, or the manner in which things are made which gives them a price.

Yet I feel vindictive if I delete his completely unhelpful, personally insulting comment since it doesn't actually use any abusive words, and it is completely polite.  Beyond the sentiment which clearly indicates his feeling that I have to be told what a truffle is, the comment is obviously well-meaning.  It's not trollish, it's not 'horrible,' it's not a vampiric suck upon the life of the blog.  How can I possibly delete it?

The answer is that I can't.  And at the same time, my personal feeling is that I can't just let it go.  The rest of the world can respond to patronizing bullshit like this and tolerate being spoken to as though they were children, but I can't.  I'm just built in a way that insists I be respected all the time.  Not just some of the time.  All the time.

Oh, yes, it is a hard world to live in.  Are you finding it easy?

Drance can't understand why I react to praise and criticism with equal suspicion and disdain.  I shall try to explain that.

As a very young boy, just as I was making my way through first grade, it became evident to my teachers that I was unusual.  Over the next few years this unusualness caused quite a stir.  I was tested quite a bit.  My teachers wanted to jump me over the third and fourth grades (my parents refused), so that I would be going to school with people who were reading at the same level.  My teachers wanted to put me on ritalin to counteract my hyperactivity (it wasn't called ADD yet).  Some teachers encouraged my parents to put me in a special school (again, my parents refused).  And throughout all this, I was praised constantly.

Not by my fellow students, mind.  No, they did not praise me.  They were quite vociferous in the manner in which they did not praise me.  I think a fair number of readers, since this is a D&D-rich environment, might understand exactly what I mean.

Throughout the early period of my life, the only thing that made sense to me were the books I read.  And the books I read told me two things - the world is a much richer place than most people ever dream of; and most people in the world will try to control you somehow.  The latter I got from reading people like Thomas Payne, Hermann Hesse and Karl Marx.

And wow, was that ever true.  All the teachers who thought I was this terrific super-genius kid, who praised my intellect to the skies, saw me as some sort of little pet who would work on little projects that they thought would be good for me, or do extra work that they thought would be good for me, or win prizes from educational contests which they thought would be good for me.  Those things I was interested in - geography and politics - were not things you could win academic prizes for.  Karl Marx and Hermann Hesse were not approved.  And besides that, I had a deep love for pure science ... not applied science that could win me accolades at science fairs and so on, but pure science.  The philosophy of science.  The history of science.  The morality of science.

By sixth grade a very definite pattern had set in between my teachers and me.  Meet new teacher.  Demonstrate intelligence to new teacher.  Receive pep talk about all the things I could do with my intelligence.  Ignore pep talk.  Do what I liked doing.  Disappoint teacher.  Receive second, querying pep talk wondering why I did not use my intelligence as desired.  Explain flatly that everything the teacher found important was of no importance to me.  Greatly disappoint teacher.  Change nothing about my behavior.  Obtain resentment from teacher which increased steadily over the course of the year.  Age.  Enjoy the summer thinking and reading what I liked free of teachers.  Meet new teacher.

When I say that I ignored the pep talk, I mean that I didn't bother to work on school projects any further than what was flatly required to get my minimum required grade to move on.  My only relationship with schoolwork was its annoying habit of getting in the way of my doing what I wanted to do ... read voraciously every detailed thing I could get my hands on, work on my own projects, devise my own interests and so on.  School essays in particularly were an annoyance I could get rid of the morning an assignment was due, done in thirty minutes or so in the library before classes started.

Believe it or not, this pattern continued right through entire educational career, up until the day I completed university.  As soon as my professors learned that I had my own agenda, and not the one they thought I should have as their darling little protege, resentment raged.  And as ever, I did not put the 'effort' into the assignments - essays or tests - they felt I should have.  I did the work I felt I should have done, and I've never regretted it.  I sailed through university with a 3.3 average (of 4, or a B+) and that was more than good enough for me.

Being praised has been such a common event in my life that I do look with suspicion at the people who give it.  Particularly when I feel I haven't done anything for which I deserve to be praised.  Much of the time, the effusiveness of the praise causes me to wonder what the agenda is of the person who seems to think its important to praise me.

Now, this will not seem like a big leap, and it will help Anthony understand my motivations.  I am equally used to be attacked, abused, hurt, vilified and condemned for being someone who won't shut up when he thinks something needs to be said.  I was pushed around and harassed every day I was in school, by people who knew how, at a time when I was much more vulnerable than I am now.  A significant portion of the face-to-face population I grew up with hated me with the passion of a thousand suns, a hate that makes the little flame wars online and around the internet seem like parlor games by comparison.  Psychologically, it was so continuous and pervasive that - I freely admit this - I was forced to adapt to it to such a degree that if people are not actively hating me, I'm not really sure what they're thinking.

Now that should get the pop psychologists in the crowd going.

The combination is highly flammable.  On the one hand, my education (received from uncounted thousands of hours spent in university libraries and talking face to face with people much smarter than me - whenever possible) has caused me to look at the world very differently from those who see career-family-status-comfort as their goal in life.  My personal experiences have dulled me to personal pain.  My fascination with writing and expression has enabled me to present my position as nastily as I like and as warm and receiving as I like, depending upon my mood.  My fascination with statistics, geography and D&D has manifested as an increasingly complex abstract that channels the things I've learned.  My derision of praise, and my own sense of what is praiseworthy, denies me ever feeling that anything I've done is 'enough.'  And my lifelong experience as someone disliked has driven me to insist on being respected as a compromise.

I don't really give a shit if people like me.  But people will respect me.  They will because I've fucking earned it.

Things had been coming to a head for months.  I had been restraining myself as much as I could because I had some silly notion of turning out a game system that people would be interested in.  I recognize now just how much that gaming system was pearls before swine.  C'est la vie.

But posting it let off a pressure valve that had been building for months.  Several times I had found it necessary to write some rant about something, but the truth is I never quite said as much as I wanted to say.  Yesterday I took all the brakes off.  I'm certain I took off too many brakes.  I'm certain its the kind of thing I'm going to feel affecting this blog for quite some time.

Strangely, however, I think this post will actually be worse.  But that's what you get for honesty.  People can't wait to crucify you.

So for awhile I will try the comment moderation.  I expect that it will kill the number of comments I receive.  I personally hate commenting on a blog and having to wait until my comment is permitted.  I personally hate that I can't feel confident that people will comment in a manner that assumes I'm smart enough to know what a truffle is.  People assume all sorts of bad things about me.  I can't understand why it can't be assumed that every item that appears on the table is perfectly known to me.  If people think I copied these table out of a book, without any knowledge of what these things are, I'd like to know where this book is.  It would save me a shit load of work.

Drance, my poor deluded critic, it's not a schtick.  I really am this insane.  I really am "on guard" all the time.  Try to realize that I view this material with the same life-and-death fanaticism as a doctor views the right and wrong of surgery, or as an engineer who views the right and wrong of bridge-building.  I recognize that D&D isn't viewed, normally, as life-and-death, but what the fuck.  I didn't want to be a doctor.  I didn't want to be an engineer.  I wanted to do THIS.  I wanted to WRITE.  Should I view it with less passion because it is something other people don't think is very important?

As far as "taking the time to think about what the critic is saying," I feel that you may be missing that a blog gives plenty of time to think.  There's usually five minutes to an hour between comments.  And I usually don't need five minutes.  I think awfully fast.  And the reality is that if something CAN be torn apart, then it isn't worth very much to me.  If someone poses something that's actually clever and intelligent, I don't take it apart because I can't think of a way to do it.  Those are the comments I like.  But there's nothing to be gained from giving some poor schlub the benefit of the doubt when there is no doubt.  The thing that was said was stupid.  I said this yesterday: dipping it in sugar and calling it cake doesn't make it go down easier.

Drance, you are asking me to change.  Most people do.  They don't want to say it outright, because they've been socialized and trained to be polite and not say things like that outright.  But it would be better for everyone, everywhere in the D&D universe, if I changed and just pumped out my tables and my prepared material so other people could use it for their worlds.  If only I would follow that agenda, and no other.  If only I could be the D&D community's protege.  Instead, I have to go on doing what I think as important, and get the resentment that you and others feel, that I am not following the program that is good for me.

I'd like to believe that sentiment is in my head, but you can read it in the comments list of the Hill Canton's post I linked yesterday, said just about word-for-word by Brad.  If you look around, you can find that sentiment expressed in a lot of places.  But the gentle reader is just going to have to trust me when I say that what I have to offer is more than meets the eye.  These rants, and the explanations that follow, have a greater purpose than to just make me feel better about life.  That the purpose isn't immediately obvious is kind of the point.

I am trying to educate here.


Jim said...

Alexis, about a year ago I made a suggestion about labor on your blog that was quite naive with regard to the depth of your research. I appreciated your honesty and candor at the time. I'm much more educated now as a result of your efforts. Thank you.

Alexis said...

I appreciate that, Jim. Please believe me that the gratitude is mutual. I thank you too.

Oddbit said...

Honestly, I've met people like you before. And that in and of itself is not intended as an insult. There are many people who are proud, and will accept no undermining of their authority or credibility.

For me that is a hit or miss personality, mainly depending on whether or not they actually deserve credibility or authority. I've experienced both.

The difficult part of managing a blog in this situation seems to be that by maintaining the comment you are supporting the undermining of the credibility. By deleting the comment, that can be seen as attempting to cover up a true flaw in your credibility. And by responding to it it simply offers them an opportunity to take another stab at your credibility like a baby with a butter knife. No actual accuracy but it wont give up until you do.

Your strategy up to this date seems to have been to so completely shut down the commenter so they don't come back. I agree with your decision to moderate and feel it will probably help your blood pressure a tad, letting you pick and choose your battles.

As a side note, please do not give your babies butter knives. While testing my analogy may be tempting, I have no intention of arming halfling sized humanoids with knives.

Pat said...

I used to have a similar attitude, with a bit more "troll" flavoring. Eventually I found that really, my priorities were mixed up & being right wasn't important at all. What was important was how I treated other people.

The inclination for correctness has its uses, but when it's used as a bludgeon it's totally counterproductive. You (a rhetorical "you", not you personally) end up with people not liking you or agreeing with you.

At the risk of being modded away or mocked, I'll add that you really should consider praying on this.

Best wishes,


Alexis said...

I've met people like me, too, and like you Oddbit, I've met both kinds. I know precisely what you mean. I did not for a split second take your comment as an insult.

Your familiarity with my kind might be the reason we get on so; you know what to expect, and I don't feel pressed.

Like Dave yesterday, you've accurately cut this one to the bone, too. It is the dilemma I've been in.

Is it specifically knives expressly used for butter that I should avoid putting in the hands of babies, or would it be wise to apply the caution to the whole knife "group."

Jason Juta said...

I'm glad you posted this. It's given me (and others I'm sure) valuable insight into why you tackle D&D in the way you do. When you started posting your shop tables, I was amazed that anyone would go to those lengths - then I started realising from other blogs that many gamers are interested in more than bashing monsters over the head (in fact my own interest in non-head-bashing has been aroused too, thanks to you).

Everyone has the right to do what makes them happy, and to prioritise what makes them happy. As a creative endeavour, you have every right to moderate your blog, and having had enough of reading unpleasant comments myself, I'm only too happy for you to save the sanity of your readers as well as your own.

Good luck, I always look forward to new posts.

Ragnorakk said...

My experience w/school was similar to yours, but I got exasperated and quit as soon as I legally could.

Personally I feel absolutely no qualm with deleting a comment on my blog. It's mine. The free speech argument is bullshit - those desiring to freely speak are free to register a platform to do so.

Anonymous said...

Alexis, if I may say so you just need to keep churning out the hits, run the blog however the hell you wish and ignore the noise. If somebody can't read any three posts on the blog and immediately find something useful... be it a rule, some period scholarship or stunning insight, then fuck them.

As far as I'm concerned you've got carte blanche to be the biggest prick you want to be at all times based solely on the quantity and quality of your content. This shit is FREE people.

Anonymous said...

I know that you know what truffles are. I NEVER said you didn't. I thought you mixed them up, not conceptually, by either putting them in the wrong shop, or edited them the wrong way.

I just thought you mixed them. Not as "oh look at this ignorant person mixing the truffles, he must have never tried the real thing, as of course he lives in North America and doesn't know jack shit about Europe, the Middle Ages and Renaissance." but as in "oh he might have copy/pasted wrong or crossed his references. Editing errors happen to everybody."

Because, in my 20/21st century mindframe, I thought that:
1: if "ordinary" truffles are sold in a confectionery shop, i think chocolate truffles. That's what an ordinary truffle found in a confectionery shop would look like. Nevermind that they've been created about 120 years ago.
2: next to that i see Perigord truffles with a waay higher price mark. I thought somehow the Perigord truffles ended up together with chocolates. Given the overpowering smell they emanate i wouldn't call that"plausible". Yes I know about sealing jars. It just didn't seem the right kind of thing to sell if i was selling sweeties.
3: I pointed that out, spending effort to try to point out what I thought was a discrepancy.
4: instead of spending 5 minutes to try to understand the nature of my critique you decide that, despite my previous comments about the quality of your writing (as I really really like it and admire what you're doing, despite for not agreeing with you on everything), the purpose of my comment is to show you what the heck truffles are because you decided I think you're ignorant. And of course you are not ignorant, you do your research (and I'm extremely saddened at the lack of a bibliography or citations, trust me). Educate you. Not cool.

Anonymous said...

5: you complain about me on your blog. For real. Like kids on facebook. You then start calling me patronizing and seemingly blame on me the fact that you have comment moderation, while I distinctly remember that this morning the moderation was activated already (maybe not for the first post tho, but I admit that it could have been the last straw). Totally not cool, I'd say bordering on dishonest if you didn't seem like someone that suffered in a really bad way from not wanting to be the way society expects (dissent is hard and, sadly, very taxing). But, hey, your blog is yours. I don't care if this or other comments get published as long as you read them: I want to write to you, not to the crowd :)

Also, at some point, you remove some of your comments from that conversation. Not cool. And thanks for posting the definition of confection, English is not my first language and, despite knowing what a confectioner's shop is, I had no clue that confection could be used also for savoury food.

I like what your write, or else I wouldn't have you in my blogroll. I tried to help, I've been treated like trash in a good-sized chunk of a blogpost. Which is worse than calling me names because I actually think highly of you. Thanks for that. I'll make sure to think twice before commenting on your blog. But I'll keep on doing it (I hope you appreciate the furniture list I sent you).

By the way, discussing this with my archeologist/historian flatmate he told me that probably truffles were in fact sold in confectioner's shops here in Britain.

So, yeah, I was probably wrong. I'm happy to know that I was probably wrong. It turns out that most of the time almost everybody is, if enough research is carried out. :)

Alexis said...


I'll publish this because I did tear a strip off you and you're entitled a rebuttal. I tore the strip off other people too, but what they sent me today was not a rebuttal, it was more of the same.

I will tell you two things as honestly as I can, and then one thing more.

First, if you had spent this much time explaining your position in the first place, instead of dashing off two sentences which were bound to me misunderstood, I wouldn't have had any reason to snap at you.

Second, it was the last straw. I woke up this morning, saw your comment, wrote my very flat reply and for about an hour felt like absolute shit for having to constantly defend myself this way. Then I decided upon the moderation and changed the blog. Then I wrote this post. It was my own anger at my inability to just walk away from this sort of thing that drove me to this response. Since I wrote it, I have been feeling better about myself, and about this blog. This has been the best day on this blog, particularly with the quality of the comments, this last one of yours included, than I can remember having for months.

And then this last thing, tsojcanth:

I'm sorry.

I've been on a slow burn since Sunday morning and by yesterday I was ready to tear anything and everything in front of me to bits. I'm sorry it was you. I apologize.

I'm happy to say that your response gives me reason to apologize. You were ill-used, and I'm admitting it. I did tear into you because of what you wrote, but I was looking for a fight.

Thank you for standing up to me, and for saying how you felt and what your motivations were, and for not giving me advice on how to live my life.

Shake on it?

Anonymous said...

I totally should have spent more time writing instead of looking like a troll. Sorry again.

Thanks for the closure. It's been quite touching to read to be honest. And an answer like that requires a long ton of guts. I'm not completely surprised tho, I must admit

We now have a poster case for "an OSR trolling that ended well" :)

Anonymous said...

So you started a blog about "how to write".



Why bother?

You're already teaching us here.