Episode One

Lewis: Welcome to suggestcast 2.0
Sara: What should we start with?
Diane: Let's start with Cave Miners.
Lewis: are we live?
Sara: Haha
Lewis: that's our signature opening
Sara: just like old times
that I never actually experienced
Diane: Just a minute, you're sounding really quiet for some reason. I'm going to try switching something with my headphones.
Sara: Where's that echo coming from?
Diane: So, I've written out why I suggested Cave Miners. Do you guys want to hear that now, or do you want to discuss it first?
Lewis: no we discuss first
Diane: OK.

Lewis: So, cave miners made me angry
I've seen other sketches by Olde English, and many of them are funny
so it was weird to watch such a bad sketch by them
Sara: why did you hate it so much?
Lewis: it was like, the same thing that happens with SNL, where there is like, a joke worthy of maybe 5 seconds of my time, being drawn out for, what was it, 12 minutes?
for anyone reading this who hasn't watched cave miners
Diane: Right, maybe we should start with an explanation of what the thing is.
Lewis: the basic idea is that these people are confused about what a cave is, and mistake digging a mine with discovering a cave
and then there are competing mine hunters who are worse at "finding" mines, because they are strip mining, or other asinine plans
but the only joke of the whole thing, really, that is being pursued, is that the people think they are finding a cave, when in fact they are making the cave
Sara: I agree that it went on too long. But I did find parts of it funny. I was amused by the graphics of the guy going into space to collect caves to inject into mountains.
Lewis: in case you are worried that I am wrong about this, there is a part late in the video where someone explicitly calls out the central conceit and explains it
Sara: The other thing I thought was that there are so many mockumentaries around now
I almost felt like this was a parody of a mockumentary
If that makes any sense
Lewis: i mean, that's the format
but it doesn't really do much to mock the format
so it feels more like it's just using the format than making fun of it
Sara: I just wondered if they were pointing out that people are just grabbing onto any old thing now and making a mockumentary and it's supposed to be funny
Maybe I am giving them too much credit
Lewis: Like, Olde English has a fantastic parody of MTV's Cribs, where they do Michel Gondry
and that one is great because in addition to the premise "what if the focus was on this weird director instead of a rap mogul"
they also have a lot of great jokes worked in
Sara: Cave Miners was thin on jokes, agreed
Lewis: and it is so long
Sara: sometimes that works in comedy!
Lewis: like, it would have been too long at one minute
it is legitimately hard for me to think of a worse olde english sketch than this one
Sara: This is the only one I've ever seen.
Lewis: oh man, their other sketches are good
they have one where a dad uses all the father's day coupons he's been given to torture his children by cashing them all in at once
Diane: I can recommend some sketches of theirs later, but keep in mind:
Suggestions are not recommendations. We're not trying to find things that are enjoyable, we're trying to find things that are worth being familiar with as reference points.
Sara: right right ok
Lewis: Diane often confuses "the goal is not to find something enjoyable" with "the goal is to find something that is not enjoyable"
Diane: Spoiler: that's not the goal I had with suggesting this.
Sara: haha
OK so tell us why you suggested it
Lewis: wait I am not done ranting yet
Sara: oh ok good!
Lewis: so, what would have made this sketch a lot better, in my opinion, is if they followed through on the details they bothered to put in there
like, they introduce the character who is an accountant and quits with his plan to capture empty space from outer space and implant it in mountains
and hint at his money trouble
but like, obviously every company we are looking at here would have money trouble
even the successful cave miners
because how often do people get hired to mine for caves
Diane: They list some of the types of people who need caves.
Lewis: the sketch can't decide whether the whole world is crazy, or just the four companies we are following
Sara: I think it's funny that was not a concern
Lewis: like, is the camp counselor the only sane man on earth, or are we looking at the only crazy people who don't understand about caves
Sara: Well, even he is crazy
Why are you taking a bunch of kids into a cave made/found by shady contractors
Lewis: i mean, he's not sensible, but he understands what a cave is
Sara: Have them make the cave out of papier mache and chicken wire like normal people
Lewis: and I think having Raphael Bob-Waksburg's character have money trouble brings up that the rich guy on the plane, how is his company rich?
(maybe that was answered in the sketch and I didn't notice because I was so annoyed the sketch was still going on)
Sara: haha
He's a sweet talker and his investors haven't clued in yet
is the backstory I had in my head
Lewis: haha
but the thing is, if we took a left turn into the home life of Raphael's character, that could have redeemed the sketch for me
like, veer away from this not-very-good premise for a bit
Sara: Was he the one interviewed with his wife on the couch?
Diane: Yeah.
Lewis: he's the one who wanted to go to space
Sara: Her expression sort of did it all, for me
I'm like, oh yeah, sister, I feel you
Lewis: yeah, her expressions were good
but like, this sketch was just trying to wring all the non-existent humor there was out of a very thin premise
and it stayed focused on that premise so tightly
Sara: it should have veered off into surrealism at some point, maybe
just gone somewhere really weird and unexpected
Lewis: (see their sketch "The Applicant")
Diane: I'll make that a link when this goes online.
Sara: I'm looking forward to watching these other sketches now!
Lewis: i'm ready to hear why diane suggested that
Sara: me too
Diane: Sara, I'd like to hear more about what you thought of the video.
Sara: I think I said most of what I wanted to say — do you have any specific questions?
Diane: Since mostly what we have so far is Lewis complaining that it wasn't good.
Sara: Oh ok — I agree that it went on too long and I didn't find it consistently funny, but bits of it were funny for me.
I liked the scientist dreamer guy and his presentation the most.
Diane: Did any particular things stand out, that you could see yourself referring back to?
Or that you could see me mistakenly thinking you'd want to refer back to, I guess.
Lewis: I might refer back to it as a weird misfire from an otherwise talented comedy group
Sara: I didn't find it much different from other mockumentaries I've seen, I guess — maybe I would refer back to it as one example of a mockumentary? But not among the best ones?
Maybe it's proof that you can mockumentarize anything.
But often you shouldn't.
Diane: OK, so, Lewis kind of got close to the thing I suggested this for.
I suggested this because of a particular bit towards the end with the camp counselor: the part where he's talking to a cave miner, and calls out why the basic premise of cave mining doesn't work. He even then talks to the documentary camera, saying a bit about how wacky those cave people are. I would have assumed that having a character plainly highlight and explain the main joke of the sketch you're doing is a thing you're not supposed to do in comedy. I'm not sure if that's a rule people have come up with a name for already. I think this violation of it, if it is a rule, could be a useful example of comedy acknowledging its own broken logic. Examples of that being done thoughtlessly are easy to find: any comic strip that has a weak punchline and then follows it up with another panel restating it more directly is sort of the same idea. But in this case it's very deliberate, stark even. The premise is already laid out so clearly that the Olde English guys couldn't have been doing this out of fear that someone twelve minutes in still wouldn't get it. Whether you think it was done well or not (I do), it definitely wasn't done thoughtlessly.
Sorry, I didn't have time to prepare a shorter version of that.
Lewis: haha, did you predict that I would get it?
Diane: I didn't even predict that you'd hate it.
I hadn't realized pace issues were going to be such a strong turnoff.
Sara: So why did they do it? To make fun of things that do it unintentionally?
Diane: I'm not sure why they did it.
How did that bit feel to you?
I'm wondering if that particular part felt objectionable to you. Like if it took you out of suspension of whatever.
Lewis: I wasn't suspending
like, the suspension was ruined already
Sara: yeah
Diane: Back when you started wondering about the rich guy's finances?
Lewis: no, that was after the fact when I was trying to figure out how to make it better
during that I was just thinking "when are there going to be funny things?"
like, the joke when he was on the plane was that the camp doesn't have a helipad
Diane: It was that he's misjudged who he's dealing with.
He's expecting that his cave clients will be billionaire businessmen, instead of a summer camp guy.
Lewis: ugh
Diane: You have improv experience and such. Do you know if there's a good name already for this type of explaining the joke?
Lewis: there probably is
Sara: It's called "breaking the thread."
Lewis: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LampshadeHanging
Diane: I've had a hard time thinking of examples of it done like this.
Lewis: that's the closest I can think of
Diane: It's not really lampshading, though.
Sara: no
Diane: Lampshading would be like if Olde English thought the problem with their script was that the mines weren't actually caves, so they threw in a line where someone says that's a problem and then moved on.
Lewis: right
well, in improv
there is a warmup
i don't know if it has a real name
but like, you do a scene, and when the game of the scene develops, someone is supposed to name the game of the scene
at any rate, this would be something like "naming the game"
Sara: It's like the marginal definition in a textbook
A term is bolded and defined in the text but there's also a little highlighted box out in the margin defining it again to be sure you REALLY GET IT
Diane: I don't think that's the motive here.
I'm not sure what the motive was, but it doesn't really make sense for them to think the premise needs to be explained just to have it be clearer.
Lewis: yeah the motive here was that they apparently wanted to fill like 12 minutes
and ran out of other things to do with those 12 minutes
and also, had decided that the camp counselor guy would be "grounded" to some extent
so like, his only honest response at a certain point is to acknowledge that they are all confused about what a cave is
Sara: The effect is similar though
Diane: Surprisingly, it was longer and got edited down to 12 minutes.
Lewis: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DontExplainTheJoke
Diane: Here's an excerpt from an interview about the making of Cave Miners:
Adam: And then we made a 15-to-20 minute short film about these characters. This was a sketch that Super Deluxe paid us to make.
Raphael: And they were like, what is this? Because also, I think sometimes we'd try to be like, "Alright, what can go viral? Like, what's a really hooky idea?" And in general, when we tried to make something go viral, it never did. But more often, it was like, "Well what do we want to make? What's a cool fun idea?" And we weren't that interested in web. At least I wasn't; some of us were more than others. It was fun when things got popular and poppy, but I was always more focused on, what do I think is funny and what would be a cool thing to watch and see? And this was definitely an example of that. There's no way this would ever go viral in a million years, which is why our bosses were like, "This is not what we're paying you for. There's no way to monetize this." But we had a great time.
Adam: I think our argument was, "Well, this is 15 minutes. What if we give you two seven-minute videos and it counts as two?" And they were like, "No. Just cut it down."
Lewis: haha
i feel so bad for the people who paid them money to make this
Sara: Oh I see, it's just SELF INDULGENCE
Lewis: but a lot of their self indulgence is good
Sara: Well, that's comedy for you
Diane: I think it's about time for the traditional voting.
Is this a suggestion worthy of being in our shared cultural consciousness? Would you refer back to it? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Get your thumbs ready.
Lewis: also, sara, check this one out
Sara: OK!
Diane: Recommendations are off-topic.
Lewis: who's the moderator here?
Diane: Also, watch this one.
Lewis: I vote no
Sara: Yeah, I have to agree. There are lots of funnier things out there and I was too thick to understand why the bit with the camp counsellor was particularly interesting/significant.
However I am excited to check out these other Olde English things
Diane: A resounding two thumbs down for Cave Miners!
Lewis: Diane you get to vote too
Diane: I thought it was just non-suggesters who vote.
Lewis: i could have sworn that the suggester voted as well. you voted on whatever you suggested in the episode where we talked about welcome to night vale
Diane: If the suggester gets a vote, I give Cave Miners a thumbs up. Thumbs down still wins.
Sara: OK, what's next?
Diane: "Understanding Insane Clown Posse's 'Miracles'"

Lewis: okay
take it away
or sara
Diane: OK, so, this was a video where Zinnia Jones complains about the Insane Clown Posse song "Miracles."
This doesn't have much bearing on it as a suggestion, but I have to complain that there's no reason for it to be a video instead of a short essay or blog post.
Lewis: did you both refresh your memories of the ICP video as well?
Sara: Can we talk about "Miracles" first or is that too off topic?
Diane: I did rewatch "Miracles" first.
Sara: I watched the music video first. I had never seen it.
Or anything by ICP.
Lewis: we can talk about that
oh that is an interesting introduction to ICP
Sara: I didn't know anything about ICP except that they wore clown makeup and people called Juggaloes liked them.
So I was watching this video and initially I thought, well! This is a pleasant surprise!
I was thinking they were talking about the grandeur of nature and its phenomena in much the same way as Dawkins was in his most recent book
Totally misinterpreting what was going on, obviously
Until I got to the "motherfucking scientists" part or whatever
And it was utterly jarring and I had to go back and start again and watch it from the opposite (and correct) perspective.
Anyway, it was a weird experience! I didn't just misinterpret something, I interpreted it in completely the opposite way it was intended. For a short time, anyway.
Diane: I also like to think of "Miracles" as promoting a Carl Sagan-like sense of wonder at the rich beauty of nature, actually.
You do agree that giraffes are amazing, right? That we should just look at them and be filled with an uncritical sense of awe?
Instead of going over to a scientist to ask for a textbook about long necks?
Sara: It's tough, because there's just the two options, really.
Either you appreciate and love nature and also believe in a Creator, or you reduce everything to numbers and live a miserable life. Sad.
Diane: I forget, was this before or after ICP claimed that their music was Christian?
Sara: After I think?
Lewis: after, this was part of the reveal
Lewis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insane_Clown_Posse#Spirituality
Diane: Zinnia Jones has that bit where she complains that dogs and mountains and such aren't supernatural, so they can't be miracles.
It seemed like she wasn't getting that ICP's using the term "miracles" in a much broader sense.
Sara: Did you read the Jon Ronson article?
Lewis: I haven't
Diane: They're not limiting themselves to... was it Hume who I'm thinking of? The guy who saw miracles as by definition so unlikely that you couldn't rationally believe they happened.
Sara: I think they are probably using the dictionary definition.
Diane: miracle (n): 1. A magnet.
Sara: haha
Lewis: well, I don't think the dictionary definition of miracle includes giraffe
Sara: Not according to you!
Diane: She compared "Miracles" to Keats's "Lamia," which didn't seem quite right to me.
That poem (or at least the one bit from it that everyone quotes; I haven't read the rest of it) claims that science ruins everything by explaining it. But that's giving the scientists credit for being able to do that. They've got the charmless power to conquer mysteries and "empty the haunted air and gnomed mine."
I think ICP's denying even that.
Sara: yyyyyessss I think that's true
Diane: Scientists can't get rid of the miracles of gnomes and giraffes, and if they say they can, they're lying motherfuckers.
Sara: Right, they are saying scientific "explanations" are lies
Diane: Oh, I liked when she called them "Mr. J and Mr. 2 Dope." It worked well with the format of reading an essay on camera.
Sara: But in the interview with Ronson they also say that they don't want explanations and would prefer to just believe that everything is a miracle
Lewis: you went down a rabbit hole here, it seems, sara
Sara: I really learned a lot from this suggestion!
Diane: Violent J shakes his head sorrowfully. "Who looks at the stars at night and says, 'Oh, those are gaseous forms of plutonium'?" he says. "No! You look at the stars and you think, 'Those are beautiful.'"
Suddenly he glances at me. The woman in the video is bespectacled and nerdy. I am bespectacled and nerdy. Might I have a similar motive?
"I don't know how magnets work," I say, to put him at his ease.
"Nobody does, man!" he replies, relieved. "Magnetic force, man. What else is similar to that on this Earth? Nothing! Magnetic force is fascinating to us. It's right there, in your fucking face. You can feel them pulling. You can't see it. You can't smell it. You can't touch it. But there's a fucking force there. That's cool!"
That line just killed me
Lewis: okay, but now i am going to have to ask you to focus on the suggestion itself
Sara: okay okay
Diane: I have one more quote from that article.
Lewis: ...
Diane: It's important.
Sara: let's have it
"Well," Violent J says, "science is… we don't really... that's like..." He pauses. Then he waves his hands as if to say, "OK, an analogy": "If you're trying to fuck a girl, but her mom's home, fuck her mom! You understand? You want to fuck the girl, but her mom's home? Fuck the mom. See?"
I look blankly at him. "You mean..."
"Now, you don't really feel that way," Violent J says. "You don't really hate her mom. But for this moment when you're trying to fuck this girl, fuck her! And that's what we mean when we say fuck scientists. Sometimes they kill all the cool mysteries away. When I was a kid, they couldn't tell you how pyramids were made..."
"Like Stonehenge and Easter Island," says Shaggy. "Nobody knows how that shit got there."
"But since then, scientists go, 'I've got an explanation for that.' It's like, fuck you! I like to believe it was something out of this world."
Sara: right omg hahaha that's what I was paraphrasing
Lewis: Now that does sound a bit more like Lamia
Sara: The thing about the Zinnia video is, though, I don't have too much to say about it because I just pretty much agreed with it
Lewis: i mean that literally. that is basically indistinguishable from Keats's verbiage
Sara: haha
Diane: Same meter and everything.
Lewis: (i almost said "Keats's prose," but obviously that's not applicable for a poem)
Diane: Do you know why she made this video? Like, was there anything prompting it, or was she just annoyed by a song and felt like videoblogging that?
Sara: oh yeah, I guess some context would be good
Lewis: I don't know anything about the genesis of the video, but the song had achieved viral popularity at the time
and she is something of a secular humanist writer/activist, I think
Sara: I listened to the SNL parody as well
(the song parodies itself, so it was practically indistinguishable from the original)
Diane: Yeah, I looked at another video she had with a title that was expressing something negative about miracles, and it had nothing to do with the song.
Sara: I admire her for making it, knowing that it might make scary clown people mad at her
Diane: Interest in atheism spilling over into interest in criticizing religious media seems likely.
Lewis: well, atheist and secular humanist activism takes two forms: either trying to get people to recognize the problems with religion, or like, just doing good work in a way where the humanist/atheism doesn't tend to come up
Diane: And that second option's boring.
Sara: Haha
Diane:I'm not really sure why this was suggested.
Lewis: so, try taking a guess
both of you
that'll be part of the format
Sara: guessing why it was suggeted?
Lewis: it can be a disparaging guess like mine was
Sara: Oh god the pressure
Diane: As an example of someone delivering a kind of pretentiously written speech on video.
Sara: My guess is that you were hoping we would follow the clues and end up at the SNL parody and the line "fuckin blankets: how do they work?"
Diane: Maybe this was suggested as an example of how no matter how good a song is, there will always be someone who finds a way to dislike it.
Lewis: i have never seen the SNL parody
but you're thinking like a MAZE reader, and I like that
Sara: i am grasping at straws
Lewis: Here is what I pre-typed before the discussion:
Zinnia Jones video: useful reference point for a lengthy overexplanation of something that is technically correct but fairly pointless to do. Additionally, a) the core point is fairly obvious, and b) the method of delivery obscures some of the more potentially interesting elements of the content.
Note: I originally assumed the entire thing was done straightfaced, but now am not entirely sure whether part of the idea was simply to troll Juggabros.
So Diane's guess is close but no cigar, I think
though her very first comment was on point
Sara: Yeah I was going to say
That's pretty much the first thing she said
Lewis: and you also hit on the "i pretty much agreed with it"
like the only objection to the truth of her claims was that she was misreading Keats
Sara: Obviously not everyone feels that way though
Lewis: which is, I think we can agree, a quibble
Sara: yeah
Lewis: sure sure, but like, her point that the song valorizes anti-intellectualism is correct
and she even says some marginally interesting things beyond that.
Diane: It also valorizes appreciating the wonders of the universe.
Lewis: but she is not good at reading from a script into the video
and like, anyone who wasn't pretty much already on board with her main thesis, was not going to watch this and say "hey, that's a good point"
Sara: haha right ok
Lewis: they were going to say, "fucking magnets"
Diane: Was she trying to persuade anyone?
Lewis: well, that's the thing
like, who is her target audience?
who is this for
I guess it could be preaching to the choir
Diane: People who agree and want to hear her complain.
Lewis: but her complaints aren't like, especially biting or funny
she engages with Mr. 2 Dope and Mr. J as though they have put forward a legitimate thesis that merits response
so, she treats it like she is debating them
it really is presented like the goal is to convince neutral viewers
with reasoned critique
not mere complaint or mockery
Diane: She even made another video responding to that mention of her in the article.
Where she seemed impressed that ICP had watched her video.
Sara: So her intended audience is imaginary
yeah I watched that too!
Lewis: that one is the one that made me wonder if she was mostly trying to troll the juggabros
Diane: She was more conciliatory in it. "We just have different ideas about what miracles are."
Lewis: like, when I first watched the original video, I was like, "obviously you're right, but what is the point of making this video? it seems like you think you can argue a juggalo out of their adherence to ICP, when their main response to you will be "WHOOP WHOOP""
Sara: hahaha!
Lewis: but now I wonder if she was trying to annoy them by actually engaging the content of their claims
or troll them, maybe not annoy
Diane: I think it's interesting how you complained about people suggesting things that aren't good, and then it turned out you suggested this basically for it not being good.
Lewis: this is far more watchable than cave miners
it's not good at what its doing
Diane: The people in Cave Miners can deliver their lines properly.
Lewis: like, it's why it's better to watch a bad horror movie than a bad comedy
bad comedy is painful to watch
bad horror is amusing
(this is not horror)
(i am just explaining that different formats have different failure modes)
Diane: I don't think I got the same sort of amusement out of watching this that you did.
Lewis: I didn't find this to be amusing
well, not especially
but I did find it more watchable than cave miners
Diane: It does work as an example of a pointless video that's kind of unpleasant to watch, but I already knew that I had that opinion of awkward-speech-reading videos.
Lewis: So, I think for me the quixotic futility of the video is part of it
not just the pointlessness
but that like, she's right
apart from the keats quibble
i cannot fault her on content
just on like, general purpose and delivery
if it were delivered reasonably well, that would have been preferable, I think, but I didn't know of a video that was like that
where the person is fundamentally correct, but they shouldn't have bothered
Diane: If I wanted to refer to people awkwardly reading from a script on YouTube, I'd probably use Griffin's Amiibo Corner as my example.
Lewis: haha
but that is funny
Diane: Which plays that idea for laughs.
Sara: more homework for me!
Lewis: the reading from a script is less central here than you are making it out to be
even if she was a better orator than cicero
the exercise she is engaged in is still futile
(note for readers at home: cicero was the same person as tully)
Diane: It's a pretty hard feature for me to overlook. It's the main thing that made this unpleasant to listen to.
Lewis: well then I am accidentally even with you for making me watch cave minders
Diane: But, as we all know...
Suggestions are not recommendations. We're not trying to find things that are enjoyable, we're trying to find things that are worth being familiar with as reference points.
Lewis: wait, Diane, can you simulate a Diane who read a transcript, instead of watching a video, and ask her what she thinks of it
Diane: I tried the link to the transcript, but it wasn't working.
Lewis: https://web.archive.org/web/20111104070102/http://emptv.com/videos/understanding-insane-clown-posses-miracles
always try the wayback machine
Diane: It's not fair to judge her based on an out-of-date transcript.
Lewis: lol
Sara, any last thoughts before voting?
Sara: Perhaps her purpose was just to get it all off her chest and out of her head.
Like, that video was bugging her personally so much and she just needed to get that response out there and out of her head.
Sometimes when I am mad about something I have to write it down or the words just swirl around and keep me up. So this is just the video version of that.
She's not really hoping for action or to change anyone's mind, she just has to put out what she is feeling/thinking.
Diane: To be clear, I'm not trying to judge her for having made a video that I didn't like. It may have been cathartic, and she is right that ICP's too harsh on science.
Sara: I'm just saying if we're judging her on trying to take some action and get people to change their ideas maybe that's not fair.
Lewis: I think she is legitimately trying to warn people that the ideology behind the video is more widespread
that is another discussion entirely
that's our closing line
from now on
so vote time
Sara: Am I voting based on what I got out of the suggestion or whether I think other people should take the suggestion?
Diane: Zinnia Jones's "Understanding Insane Clown Posse's ‘Miracles'": a grim warning of things to come, or a video with no real point? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Lewis: You are voting on whether it is a useful reference point for cultural purposes more broadly
even if not for the same reasons i proposed it
Diane: Based on whether it's a suggestion you would recommend to people looking for good suggestions (that is, good as suggestions).
Sara: oh ffs
Lewis: ignore diane
Sara: Well, thumbs up from me
Lewis: Diane
Diane: I give it a thumbs down. I don't see this adding much to my ability to complain about videos.
Lewis: haha
if I get a vote, I think I still vote it thumbs up
Okay, so now, on to Sara's suggestion

Diane: In the Realms of the Unreal.
Sara: Which only Diane acted on...
Lewis: which, over the course of this convo, I completed the abbreviated version of
Sara: oh ok
Lewis: Diane you should probably take the lead here
Diane: This was a documentary about Henry Darger, a prolific outsider artist.
One of those people who secretly spends a lot of time on some works that only get discovered after they die. Or shortly before he died in this case, I think.
I'd heard of him before, but hadn't recognized the name when I saw this in the list of suggestions.
Lewis: technically an outsider artist is any artist who doesn't come up through traditional channels like art school
i.e. without formal training
they don't have to get famous after they die
Diane: Yeah, I meant he's of that particular type of outsider artist.
Sara: right — someone outside the art world in some way
Lewis: they used to be called Appalachian artists, but someone realized that term is offensive
Diane: I found the documentary kind of drawn-out and repetitive, but I think the idea with this suggestion was to focus more on Darger and his work than on this particular presentation of it.
Am I right about that?
Sara: Yeah... I was going to say that at the beginning but thought I would see where you would go.
I'm more interested in your reaction to Darger and his works than that particular documentary.
Diane: I figured that was the case, just wanted to get that explicit in here.
Lewis: i figured that given the alternate suggestion
which was to watch some clips from the movie and look at images of his work
and read the description of the movie
Diane: So, Darger wrote some extremely long books. The main one's apparently fifteen thousand pages long.
The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion
Lewis: It's a cookbook
Sara: https://www.amazon.ca/Raise-Your-Eating-Gifted-Children/dp/0595002366
Diane: It seems like it's about a war against people who are mean to children.
Darger had a pretty awful childhood.
Lewis: From what I gathered, the girls in his art are on a narrative of liberation, but the art also features extensive horrific depictions of their treatment as slaves?
Sara: yeah
Diane: The bits they read of the book sounded like it was mostly repetitive revenge fantasies about punishing and denouncing child abusers.
I don't know how much I can really say about it as a whole, though. The documentary is less than an hour and a half long, so they only had time to read like a thousandth of a percent of the book.
Lewis: and it still felt boring and repetitive?
Diane: Yeah.
But I mean, that could just mean they picked out every "General Horrible is an enemy to children" sort of line, and those happen once every 800 pages.
Lewis: the art has a distinctive quality to it. it is immediately recognizable as outsider art, I think, when you look at it.
Sara: He is more famous for the art than the book
Lewis: http://www.saraayers.com/graphics/darger/da07.jpg
Diane: Yeah, the art is interesting.
He used some collage and tracing methods in there.
Lewis: This is not directly relevant, but my great aunt has a work by an outsider artist who was making her art in prison, and the way that artist drew people was really reminiscent of Oyvind Thorsby
Diane: I think the thing that makes it read so recognizably as outsider art is how everything looks like it was made extremely carefully, but not necessarily skillfully.
Lewis: yeah that's a good distinction
Diane: That one you linked is a better composition than most, I think. A lot of his pieces are kind of cluttered, I'd guess because he had a lot of characters who couldn't be left out.
Lewis: Now, that said: i'm not an expert on outsider art, or art generally
sorry that was also preface
but, I'm not sure what, apart from the fixation on depicting the mistreatment of little girls, and retribution therefore, makes his art especially interesting
Diane: The art's also mostly of children.
Generally (or maybe always?) girls, often naked.
When naked, they're drawn with penises, and the documentary didn't come to any firm conclusions about why.
Sara: I don't think people agree on why — there are a number of theories, most of which are obvious
Diane: I liked the suggestion one person made that he just wasn't aware that not everyone has penises.
Sara: Yeah, I like that one too!
Diane: I was curious about whether people think his work is genuinely good. The writing especially.
Like, how many people have actually read that whole 15,000-page book? More or less than two?
Lewis: more than two
less than 10
Sara: People consider his art good. Not the writing. It is more the fact that he wrote it.
As an artifact of his obsessiveness.
Diane: Nobody's bothered trying to make the books available to read.
I found a 720-page book about it on Amazon, which costs $500, but the 15000-page book itself isn't online anywhere.
Sara: $500!
Diane: Prices are weird for random out-of-print books that nobody will ever read about other books that nobody will ever read.
It seems like the appeal is all in hearing that he wrote this stuff, and not in reading it.
Anyway, the art.
Sara: Exactly.
Diane: I kept wondering what he would have done with modern digital art tools. I could imagine him making an impenetrable but visually unusual webcomic.
There's a line from the documentary: "In the forties, Henry discovered that by making photo enlargements of the images he collected, he could make them any size he wanted, and he could use them over and over again."
He had to pay what was for him a nontrivial amount of money for each photo enlargement he had done.
Sara: OK so here are my reasons for suggesting:
1. I feel like his work has some similarities to ways people are making art on the Internet. 2. Is this an example of art as a way to successfully(?) manage mental illness or mental/emotional distress/damage?
Diane: I imagine his hypothetical webcomic would involve a lot of stuff copied from Google Images searches.
Sara: So I was thinking what you were thinking. The way people use images over and over again in webcomics etc.
Diane: When they asked his acquaintances about mental illness, they were all very quick to say he wasn't crazy, really.
Sara: Well, that's why the "or"
Hard to imagine he wasn't damaged in some way by that awful childhood
Diane: Well, I think they did that because they felt like it would be too mean a thing to say about him.
Due to stigma around mental health stuff.
Lewis: Did I read right that his apartment was like what you'd find on hoarders, but just with his art?
Sara: He did also collect trash and stuff
Lewis: so he was a hoarder?
Diane: That was for use in the art, right?
Sara: Was all of it? I'm not sure
Diane: Finding photos of children in old newspapers and such?
I'm not sure either.
Lewis: well, okay, maybe not strictly hoarding
Diane: There was a bit about how he'd lost a particular newspaper photo, and got obsessive about needing to get it back.
Sara: Right, the photo of the little girl who had been murdered
Diane: Praying to God to let him find it again, and writing into the story some material about how Darger recovering the photo was important to the war.
I could see referring back to this.
Like coming across some sprawling website and comparing it to Darger's work.
Lewis: Thumbs up from diane
Diane: Yeah, thumbs up.
I could also see myself referring to the books, as examples of a thing people like the existence of but that nobody's going to want to read.
Lewis: I am going to abstain
Sara: Is that allowed?
Diane: Yes.
Lewis: I don't feel like I delved enough to judge its refer-worthyness
Sara: OK.
Lewis: sara your vote?
Sara: I'll stick with a thumbs-up

Sara: oh shit! I forgot to think of one!!!
Lewis: Sara passes
you can add one later
Sara: OK
Sara: Byeeee!!!
Diane: Bye!
Diane: Lewis, what's your suggestion?
Lewis: West Wing Season 3, Episode 16: The US Poet Laureate
(available on netflix)
Specifically: the Josh Lyman subplot
Diane: I suggest The Man Who Was Thursday.
Diane: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1695/1695-h/1695-h.htm
(Or get a paper copy at your local library!)
Lewis: Oh, and related reading: https://web.archive.org/web/20111228224348/http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/the_west_wing/the_us_poet_laureate.php
Diane: That's right, Vincent's Turbo Kid suggestion is "rolling over" to next episode. See you then, SuggestChat fans!
Oh, I want to change my suggestion.
Unless people have already read a few chapters of The Man Who Was Thursday based on my suggesting it.
Sara: OK.
Are you suggesting the whole novel?
If so I'm happy with a new suggestion
Diane: No, I'm changing my suggestion.
Sara: OK
to what?
Diane: To a single chapter of a My Little Pony fanfic.
I'm going to read that immediately
Diane: To be clear, the suggestion is just chapter one: Speed Limit.
Reading more chapters is not required.
Sara: I'm happy about the West Wing suggestion, Dan is obsessed with The West Wing so I have probably already watched it three times