Burn Out or Fade Away: a Cultural Dilemma

I was well into a post about how I got drafted to help organize a conference coming here, and how, while I love the conference, after the long, excruciating meeting today, I was sure to be irritated over the next several months. I was frustrated because the conference seems to be focusing - as probably should be expected - on the largest personality's view of what it should be.

I spent paragraphs grumbling how that person already has a vision for the conference and who should come that doesn't match what I'd like to see and a whole rant about how they want to bring someone who irritates me as a keynote speaker. And the way their name was Dropped (capital-d intentional) bothered me: very "well, I know X so I'm sure they'll cut us a deal" (not my experience with them - there seemed to be no deals, ideological compatibility or not - but maybe it'll be different).

But in the midst of all that, I realized that what I should write about was why that possible keynote speaker irritates me and whether anyone else has this same difficulty. Because if it's just me, maybe I should think about getting over it, right?

So here's the thing. I have an averse reaction to things other people like too much. The surest way to make me not want to read a book or see a film or listen to an artist - or to make me resent the time spent doing so - is to tell me over and over again how awesome the experience is or how much I'll enjoy it. Tell me once, and be vague about it, and I'll probably give it a whirl and love it. Tell me you'd be curious to hear what I think about it, and leave it at that, and I'm almost certain to have to check it out. You can lead me or level me with curiosity more certainly than anything. But give your review too loudly or too often, and no. Is it just me? Do I need to find a way past this?

That may be the case with my near-instant retching about this keynote speaker. When I was in grad school, scads of people loved this figure. But I also think it may be that this particular person also gets a pass because they've got a particular label attached to them.

Let me try it with a musical example. It isn't that they've become a caricature of their reputation like some once good singer forced to do a sad Vegas review or the county fair, but that by virtue of having the right brand word attached to them, even their middling efforts get treated as impressive. It's the trouble between, say, Pat Benatar's current career vs. Ringo Starr's.

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kermitthefrog said...

I agree about getting turned off by insistence; I think in my case it's a lot about a distrust of other people's taste, except for a few vetted friends. Although there is a time for me when it circles around again, and if someone insists for a long enough time that no, I'd really actually like something, I'll go ahead and try it because I figure it's made them care enough to actively persuade me.

April 11, 2008 at 7:19 PM
Brigindo said...

I think it's the "big wind, no rain" phenomenon. When this has occurred to you too often you become wary of all big winds even though some really do bring rain.

April 11, 2008 at 7:25 PM
Dr. Crazy said...

Hmmm. I don't think that the initial reaction is unusual, but I do think it's worth it to get past it because total aversion and resistance ultimately refuses to give the person (the band, the book, whatever) a chance based just on the label attached to them, too. In other words, in doing the opposite, you're guilty of the exact same thing that the acolytes are. Rather than making your own judgment, you're forfeiting your ability to do so by digging in your heels based on word of mouth. And ultimately, making the judgment yourself is usually important if you want to persuade other people to your position, or if you want your position to be legitimate. Just my 2 cents, and obviously I could very well not know what I'm talking about :)

April 11, 2008 at 8:14 PM
Belle said...

I get turned off this way too, but it's usually more specific. When one lives in Sport Town, one is overwhelmed with Sport. So I tune out. With Persons of Importance, I generally hang in until I hear two stupid things they say (they rarely fail to provide) and then use that as my excuse to retch.

April 11, 2008 at 9:33 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

All good points. Remind me to cheer you all on for not enabling my dubious behavior.

In this case, at least, I have given more than a bit of a listen to the possible speaker in question (at least in the context for which they're generally known). And I do often, more generally, wind up giving the overly-recommended thing a try. So maybe it's not tricky as I make it out to be.

April 12, 2008 at 5:59 PM
adjunct whore said...

you sound like mr. whore.

April 12, 2008 at 8:59 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I'll take that as a compliment.

April 13, 2008 at 11:38 PM