Clive, Phil, Walter and Francis–Experts All

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“And in both cases they said we know how do this better than you. Go away. I mean they said it nicer than that, but that’s naturally what you get. That was not from the director (Scott Derrickson) by the way who was extremely nice, but it was from some of the suits at Dimension’s who had absolutely no interest in Clive Barker’s involvement in a Hellraiser movie. Why would you get Clive Barker involved in a Hellraiser movie?

“The thing about a sequel or sequels is that everybody becomes an expert. Everybody who’s seen the other movies all feel ‘We know how that’s done.’ ”  

Clive Barker answering Question #2 at the Egyptian Theatre, August 25, 2000

Obviously, everybody doesn’t know how it’s done. Genius and art make good movies, and art isn’t simply copying what has been done before. An abundance of talent, experience, and drive (not to mention the appropriate demeanor and trim of beard and looking like Darth Vader) is always required for box office prizes, or more rings–Phil Jackson Phil Jacksoncan’t just show up as the coach of a fabulously talented Laker team and win more championships if all he does is punch a time clock. The reason that most sequels fail is that you can’t go a second time on a first date and expect to experience the same giddy anticipation and excitement. So most of us with no experience to direct or coach (or date somebody twice) would readily agree that to manage and deal with the cool disdain and arrogance that permeate the highly vaunted egoes that skitter across the entertainment and sports stages would be a task not even worth considering–(“Who’s the runt with no credits?”)

But I have learned over the years while dwelling in foreign lands (well, land) that people who bring to these shores their national-cultural-jingoist biases have absolutely no problem with instantly assuming the air of an expert, and they’ll gladly tell you exactly what is wrong with the people and country you live in and what should be done to fix it and why you should listen to them say so ad nauseum.

And it doesn’t matter how long they have been observing the land and people on whose merits they have come to feel compelled to give instruction–one week (a tourist), a month (an extended vacation), or ten years (nothing better to do)–they will put forth assessments at complete variance with one another and adorned with their particular prejudices and uneven degrees of myopia, and continue doing so until  their arrival back on their own shores, and there, with short surcease, take up once again to offer their expertise to naive and like minded audiences who look at each other and gasp in crescendos at the telling of strange tales from far away lands–have we really not progressed over the last 400 years? Are we nothing more than Sirs Walter “Have a smoke!” Raleigh (1552-1618) and Francis “Armada, Schmarmada!” Drake (1545-1596), distant relatives and budding seeds of what was to become the British Empire which opened the doors to “experthood” for the rest of us?

And I’ll admit I’m guilty, I’ve done my part, too. It’s fun! It’s fun to know something about which very few people know anything, and freely exaggerate as you go, depending on how much you have imbibed, and feel the spark of confidence that dazzles the crowd and elicits their effusive approbation, listening to them issue forth their “oohs” and “aaahs”–and why not? If you are looking for sport you can twist the audience any which way as is your wont, either making them wish they were as adventurous as you, or, with extreme insinuation, having them praise God that they’re nothing like you and have been blessed with the wisdom to stay home for the duration of their lives and leave the travails of mastering the world and stage to the savvy likes of Mssrs. Drake and Raleigh and Jackson and Barker.

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About soaringdragons

Twenty years and still alive--in China, that is. I write about China and the world of spirit--all very non-expertly--and whatever else strikes my fancy. You'll find posts on even days of the month.
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4 Responses to Clive, Phil, Walter and Francis–Experts All

  1. Nice article, I’m not certain that it’s “assuming the air of the expert” when people rave about their frustrations with China though. There really are some basic societal issues that need fixing here and I love the place and the people and there’s certainly a lot right with China too.

  2. soaringdragons says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for your comment. I would agree that people airing grievences and opinions (no matter where they live–home or abroad) can add to constructive public discourse that helps us fix our problems and better the world.

    I think the “experts” who I was writing about and who I have seen in action are people who’ve “positively figured out” China even though their views are based on minimal understanding and maximal cultural bias. I don’t necessarily disinclude myself from them, because I have my biases, too.

    But an experience many years ago in Vietnam helped reduce my self-insistence. A twelve-year-old boy was vainly trying to explain “the real situation” in his own country to some American military types who laughed at him and sent him off for another round of beers. It was some time later before I learned that the boy knew exactly what he was talking about. Since then I have tried to listen, really listen.

  3. Fair enough, thanks for the reply back. I’ve been expatting all my life, and I never really managed to figure out my own country so I don’t spend any time worrying too much about other countries.

    We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses don’t we? Cheers, Nick

  4. soaringdragons says:

    Well said! I feel much the same way having never figured out America. I’m in China because I can experience things here that I would never have encountered at home, as well as to talk to new neighbors, eat great food, and hope I’m not inadvertantly living down stream from a fertilizer plant or down wind from a cement factory.

    And cheers back! My friend Sonny from South Africa taught me to say that.

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