Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I've Quit Clapping

This year has been a year of change for me; a shift from being man-child to acting like it's my sweet 16. Some might call that regression, I like to think of it as growth. It's been a year of soul-searching with the beam of a long-handled Maglight, reaching deep down and regurgitating the toxic artifacts of miscarried romance all over the front lawn - don't drink, kids, that's the moral, unless you want to write. But the most important thing I have done, my highest achievement for the mantel is that I've finally quit clapping, and I highly recommend it because clapping is dumber than a salad at a McDonald's.

Let me rephrase that: Clapping and applause aren't the problem, it's the applause-whores who need to tone the shit down. Please, just...enough with the clapping already! I'm beginning to think that we will clap for almost anything. I've seen people clap for someone walking onto a stage to adjust a mic-stand, I've seen clapping at editorial and staff meetings, in cinemas where none of the crew were present, fuck it, I've even heard a whole theatre applaud a Powerpoint presentation. What are we clapping for? Recycled information? The font?

I realise that society doesn't offer much in the way of non-verbal gestures of mass-appreciation for a performance or a presentation, but this is a matter of adhering to scale. An applause should be reserved for when Jimmy Page strums the last note of a five minute solo on a double-necked guitar or when volunteer firefighters fish a live stockbroker out of rubble. Unless a teacher does a backflip and breathes fire, all they deserve is for everybody to shut the fuck and act like they're paying attention for two hours. The only reason lecture slides should be applauded is because they're over! On the other end of the scale: This is the same way that a funny eulogy deserves a few solemn chuckles, or that the fall of the Soviet Union deserved parades and fireworks in lavish proportions. That's the scale in which we need to conduct ourselves. Applause at a staff meeting is akin to a light laugh at the defeat of a socialist regime which swept a continent for 60 years and an applaud as the coffin goes into the ground; one of those things deserve a stronger reaction, while the latter is not worth applauding, nor appropriate.

To add insult to injury, just when you think you can see Jim Hanson's hand up your arse, you get distracted by how robotic we are, because we don't know what enough applause sounds like either. Some things deserve one applause and that's it. This is more a problem for people like me who have worked and studied in media, and for those in more creative industries, where you spend half the time throwing ideas around as a group. Sometimes you can say just about anything and you'll get an applause, to the point where I begin to feel like I've woken up in a '90s sitcom. You pitch an idea, they clap. Idea, clap. Idea, clap. Idea, clap. Newsflash: When you pitch a possible project, it's an idea, not a completed product. I mean, how low is the bar, really? We all have ideas! A few of them are good, most of them are bad, and majority of them will never fucking happen! Ay! How about a bus, right, which is a hotel, which doesn't go very far, but floats in the sky, defying everything we know about gravity and creating a hazard for conventional aircraft? [cue roaring applause] "You're a genius," one man is heard shouting from the crowd. Five years later. NEWS REPORTER: Quincorporated CEO, Ryan Quinn, was voted out by the board today after spending over one billion dollars on a failed floating bus. 

As I mentioned though, when it comes to gestures of mass-appreciation, there is nothing you could call an immediate step down from applause, but I invite future lectures and so forth to give these alternatives a beta test:
  • Some long humming or mmmm-ing in agreement, like the group are having a conversation with the presenter. 
  • Barking or howling, like what you might hear at wrestling or at a Chris Rock show. 
  • Perhaps, music at the end of every presentation, because I suspect that people might be simply clapping to fill the awkward silence between the end and them climbing over each other for the nearest exit. 
  • Or finally, we just shut the fuck up and leave without doing anything. 
I've honestly given up on 'givin' it up' for people, and I'm already on my merry way to the promised land. I think this year I've clapped on three occasions: Once for a friend's documentary which was excellent, a lot in the span of an eight day music festival, and one time by accident - don't ask, still ashamed. Now, I'm not advocating a complete boycott, just a reset of the bar. That means only clapping for something you feel is innately worth clapping for and truly inspires that emotion in you. This, I think, will engender a domino effect, because a lot of people only clap because others are clapping, and they're probably only clapping to fill silence or to mask tears of boredom. We don't need to copy everyone; this isn't church. Tomorrow the sun is going to rise, as it will the day after that, and then the one after that, the same way that dogs will bark, people will verbalise ideas, and there will be truly awful presentations, mostly from Britney Spears - none of which aren't even worth a throat clear.

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