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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One More Blasted Thing About Mike Daisey

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 3:44 PM

I am juuuust about ready to quit following the story of the Mike Daisey/Think Out Loud quagmire, but I could not resist delving into the transcript of Daisey's first public talk after the blow-up—at Georgetown University, which booked him long before any of this went down to speak about "Art and the Human Voice in the Global Labor Struggle." Naturally, it's all about the scandal, which no doubt was not his Plan A, but certainly fits the bill.

It's pretty long (there's audio, too), a little (characteristically) circuitous, and some of it feels bullshitty (he lays a lot of blame on journalists, both for their interviews with him and their lack of reporting on Foxconn), but some of it feels honest, if not exactly noble. I'd been walking around feeling sorry that Daisey, who I've seen perform four or five times, had ruined his career, so I'm fascinated to see the escape hatch he's going for, and moreover, will be interested to see if it works out for him. If you have any real investment in all this it's going to be worth following the whole thing, but a couple sections that jumped out to me as particularly relevant are posted here and beyond the cut.

On giving interviews about his monologue "The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs" and how that's "a different form of storytelling":

And it's a dangerous form, of course, because it's viral. People read the stories, the next people ask questions based on the last story, you can let yourself be swept up by it — not in the way you think. Not out of ego. I never needed to feel like I had met people with n-hexane poisoning. I never wanted to say that, out of some sense that I had. I don't even remember how that happened the first time. But I know it happened in an interview. I know it happened in an interview and I don't even remember. But I know the story of how it ended up in the show, which happened in an interview, and I remember I had a feeling, ohhhh, then I don't know if I said it more than once in an interview, and then, my partner, my director, who, to retain her sanity, does not read all the interviews*, was reading one, and suddenly was like, "You met people with n-hexane poisoning? You met them at that meeting?" Would have been so much wiser, to be open, to say, no, I'm a moron. I'm a moron. People ask me things sometimes and I just fucking tell them things. That's what I should have said. Instead I said, yeah, yeah. I think said something stupid like that. And the next thing you know, my director, who is very good at picking up dramatic details, saw it as a theater problem and was saying, "Well how can that not be in the show? We've been doing the show for forever and it's not in the show. That should be in the show." And then the artistic director of the theater was like, "Yes, that should be in the show." And I thought okayyyy, and I put it in the show*.

On his translator in China:

I also didn't want them to talk to her because I knew my chronology was fucked. I knew that I had taken ... liberties. And so I didn't want them to talk to her for that reason too. So they're both true. So I told my producer that her name wasn't Cathy, that it was Anna. And I said that I had a cell-phone number but it didn't work. And then Ira called me. And Ira talked to me, through it. And he was like, "Really? You really don't have any contact information?" And he said, "Look, I know how things get made, things are complicated*. You can tell me. You can tell me. People are composited." And I said to him, "She's a composite, of three characters."

I did it because I'm suggestible when I feel guilty. So I just said it. In the conversation. That she was composite of three characters. That one of them was named Anna. That I did not have contact information for her. And that was the end of that.

On meeting underage workers:

I also say that I met an underage worker at the gates of Foxconn. We had a conversation. I took a picture of her with my camera, that she had my phone, she rubbed it on her pants, and handed it back to me. Then we talked. I asked her how old she was. She said 13. She had some friends with her. That also indicated to me that they were under-age, I didn't ask what age they were.

I remember all that. I don't know what to do about that. I understand that there are theoretically not many under-age workers at Foxconn. I've read the reports myself. I agree with you. I understand all of that. I also understand that all I have as evidence is that I saw it, I have this memory of it, and I've performed this story over and over again. But it's been in the show since it started; I remember it, and I remember coming back after it happened, and I know that Jean Michele, my partner, that I came to her, and she has a memory of me telling her that there was an under-age worker, she remembers, though, that the under-age worker was 14.

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