When I posted a photo of my naked back after a full body massage, a friend decided that it was too subtle for him, it doesn’t depict a happy ending at all. Hey, isn’t it no longer true that a picture speaks a thousand words? Can’t you see the bruises on my skin from the Gua Sha? Surely a subtitle isn’t necessary.
Subtlety is a fine art, I reckon. If you’re too obvious, you may come across as obnoxious or certainly unrefined. If you’re too careful, you’ll be too vague and the message is lost. I am still new at blogging. But, I know there is an art to learn about subtlety. Show your cards too much too readily and the readers will rebel at your condescending manner of writing. Show them too little and they will also turn off. I read somewhere that a writer has to play hard to get with the reader. Show but don’t tell. Share but not everything. Tease them, keep them interested to be interesting. Don’t bash their brains with the minutest details, a big no-no. A blog isn’t a cook’s recipe, the reader doesn’t need to know all the ingredients, they just want a taste of the story.
Subtlety. Sometimes I wish I know how to be subtle. Take for instance, the idea of where to retire. It makes perfect sense for me to seriously consider retiring in Penang. My hometown has everything I want, sunshine, beaches, great street foods, cheap durian, camaraderie amongst childhood friends, and importantly, affordable but rich lifestyle. Every Aussie dollar is worth almost three times the local currency there. Everything I want is there, but not everything I need. The Mrs just won’t think about it. The argument is so obvious there’s no need to argue. But when we can’t make sense when the case is so obvious, we will have to resort to subtlety. We had lunch at Kilkenny Road today. The Vietnamese Hum Chim Paeng cost A$4 each. I casually said we could have had ten of them if we were in Penang. That’s subtle enough, right? Maybe I should have added a subtitle to it, the Mrs didn’t even raise an eyebrow.
A friend chipped in: These days it is hard to find good hum chim paeng. It’s too flaccid, lacks the crispness on the outside and fluffiness on the inside. Let me know if you find a good source.
Hey, yours cost only RM1 each. That’s why! Read my blog, The Heritage In Our Dotage. How can I be subtle to say that if you insist on paying mediocrely, you will deserve mediocrity. Any good hawker will hang up his pots and pans for good if his skills and knowledge are not valued.
Woman In Gold, a 2015 movie starring the fantastic Helen Mirren reinforces the point about subtlety. A true story, based on Maria Altman’s quest to reclaim her family’s stolen artworks, including three portraits by the famous artist Gustav Klimt. One of them is renamed Lady In Gold, an attempt by the Nazis to erase the memory and name of Adele Bloch-Bauer 1. Maria Altmann, Adele’s niece was ably and successfully represented by lawyer Randy Schoenberg, grandson of the famous composer Arnold Schoenberg. The Altmann and Schoenberg families fled Nazi Austria for America.
Prior to 12 March 1938, many who were able to flee Vienna, did not. Was it not obvious to them that their livelihoods were at risk, that they would lose all their possessions and freedom? Sadly for many Jews, even their lives. Was Austrian-born Hitler too subtle about his war-mongering? I wonder why the Austrian government at the time did so little to warn its citizens. Hitler’s war machine The Wehrmacht was formed in 1935. At its peak they numbered 18 million personnel, before WW2, their budget was 25% of GDP. That wasn’t a subtle number. Why did the rest of Europe bury their heads in the sand? Did they need Hitler to publish a news bulletin with bold subtitles to inform them of his war plans? The Third Reich annexed Austria in the Anschluss until their surrender in April 1945. Austria remained under joint occupation by the Western Allied and Russia until 1955. That is the high price of misreading something obvious, it cannot be subtle.