Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well, halloooo!

Talk about blogger's block, oy!

I have been pecking around on pieces of posts these two whole months, but nothing gelled. Hopefully I can salvage something from them, but they may be some of those proverbial babies you have to kill.

What tripped me up were Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Collins, Gerry Rafferty, and an attempt at a "best of 2010" which, to quote band Drivin' and Cryin' that has since faded waaaay into obscurity, "It started out as poetry and turned into a scream," not that I'm claiming anything I write approaches poetry.

I can't scrape enough of anything to compile any sort of best of 2010 post. I've already mentioned the few things I've enjoyed in other posts (Cee-Lo and Mellencamp, if you're wondering), and it seems redundant to try to blog about them again. 2010 was kinda vapid, arts-wise.

The main thing that got stuck in my craw was a chapter of Whoopi Goldberg's advice/rant book Is It Just Me?: Or is it nuts out there?, entitled "Bloggers are Cowards," found on pages 139 and 140 (and if you search on those words on the LOOK INSIDE! feature, you'll be able to read enough to glean most of her opinion).

Since I blog in (relative) anonymity and I often take swipes at books/movies/music I don't like, I took exception to her charge.

I thought: "YOU'RE SO FULL OF …!!!" "WELL, I NEVER! [sputter!]" "...maybe you have a point." "{sigh}"

I had to think about it for a while.

For example, I was still feeling squishy about my dis of Emma Donoghue's Room (though on review, it's pretty tame and adheres to my rule about not saying anything I wouldn't say to the person's face). Yet, my emotional reaction was based on my accidentally encountering two "child in peril" entertainments at the same time. (The other being Shutter Island.) I still stand by my review(s), but that is a button of mine.

But, there I was (am?), hiding behind a pseudonym and taking shots at something someone had spent months and maybe years of their life working on. Then again, that's the whole review model established and embraced by Amazon and its many clones.

To be fair, Whoopi was specifically talking about the Perez Hiltons of the world who egregiously extend the already grotesque paparazzi stalking model and snipe about celebrities' personal lives and post pictures of them sneezing or scratching their ass. But, her words do indict any and all anonymous bloggers.

So I had to think about that.

Then, there was this heartbreaking article about Phil Collins in the November 2010 Rolling Stone. In summary, all of the criticism leveled at Phil, particularly when he was ubiquitous on the radio, eventually took their toll. He reportedly feels depressed, has thoughts about suicide, and generally feels like a failure. (If you're interested, you should hunt down and read the whole thing; the bullet points are available here.)

I mean, holy shit, if you experience a level of success so extreme you enter that rare pantheon of artists reviled largely for their media saturation and not the quality of their work - a list that includes Bee Gees and Micheal Jackson, and arguably Elvis Presley - that's a form of back-handed praise. It's deeply saddening to me that someone can experience that kind of universal success and acceptance and come away thinking it was a bad thing.

And what does that say about fulfillment and happiness? Yes, yes, those don't necessarily come from tangible things, but still, you'd think having practically everyone on the planet think (at some point) that your artistic offerings are nifty would a least fill those holes a little.

To top it all off, the (very recently) late, great Gerry Rafferty died due to complications from alcoholism. While his beautiful and well-loved classic "Baker Street" is not what anyone would label as shiny happy puppy time, the song from the same album, "Whatever's Written in Your Heart," articulates a moving vision of hope after an intense sadness. It never fails to lift my soul. To think Rafferty died from what could be argued as endemic sadness is daunting.

To the topic at hand, all those critical daggers seem to find their targets. Maybe negative commentary doesn't have a place in the world when lives aren't at stake.

Though I'm torn, because I rely as much on the negative reviews on Amazon as I do the positive. It's pretty easy to discern if someone positing a negative review means it, or if they're just ignorant or a crank. If I agree with a well-reasoned dismissal, particularly if it's something that I'd dislike about it as well, I steer clear.

But then, outside of my buttons - child in peril, incest, wingnuttery, and gratuitous adultery (lit fic, I'm looking at you) - maybe I need to just give those books/movies/music a chance. I might find something I dig that otherwise I'd miss just because someone else had gas on the day they encountered it.

I think Whoopi has convinced me to shut the fuck up already with the negativity. Who am I to sneer at someone's legitimate offering to the world of media/art?

I'm going to try to either not blog about books/movies/music I didn't like, or I'm going to try to find a way to articulate my thoughts on them without saying anything the artist wouldn't necessarily disagree with - if that's possible. (For instance, make it about me and/or my limitations or prejudices rather than the merits of the work.)

I guess we'll see. Call it a New Year's resolution.


Whisky Prajer said...

An unfortunate(?) anecdote from GoodReads: more people "like" my one-star review of Coupland's Generation A than any of the raves I've given. I wish it were otherwise -- makes me want to erase the damn thing, actually, even though I, too, find extreme one-star reviews to be helpful, particularly when the reviewer reveals biases that stand in contrast to my own.

Now that I think of it, I wonder how Coupland deals with it all. I know that right around Life After God he was struggling with some Phil Collins-like feelings. It didn't stop him from typing or doing any of the other fab Couplandy things he does, thank God. Perhaps he realizes that all bloggers are cowards, even the ones who aren't anonymous, and goes on his merry way.

Anonymous said...

Negative reviews are so much fun to read! Seriously, go to Ebert's page and sort through his zero- and one-star reviews. They're awesome to read, and in many of them you can tell he enjoyed writing it.

Besides, what are you supposed to say about a bad book/movie/tune? I once saw a review of one of Julia Roberts' bad films (yes, she made a couple) that focused almost entirely on the achievements of her career and just briefly mentioned the film itself. Is that really useful or informative for the public?

If an artist produced something bad because he just got lazy, then a scathing review might provide the kick in the ass he needs to do better next time. And if an artist produced something bad because he just isn't that talented, well, someone needs to tell him.

I like your reviews, including the negative ones. And since your particular hot-buttons are fairly obvious I can filter those as needed. Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

One more thing: I once went to a bar with live music, and the performer that night was a local guitarist. He was really good, nay, he was excellent. We enjoyed listening to him as we drank our beers.

But then he started singing. Not good at all. His voice made me itch, in spite of the really excellent guitar accompaniment. A group a couple tables away from us got up and left, and a minute or so later we followed them.

I will never forget the stricken look on the guy's face as he saw us leaving. Really, I felt bad for him, and still do. But what was the alternative?


Whisky Prajer said...

Just don't be using this as an excuse to post once every three months.

yahmdallah said...

WP: Good points, me too, and I won't post so infrequently. =)

Joel: Good points as well, I agree bad reviews can be fun, thanks for the kind words, and yeah you must have to have thick skin to perform live in a small place.

I think, having thought about it more that maybe the line is no personal attacks, and even critiques of art should be as tactful as possible while not diluting one's opinion.