Thursday, April 3, 2008

Some angst for supper

Has anyone ever written any humorous, self-deprecating, existential-angst ridden, and preferably intelligent shtuff? Is this asking for too much? Is it even possible to question life, truth, and various other existential hobby horses without being a pretentious snot?
Way back when, in the land before Lipa Schmeltzer infatuation, there was a kid being home-schooled in the ways of hyphenating and high school. His teacher told him to write a short story that took place in a French cafe, and at the same time she would write a story about a Shul. Neither had ever visited the locations their stories were based on, and consequently both got all the details (about those places) wrong. The lesson? Only write what you know.
I can now reveal that the kid in the story is in fact me, while the teacher was Ms. Hollerich (If your reading, Hi!). He (OK, I'll switch to "I", happy?) learned more about writing from her than anyone else, for which he (oh, right, I'm sorry, "I") is (am?) eternally grateful. In case you were wondering, it's not her fault that I use more parentheses than is healthy.
Why the sudden quest for humility? I was reading Chaim Rubin's shtuff on The 8th Note. Again, I would like to state that I'm a big fan of the CD, and all I'm about to write is merely in the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of something to write about. Also, I'm a big fan of Chaim, and admit to checking his website at least a couple of times a day.
Right, so as I was saying, Chaim's writing that the CD's incredible, and anyone who disagrees with him is an uncultured boar who should only listen to Shloime Dachs in the future. All right, so he wasn't that harsh; even a real evil person wouldn't condemn someone to listen exclusively to Dachs for the rest of eternity. Getting back to the point, which is something I seem to do an awful lot (perhaps if I stopped straying, it wouldn't be necessary), I wonder why Chaim thinks he's justified in cursing out (that's a bit harsh, I know, but I couldn't really think of another word for it) those who don't like the album. If there's one thing life has taught me, and believe you me, though it tried to teach I haven't really been paying attention, it's that one man's pile of ancient stones is another's fishing pier.
I appreciate reviews, but should I be made to feel bad for disagreeing? Fine, so I don't have to read the review (the thought just occurred to me; I'm doing the existential thing quite well today. Humor, on the other button, is a different tale), but I enjoy reviews. Many people enjoy reviews. The question is, do us review-loving types want to be insulted, or beaten down as lower-class, uncultured, illiterate, Internet Explorer using, beer and pizza consuming (actually, that sounds pretty good right now), Chevy driving (don't kid yourselves GM), low quality blog reading (no, of course not like this one) people?
Any review is of course (the reviewer's) pure bias, but we've all come to trust other people's opinions. Is a wine good? What do the wine snobs say? If they all say it's terrible, then chances are you won't like it either. Same goes for most products. It's one thing when you're judging something with quantifiable qualities; an iPod has more storage capability than a Samsung, a rhinoceros has more feet than a parakeet. Music though, like wine or quality of cabbage, is based purely on opinion. The job of the reviewer is to tell us what they think, not to defend the product (as Chaim has been doing with The 8th Note) or criticize those who don't agree. Moral equivalence should never affect our consideration of religion or culture, but it's no bad thing when it comes to product evaluations.
Chaim and other defenders of the album will tell you that the real problem lies with the record producers; they've accustomed us to such garbage that when something truly revolutionary (and possibly [in this case certainly] tremendous) comes along, we're incapable of appreciating it. Well honeys, sorry to burst your bubble, but that's what capitalism's all about; selling as little as possible to the customer for as much as you can charge. When an 8th Note comes out, the market decides its worth. Perhaps Chaim is desperate for more high quality Jewish music? It's certainly an admirable desire, but hardly justification for branding those who disagree as cretins and Catholics (it just seemed to fit).
So does everybody now understand my sudden quest for humility? Have I attained it yet? Can I get a definitive ruling on the hyphenation (or not) of the word(s) "self-righteous"? Because if there's anything worse than people who think they're better than anyone else (excluding me, of course [why not?]), I'd like to meet it and administer a swift and possibly illegal kick to various parts of their anatomy (if they're cowering in fear in the corner, or are simply rolled up in any confined space, it'll be relatively easy to hit multiple exposed body parts with a single hit).


Chaim said...

I'm sorry if I talked down to you or made you feel like you should only listen to Shloime Dachs or only use internet explorer. Both thing I would never want anyone to have to do.

Just to recap ... you felt I was defending the CD instead of explaining why I loved it?

I didn't write my review yet. The first part was just talking about what I thought it was such a great CD overall and why it deserves the praise I was heaping on it.

I know I can come off as abrassive sometimes, I don't mean to. When I like something I become very passionate about it and the great thing about a blog is the back and forth people can have discussing a point till we'll all blue in the face.

Good Shabbos.

Sorry again if you felt I was beating you down.

The Real Shliach said...

Oy, not exactly the answer I was looking for. Do I feel beaten down? Not really. In fact, Chaim was right and I was wrong about the CD. So by me, it's all good. And as for passion? No problem. Of course, Moach Shalit Al Halev and all that, but one has to compromise sometimes, right?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. R.S. My biggest problem with reviews, whether of books, movies, music, restaurants etc. is that too many people base their views of what is reviewed on the review and feel too intimidated to form their own opinion. So my review rule: only read the review once I've personally read the book, seen the movie etc. However I do enjoy reading reviews of things I will never do e.g. of very expensive restaurants, vacation spots in weird places (including Florida - haha), etc. - for obvious reasons these reviews tell me a lot about the writer and the audience he/she is writing for. Leo d T.