Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: criticism

There are lots of ways to share a book and, in doing so, improve as a writer. Not all those ways are created equal, and some work better than others.

I’m pretty sure there are various websites that basically serve as online writing workshops, and I’m nearly certain that part of Richard Nash’s Red Lemonade has some of that functionality, wherein writers post chapters and stories and the best rise to the top. I’ve participated in both writing groups and online writing workshops in the past, and they all share one thing in common: all are best with a smaller amount of material, and honestly most effective for short stories.

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During one of the classes when I mentioned Eddie Izzard, one of my students mentioned a documentary called Heckler. I went to look it up, because I love when comedians pwn hecklers.

Here’s Jamie Kennedy (who, coincidentally, produced the documentary):

Jimmy Carr does it extraordinarily well. Here’s one:

And here’s another:

But it’s not just comedians. Here’s Kevin Smith:

And even Bill Clinton pwning some idiot “9/11 truth conspiracy theorist”:

I mean, seriously. Some people are just douchebags.

Thing is, Heckler turns out to only ostensibly be about heckling; over the course of interviewing Jamie Kennedy, Carrot Top, and Bill Maher (among many others), it slowly became a rumination about criticism. In doing so, it raised some terrific points about critics and their relation to, for lack of a better word, “art,” and especially about the way the Internet has changed things. It featured appearances by writers from CHUD.com and Giant magazine and questioned the idea of random dudes commenting about cinema. Kathy Griffin made an analogy between Internet commenters and hecklers, which I thought was apt, except for one crucial difference:

At a comedy show, the comedian gets to be face to face, even if across a room, with the person.

On the other hand, the Internet allows a degree of cowardice when someone like Shecky Gangrene or, as is most often the case, Anonymous wants to crap on somebody. I swear, I’d often heard quotes attributed to Anonymous before, but the Internet exponentially increased Anonymous’ body of work, which is mostly restricted to little more than saliva-spattered vitriol. I’ve rarely seen Anonymous actually be supportive; usually Anonymous uses the old “I’m sorry, but I’ve just got to be honest with you” to make personal attacks and mostly horrifying comments they’d never make in real life to someone’s face.

And while I’ve never gotten altogether much attention from Anonymous because I’m just a mostly unknown writer still making his way in his work, any attention from Anonymous can feel like too much. Most of the negativity I’ve encountered has come from Anonymous (who most often really, really doesn’t like me). Anonymous most often believes that the ends justify whatever means it is necessary to use, and frequently makes the case that anyone who has earned any degree of spotlight whatsoever must grin and bear it because it comes with the territory and one must develop thick skin.

To which I say: bullshit.

Bill Maher and Dr. Drew (ftw) address it best in the documentary by making two points: first, honesty does not excuse douchebaggery (that’s Dr. Drew), and second, as Maher notes, entertainers can’t develop thick skin. We need some degree of sensitivity because that’s our role in the culture we need to be part of.

Which I think is an awesome point.

The documentary is well worth checking out. Here’s the trailer:

I think my favorite part was the segment dedicated to director Uwe Boll, who challenged his critics to boxing matches and summarily beat the shit out of them. It’s absolutely hysterical to watch as the movie switches back and forth from idiot bloggers making asinine comments like “No, I’ve never watched one of his movies, but I’ve heard their awful” to selfsame bloggers falling to the canvas, culminating in a shot of a twenty-ish blogger lying on the curb, post-fight, wearing a tank top with Sharpie-written “Hi, Mom!” on its back while puking into the gutter.