Sunday, April 19, 2009


A truly epic thing has occurred!

I got a comment on my last blog post.

Actually, I got two. But one of them was from my dad. But one of them wasn't! At least, it probably wasn't. It was anonymous, and the sneaky thing about anonymity is that it could secretly be your dad, but the other sneaky thing about anonymity is that it has limits, as one tends to give things away, even in a brief message. For example, from the following two sentences...

Actually, Salad Days kind of sucked. It's a travesty that it got production of the year at the Ascars. is possible to deduce that their author is almost certainly in some way affiliated with Mount Allison University, or they most likely wouldn't have opinions about Salad Days (unless they meant the other Salad Days), or the results of the Ascars.

Now, as excited as I was about this bit of audience participation, the thing about other people participating is that it carries with it the risk that this blog will become about something other than me. To prevent this from happening, I speedily composed a response of considerably more than two sentences, just so this saucy anonymous commenter wouldn't forget who's running the show here:

Salad Days certainly wouldn't have been my pick for production of the year, but I do respect how much work went into it. Mainly, I think it's a little peculiar that something that wasn't a full production received "production of the year"...fortunately I don't care enough about the Ascars to go calling it a "travesty".

I haven't talked about some of the really amazing shows I have seen at Mt.A., mainly because I tend to shy away from the whole concept of reviewing things as a general policy. My opinions about things are rarely if ever important enough to hurt anybody's feelings over. So when I do write about theatre in this blog, I focus on why a given show made me happy, and I tend to downplay or just not mention at all the things that kinda irked me. Put like that, I feel a little more like a Windsor Theatre propagandist than I'm really comfortable with...which I suppose brings us back to why I often don't mention the shows I go to see here at all. But then I'm not accurately reflecting a significant and much-loved aspect of my Mt.A. experience, so I basically suck at my job from every possible angle.

Obviously, there's more than a comment's worth of neurosis here, so I'm thinking I should go into more detail with it some time when I've slept more, have fewer papers due in 5.5 hours, and have time to compose an actual blog entry.

Heeeeeeey look, that is what I am doing right now!

So. Here's the thing. I sort of have a problem with the whole practice of reviewing things. There are notable exceptions, but generally speaking, reviews tend to make me feel irrationally depressed.

And, okay, cue the eyerolls. "Of course she despises criticism," you say; "she's a wannabe artist, ain't she?"

Well. Okay. Sure. I've been involved in shows that got not-so-great reviews, and that wasn't exactly pleasant, but honestly, it's not those situations that depress me. If I believe there's value in what I'm working on, it's not all that difficult to accept that not everybody is going to agree with me on that point. If I'm not so crazy about the show myself, by the time it gets reviewed, I'll be free from it soon anyhow, so who cares?

This isn't really about hurt feelings.

And if it was: I've been more upset by obsequiously positive comments on my work (especially my writing) than by harsh judgements of it. I really don't despise criticism. Nor do I despise people hanging out and voicing their opinions.

One of the annoying facts all of my friends have had to roll their eyes and accept about me is that I will manage to turn almost every conversation over to Angels In America at some point. Have I done that here yet? If not, brace yourselves. It is about to begin.

There's this scene where two lovers named Louis and Prior are in their bed talking about Justice (because it's easier than Sickness or Love).

LOUIS: ...for us [Jews] it's not the verdict that counts, it's the act of judgement. That's why I could never be a lawyer. In court all that matters is the verdict.
PRIOR: You could never be a lawyer because you are oversexed. You're to distracted.
LOUIS: Not distracted; abstracted. I'm trying to make a point:
PRIOR: Namely:
LOUIS: It's the judge in his or her chambers, weighing, books open, pondering the evidence, ranging freely over categories: good, evil, innocent, guilty; the judge in the chamber of circumspection, not the judge on the bench with the gavel. The shaping of the law, not its execution.
PRIOR: The point, dear, the point.
LOUIS: That it should be the questions and shape of a life, its total complexity gathered, arranged and considered, which matters in the end, not some stamp of salvation or damnation which disperses all complexity in some unsatisfying little decision -- the balancing of the scales...

This scene has been coming up in my mind a lot lately, mainly in regard to my persistent troubles with the whole practice of shaping an essay so it is truthful and not completely fragmented and insane and just generally a lot like something a person who is both crazy and stupid would write. But it works for my feelings about the principle of reviewing things, too.

There is the odd exception (like the review of Joey Comeau's Overqualified linked above, which pretty much made me pee my pants with happiness and anticipation of bookgreatness), but for the most part, reviews give you the judge on the bench.

I mean, let's stop and think about this for a moment. The principle behind the entire practice of reviewing things is to tell somebody who hasn't seen/read/heard/experienced something yet What It Is Like. Spoilers aside (I am somewhat anti-spoiler, but it's a minor qualm), I find that principle somewhat problematic. I think reviews can actually damage one's perspective going into a work of art (or a cheesy movie), because not only do you have somebody else's notions about it in mind, but in a lot of cases, you have some kind of feeling about the reviewer. So you go out with some kind of predisposition to agree or disagree with somebody else's feelings about it. I think it removes you to a certain extent from actually experiencing the friggin' thing for yourself, and that's just obnoxious.

Have I mentioned I also have iffy feelings about standing ovations? I give them sometimes, either because of peer pressure, because I'm related to somebody on stage, or (more rarely) because my enthusiasm in the moment of the play's completion is (at least almost) entirely unmixed. If the play's worth thinking about, my feelings certainly had mixed moments at other times during the show, and will be mixed up later when I do more thinking. That's what I'm saying: the Standing O doesn't mean that much, and neither does anything I might present about what other people do, especially if I'm writing with the explicit intent of selling or deterring folks from the doings of others. Often, when I recommend a movie, book, play, whatever to a friend or family member, it's not because I think it's 5 stars or transcendently fabulous or anything. More likely, it's because i want to talk about it, which is a want that can lead to some high quality discourse and spiffy realizations, often regardless of the actual objective brilliance of whateveritwas.

I guess if you wanna get really hippy-dippy flakester about it, my constant angsty struggle with the scales makes perfect cosmological sense: I'm a Libra to the core, baby. (Except that, as a Libra, my feelings about the veracity or bullshitness of the entire practice of astrology are, of course, perpetually suspended in mid-judgement.)

The point, dear, the point?

Conversations FTW. Especially with tea, or in the laundry room, or in the morning in the car, or in the dark with enough pillows. Or...I don't know. Favourite conversation zones? I'd love to hear about 'em.

More Life,

P.S.- This isn't a secret, but it likes to pretend. Summersackvillian fans of wonder, prepare to make it happen. I love you.

P.P.S.- Earlier comments about fear of audience participation were thoroughly fasticious. Audience (or reader) participation is my favourite thing, next to rhubarb pudding. [In addition to offering any responses you may have to the above inquiry about preferred conversational situations,] let's start a new thing where I ask you a question in a post-script at the end of every blog entry and you tell me the answer (or a more beautiful lie) in comments, shall we?

P.P.P.S.- What's the most wondrous true thing you can think of right now?

P.P.P.P.S.- Lemon has a tendency to bring out the pinkness in things, if things are tea.

P.P.P.P.P.S.- This makes me want somebody to do a 1.25 minute parody of the JasonLandon Salad Days:

It too could be so charmingly appalling. Like that time they closed the sketch show at Windsor Theatre by mimicking the end of Marion Bridge, and making the nun fall off of the bridge. That was glorious. I liked that.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.- Actually, as of the time I am posting this, there are 5 comments on the most recent entry, and only one of them is my dad and only one of them is me and only one of them is a friend identified by name, which leaves a staggering TWO anonymous participants. Awesome. Let's do better, shall we?