Welcome to this page!
I write short stories and the occasional novel, generally in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and have a select few published stories out there in unheard of online magazines. I also do art on occasion, which I don't take quite as seriously as writing but for which I still try to maintain a healthy level of quality. I produce such works rather infrequently, as I'm an astronomy postdoc who's also trying to finish up a novel. When I'm not doing any of those things, I'm probably wasting time playing NES games or something.

The MLR stands for Monsieur LeRenard, si cela vous avez intéressé, but you can call me Frank.



Latest Journal

Nostalgia Critic and What Is Good Criticism

on 28 September 2019 at 05:26:39 MDT

I guess the whole world is up in arms over one Doug Walker's latest creation: his video about Pink Floyd's "The Wall".

I've been thinking for some time about maybe expositing on criticism and critique, so now seems like a pretty good opportunity, as the linked video I think is an interesting case study in this regard. The backstory here is simple: I have been conflicted about whether I should continue criticizing works here and elsewhere as I read them, and if so how I might go about it with a bit more... I don't know, maturity?

Probably maturity.

I admit I totally loved The Nostalgia Critic (hereafter, NC) back when it was new. I was an undergraduate at the time, I want to say freshman or sophomore, so it was the kind of thoughtless, exaggerated cartoonish garbage that appealed to me. I also enjoyed Family Guy, and I bet, if it had existed at the time I would have totally been into Cinema Sins.

I have since done a 180 on such things, but I can't say honestly that they didn't leave their mark. There was, and is, a bad guy in me who loves seeing someone do "takedowns" of "bad" media. Gotta' love sarcastic wit, right, in all its forms. And doesn't garbage like "The Room" or "Space Jam" totally deserve it?

Well, maybe not. What gives a person pause about that, because a person is quite selfish, is seeing said sarcastic wit leveled against things they legitimately love. For me, regarding the NC, it was his review of the original film version of "It", in which he decided to trash talk Stephen King himself in a manner showcasing how little Stephen King he's apparently read. Boy howdy, it's extremely annoying to hear someone berating something great with bad-faith criticism, isn't it? But the thing is, I still internalized that shit. So deep I didn't even realize it until, like, a few years ago. Thanks to sasya sasya, I'd say, for forcing me to come to terms with my own inadequacy in that regard. And, by the way, sorry for that shit review I left on Amazon. I deleted it just now (not that that helps anyone but myself).

Overly negative critique is entertaining to read or to listen to, sure, but I think I can't deal with it anymore, from me or anyone else. From the critic's perspective, I'd say now it's good mainly for closing off potential avenues of joy from your life. Because in the end, there's always someone out there who loves the thing you hate, right? So isn't it healthier to try to understand that love, and then try to internalize it yourself? It's just a nicer feeling to enjoy something than to despise something. I already do this with food. I'll try anything as long as someone considers it edible, because I now understand that there are more flavors than sweet or salty, and they come with their own funky pleasures. You can acquire acquired tastes.

But I don't know, man, it ain't that simple when it comes to art. Art can have toxic ideas embedded in it, for example. Coming back to "It", I still maintain it's a great horror novel, which plays expertly on the kind of irrational fear that we all experience as children and drags it up into adulthood in the form of an epic battle for the heart of a poisoned small town. It's weird and creative, what with the alien backstory and the celestial tortoise stuff. But the children in it also all make their pact by fucking their token female friend, which is like... gee whiz, I get the intent, but there was a better choice to be made there when it comes to unintentional symbolism. And in the effort to be positive, one should not ignore such things if they bother you. And if they bother you, they might also bother the author, deep down, and so isn't it helpful to them to let them know, on occasion? Particularly in a small community like the furry fandom, where critique is hard to come by in the first place, and there's so much pressure to be uplifting to all our fellow down-trodden creators, because we're all writers and artists and musicians and we know how much work actually goes into making something?

There's a conflict there in that last sentence. I hope you saw it.

If we take this video of Mr. Walker's again, well, it is a piece of art. From all the cries of how "cringeworthy" it is, and how terrible, and how awkward, and how embarrassing... in the end, it is a forty minute long sketch with songs, animation, and CGI that a big group of people took months to put together, so who the fuck are we to put these people down for making it? Even if it makes you cringe, isn't it also kind of glorious? And if it is, doesn't that mean that it succeeded, and shouldn't we be also celebrating that?

Or should we hate it because he spends most of the video berating someone else's very personal, very creative work of art using bad-faith criticism, only to coyly summarize his "real" thoughts on the movie at the very end for the sake of a cheap joke? Because that's bad, right?

Can something be simultaneously both great and awful? Is everything worthy of thoughtful exploration? How much work on the critic's part does it take for their criticisms to become generically valid? Must one fully explicate a poem to decide whether or not it's "good" or "bad", or is it ever worth employing such reductionist terms regarding art? And if not, and if every piece of art is worth exploring, how then do you decide what fucking star rating to give a book on Amazon or Goodreads?


View This Journal and 2 Comments


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    Thank you for your thoughts.

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      Sure, and sorry for your first negative review. If you want, we could talk more, but if not, you can take that review as aberrant given the 23 other very positive ones and go forth as you were.
      By the way, if i didn't mention it, I did think the book's concept was really good. It was like an old sci-fi epic, but where the focus was on this unusual and tender relationship between two characters who were master and slave. I can't claim I've ever seen anything like that before.

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    The permissions were given in the NOTES in another internet page.

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    I decided to follow because you are a familiar face and I was hoping to get to know more about you and read your stories. I hope that is okay? I can unwatch if I am making you uncomfortable, sorry.

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      Ha ha, no, it doesn't make me uncomfortable. I was just curious, was all. Came a bit out of the blue.
      In any case, thanks. Hopefully you enjoy the little I've got uploaded here.

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    remove my account

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    Greetings! How are you today?

    A question I wanted to address you: Have you by chance read "The Jewish-Japanese Sex and Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves"? by Jack Douglas.
    The way you title your writing tutorials reminded me of this book and I could not help but wonder if you have read it.

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      No... I've never heard of that. But it sounds strangely fascinating.