On Being a Critic

I am going to delete my Facebook account. It’s possible, I believe, although unnecessarily drawn-out and convoluted. I have concluded that Facebook just isn’t necessary. Cell phones and email are technological advancements that I adopted to keep up with the times, and they do have practical uses. But aside from finding out about parties and shit, Facebook has no such use. I like to think that it is possible to keep up a fulfilling social life without having to be on an internet network several times a day. It could be a year or two before I’m ready to even try this, but mark my words: I am going to get rid of this time-wasting distraction. It’s not about privacy, it’s about my attention span. I just don’t need that cheap little thrill that comes with checking my notifications. It’s starting to wear off, anyway. Some things never get old, like Calvin & Hobbes or eating at your favorite burger joint. Facebook is starting to feel stale. It doesn’t have a real product.

A former friend of mine asked me if I’d read “Bullet to the Brain”, a short story by Tobias Wolff that we’d read in one of my undergraduate writing courses. It’s really not a very good story, giving us a cliched character–a critic who hates everything–then revealing that deep down, he’s a total sweetheart. Fuck off. Critics come off as assholes because some of us actually are. Or to put it another way, we’re picky because we love it so much that we hold it to a higher standard. I’m tired of critics being attacked just for having opinions. Stephen King, a writer I greatly respect, has a definite anti-intellectual bent to much of his own writing. He often inserts his own (frequently incorrect) opinions into his fiction, yet bashes academics just for using a term like “metafiction”. I’m not sure what his beef with that label is. It’s a handy descriptor of a certain style of writing, nothing more, nothing less. Everybody has opinions. Professional critics are just paid to talk about them, that’s all. Like a lot of things, it looks easier than it is. Try watching movies/reading books/listening to music across all genres and eras and you’ll see what I mean. To be fair and subjective at the same time is difficult. My main man Roger Ebert is pretty good at it, although he is also, as so many point out, the only critic who liked Speed 2. He organized a contest challenging young filmmakers to direct an effective parody of Speed. I’ve posted the winner below. It’s funny.

The thing about beliefs is that you can believe whatever you want to believe. I spent much of my Catholic upbringing trying to make myself believe that the Bible was the word of God. I never could convince myself, but when I gave up, it was because I chose to. If I wanted to devote all my energies to convincing myself that Jesus rose from the dead Adam and Eve Moses blah blah blah, I could, but it would take all of my energies. I have better things to do with my time. It’s fairly easy to pervert what I just said. Not many people understand that your opinions and ideas are a product of your own free will rather than something that is bestowed upon you. Some can and do take that as an incentive to try to pressure others into accepting their beliefs. The world is full of those people, and they’re called bigots. I’m just saying that criticism is not about figuring out what is good and what isn’t so much as deciding what you have the time for. I have limited time, as does everyone else. So I spend time around only the people and things who can teach me what I don’t already know. There’s plenty of that out there, but it’s usually not the stuff that seems appealing at first. I’d like to visit the Deep South at some point, and I suppose there are places in the most rural backwaters of that part of the country where the mere fact that I don’t go to church, suck dicks, and voted for Obama twice might be enough to get me cast out…or worse. I also believe that those areas are not only few and far between, but easily avoidable. Labels like male, female, gay, straight, liberal, conservative, and the like denote a point of view, nothing more, nothing less. Every now and then, I will encounter a defensive feminist who tells me that I don’t know what it’s like to worry if that short skirt will attract unwanted attention. Well, if that’s your criteria, then why don’t I shave my legs, throw on a skirt, and waltz down the street right now? There damn well are things about being female/black/transgender/whatever that you can’t understand unless you are one of those things, but they’re not so superficial as that.

This video has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. It’s just two artists I like covering a song I really love, that’s all.

The hardest part about overcoming anxiety is realizing that if you can’t get all your work, you’re not letting anyone else done. Teachers, advisers, coworkers and the like all–hopefully–just want to help, but it sure can feel like they’re looming over your shoulder at times. As I write this, I have a mountain of homework to work my way through. I wish I could just watch Avatar: The Last Airbender all day. I just started season three and it’s absolutely phenomenal. I used to have indigestion so bad that I found myself doubled over on the toiled and literally moaning out loud once or twice. I could barely eat sometimes because I felt like I was full even when I wasn’t, but forced myself to anyway because I knew that I would need the energy to get through the day. I don’t want to go back to that, not ever.

Funny thing is, I never get sick, not even the flu. I’m hoping to age well, too. I’m not one of the genetic mutants who looks like they’re 25 even when they’re twice that (if I were, I would work in Hollywood), but with any luck, when I’m 50, people will say, “Yeah, but he’s a good 50”, or something like that. I hold myself to high standards too, you see. Some people stop caring about what shape they’re in once they get married and buy a house in the suburbs. Some never did to begin with. I don’t put much work into my appearance, I just think that if you want people to think you give a shit, a good place to start is by wearing a cool T-shirt. I’ve got plenty of those.


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