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Tuesday, September 21, 2010 

Titling these things is hard

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggh it's been so looooooooooooonnnngg

Review round up: I covered Loscil and Mogwai for PopMatters, and the really excellent new Underworld for Resident Advisor.

Back in August (arrrrggh) the New York Times had a really excellent article on language and the brain, which points out that even though the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has been pretty well discredited, there is plenty of interesting ramifications to our languages. The part about people who think of directions without personal orientation (so no "behind" or "in front," et al) is fascinating.

I'd never heard of Kathryn Schulz or her book, but her blog of interviews with people on the subject of being wrong is great stuff. My two favourites so far are the Innocence Project's Peter Neufeld (because being able to admit you are wrong is so, so crucial to our legal system) and Anthony Bourdain (who I am seeing in Toronto tomorrow night!), because he's awesome.

People who know me know that I loathe artists who not only can't take crticism, but who respond by trying to "prove" (or just outright assume) that criticism as a whole is worthless/pointless/what have you. But that doesn't mean I dislike artists having problems with critics, or even lambasting critics, I just want it done intelligently (i.e. without throwing the baby out with the bathwater). Sons of Anarchy's Kurt Sutter shows us how it's done:

"I came away from that meeting with the realization that a critic's review is ultimately about that individual's taste. No matter how good or bad something is conceived and produced, the decision about its worth is always decided in the moment, by the watcher. That is not bullshit. Beauty and every other opinion, is truly in the eye of the beholder.

In the past, I've read some scathing reviews about Sons that were thoughtful, well-constructed and very accurate... in the mind of that watcher. Although they can be difficult to read, I appreciate and respect folks who put the time and energy into their negative analysis. That's what a good critic does. Critical analysis. That is their art-form, that is their craft."

When things are working correctly, this description is right on the money. Sutter goes on to chastise, profanely and at great length, critics that he doesn't feel are doing the job properly, but I have no beef with that. I just figure if I can be venomous towards an artist or their work without trying to say art is pointless, they can do critics the same honour.

Chris Cooper could be a shitty actor and I'd still come away from this wonderful interview with a lot of affection for him; he just seems like such a swell guy. That he's one of the best actors of his generation just makes the whole thing that much sweeter - especially if you read the first few comment threads and witness the lack of spite and malice (a true internet rarity).

Lastly, I've been rereading a lot of my old Warren Ellis comics recently (Transmetropolitan, Planetary, et al), and really just appreciating how good his work has been. But I think sometimes his internet presence/fans make him out to be just the harder, more extreme/cynical parts of his persona (sort of an extra-crotchety Spider Jerusalem, really). But he's a human being, and just because he can write beautifully about a pain most of us will experience doesn't mean he's immune to it himself. Like a lot of other random people on the internet, I'm sorry for his family's loss.

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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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imathers at gmail dot com

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