Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Critic

A month or so ago I was raked over the coals by a few people who felt that I'd been unfair in my review of the Discovery Channel television show, Man vs. Wild.  There were some very poignant comments about the tone of my blog.  I have a background in writing film criticism for alternative weeklies where if you aren't sarcastic, your work won't be published.  And sometimes I do lean toward that tone here.  

I don't think you guys want to read a bland blog.  Indeed, that particular post got people fired-up and we had a bit of a debate about the merits of the television show.  I really enjoyed reading the comments that a few of you put up about the show, both those that agreed with me as well as those who disagreed.

Even a documentary style television show is an artistic endeavor.  And I would argue that such endeavors provide the most insight when they are debated in an open forum.  This is particularly valuable when we look at films, books and television shows that delve into our shared passion for outdoor adventure and mountain climbing.  Such debates provide an opening for a dialogue about specific techniques and ideas.

It turns out that we're not the only place where this show has been debated.  Check this out and this.

I've done a handful of book and film reviews since I started managing this blog and I thought that it might be time for me to explain what I look for when I'm writing about these types of things.  The nineteenth-century writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe defined the questions that a critic should ask of any piece of work for which he is reviewing.  They are as follows:
  1. What are they doing?
  2. Did they do it well?
  3. And was it worth doing?
When I post criticism here, it is for a very specific audience.  All of you are outdoors people, adventurers, or climbers.  Indeed, most of you are some combination of each of these things.  When I answer Goethe's questions, my goal is to filter them through the lens of the audience that comes here to read what we post.  My goal is to provide criticism through both my experience as a guide and as a critic.  Ideally, this helps you decide what films, books and television shows you may want to spend your time on.

The old adage is that everybody's a critic.  This is true.  I may see real value in a certain book or a certain film, but that doesn't mean that you will too.  You may find my recommendation dry or boring or over-the-top and you might find that you disagree with my criticism.  If that happens, let me know.  This blog is always more interesting when the readers participate in the conversation...

For your reading pleasure (or displeasure), here are a few of the reviews and entertainment oriented articles that I've done for this blog:

--Jason D. Martin

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