Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's Election Day

Today is election day in the United States. If you live here and haven't voted yet, take the time and do it. Too many of us spend time complaining that the government is broken, but the truth is that broken things don't get fixed if no one does anything.  So go do something about it by voting.

If you don't know where to vote or who and what is on your ballot, try going to this website for information: https://2014.votinginfoproject.org/

That site will tell you your voting location and what your choices are, but it doesn't give you background information on the candiadtes. If you want to make an informed decision, try this website: http://ballotpedia.org

Just do it. And have a great day!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Critics vs Readers: Which Type of Review Is Better?

There’s one primary difference between a review written by the average reader and one written by a professional book reviewer: one is an opinion (often a subjective one), and the other uses external predefined standards to measure the work.

Both types of reviews are valid.
Both types of reviews are useful to readers.

Different Criteria

Professional reviewers use standards, similar to the way a teacher grades a test. They’re looking at things such as plot structure and use of literary devices. Readers tend to rate books based on their experience while reading. For example, if the book was a mystery readers might base their ratings on the cleverness of the puzzle to be solved. A romance book may be valued for the intensity of the love scenes, and plot flaws may be ignored if they contribute to making those love scenes happen.

These different sets of criteria are why the two groups often disagree in their ratings of the same book. In fact, I’ve seen a  number of cases where a professional reviewer praised the use of a literary device and the general audience criticized the piece of work for the same technique (finding repetition boring and annoying, for example). I like to think of professional reviewers as examining the architecture of the book, while typical readers tend to rate a book based on how the story made them feel.

As far as books are concerned, there’s the integrity of the piece as a work of art, and then there’s the appeal of the book to the audience. The paradox is that critical acclaim and mass appeal often don’t go together in publishing. The horror film genre is a classic example of this dichotomy between critics and audience. Film critics tend to give low ratings to most of the movies in this genre. If you’ve ever watched one of these films, you understand why: the plots tend to be poorly constructed and unbelievable. Horror fans, however, know this about the films, but they’re going to see them for the rush they feel during the experience. Horror fans frequently ignore critics altogether.

So, Who Should Readers Listen To?

The first step in overcoming this discrepancy between critical and reader reviews is to acknowledge that it exists. There may be times that you agree with the critics, other times that your opinion agrees with the pubic, and there will also be those few times when the critics and public both agree.

Next, treat information from both types of reviewers in the same way. They're both reviewers, they just have different sets of criteria. Therefore, I often advise people to find one or two of their favorite books and see if a reviewer has read them. If the reviewer hasn't read them, then it’s fairly safe to assume that the person has different taste in literature and this isn’t a reviewer who would have valuable input for you. However, if the reviewer has read the book, check to see if their opinion agrees with yours. If it does, then chances are you will agree on new books, as well. If the opinion differs, then look for other reviewers and see what those people have to say about the book. Eventually you will find someone else who has taste similar enough to yours that you can trust their judgement. You may also find a few who have such different taste from yours that when they like a book you know you'll hate it.

In the end, the average person is looking for a book to enjoy. Both professional and reader reviews can help you to find one. In fact, the best books often have the critics and audience in agreement on how good they are. But when critics and other reviewers disagree, find the people who have similar taste to yours on other titles and trust their judgements.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream - The Actor's Gang

I've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream numerous times, but last night's performance gave this play new life for me. It felt as if I were watching it for the first time. I quickly forgot that I already knew what was going to happen as I was swept up in the story telling. That's a powerful experience for the viewer and everything we hope for when we attend a live performance. Too often Shakespeare is treated with an academic and sterile approach. This was not the case last night. The staging was simple, effective and artfully done. The actors were engaging. The venue was perfect. I could not have asked for a better night of theater. Rather than go on about how great it was, I encourage anyone in Nashville to attend the final performance this evening at 8:00 at OZ Nashville.

Members of this extremely talented cast (including director Tim Robbins) were gracious enough to pose for photos with my gargoyle. You know how that warms my heart!