I am a critic.
The clip below is from the Screen Junkies Honest Trailers and it got me thinking this afternoon. After a savage “Everything Wrong With:” from CinemaSins, and back and forth discussions with critics at ComicCon; Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts joined the fun with the Screen Junkies crew to help make this critique of his own work:
I love this. A movie director poking fun at his own film and the mistakes within it. Obviously, he isn’t too proud to break down what went wrong and learn from that. He’s trying to understand what he’s doing just like everyone else. He’s also able to take the time to joke about it as a part of the audience.
The piece had me thinking; I’m in a similar place. I am audience but I’m also critic and creator. To create anything I need to be a brutal critic of my own work. In almost all of my work I arrive at as audience. I ride bikes. I ride motorcycles. I shoot guns. I (used to) ride skateboards (still do, but nothing fancy). My goal on a Saturday morning is to wake up, drink some coffee, and go out for a day of fun. I believe that this is important. It is the basis where it all starts. We are all audience of sorts. We want these toys we use to do jobs, to recreate, or to fetishise. This is the consumption that is fed by the art. Without this, there is no ‘need’.
It’s easy to be a critic. It’s hard to be a good one. Roger Ebert is an example of a good critic of film. You may not agree with his opinions but they are worth listening to. He has built a life around film and understanding them. He was a critic of film since forever. He wrote the screenplay for a production film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This guy knew film, inside and out. Most importantly, he could get in and fight for his opinion. Knockdown brutal war of criticism. You might hate him in the end but he’d probably be right.
For a long time I was a certain type of critic. I was fighting the fights. I would argue my points. I may have been mostly correct. The problem I had then was the lack of a serious portfolio. You can’t just tear down. You have to create. You have to bring something to the table. This is a problem many have. It’s a weakness. I decided that while I enjoyed the war of critique, I needed the fortress that a body of work is. Over the years I have put together a portfolio that many lack. Many have much better but you might not hear from them. From me, you hear. More importantly than any of all that, I have work that can be critiqued in return. Turnabout is fair play and I bring my work into the world that can (and does) get torn down. Show me others that have a portfolio to pick apart.
I have a perspective. It’s informed by how I see these things and their need to exist and also an understanding of mechanics, racing, economies, manufacturing, and engineering. This mix along with my experience forms my opinion. I have strong opinions but they aren’t ones that cannot change. Debate can inspire that.
In criticism, my expression of the place these products have within the experience as I understand them is broadcast. I am passionate about what I critique. I will fight to support my view. I ride the bikes and use the parts. I need good equipment I call out great stuff. I call out bad stuff. Sadly, there is more junk than gold.
It is amazing to me that when I say something about how poorly a product is designed or conceived I get a lot of pushback. It is as if words of criticism are only acceptable from an ‘expert’ and an expert is paid and they never say negative things…or a journalist who never says negative things. It is like a personal foul of some kind. Only comments like “this is great I want one” or ” I own one thus it is good” are the only comments that can be made. Really? But math tells me different. Engineering tells me different. How can it be unfair to use one’s mind? I don’t need to ride a bike to see that the geometry is dogshit. It is. Why not say so?!
The market has become brainwashed to think that a review or opinion MUST be positive. Why? Because they’ve seen nothing different. Magazines and websites exist only to give positive reviews. Show me the negative reviews outside of mine! They don’t exist. These media outlets do just one thing: provide value for their advertisers. Worse, these outlets would like to gain advertisers by showing that they will give them value. So the real customers of these outlets are just the current advertisers and prospective advertisers. If the civilians are benefited somewhere in all this then that is entirely and accident.
Why am I a good critic? Hopefully, I support my arguments and positions. I try to do this in a way that forces the reader to dig a little. I want them to learn and that isn’t a passive process. I can’t give it all away. The question is often, am I supporting my arguments poorly or am I looking for the reader to have to work. If I’m doing 25/75 in these cases then I’m probably doing a good job.
I also don’t post anonymously. Everyone knows who PVD is and if they don’t, a link is provided where they can know everything they want about me. I don’t hide and snipe in secret. Think of the other voices you hear, who are they? 99% of the voices that rise against me are anonymous entities. Nobody knows who they are, just the trash they talk. Cowards.
This is me. Please don’t talk to me about tech on a ride. Ride time is ride time.
Let’s say that you think I’m just a negative dick? Ok. Ask yourself, why are all the reviews that you read only positive and never end with “don’t buy this crap”. Pick up a magazine, how many products are NOT recommended at all? None, simple. Why would you believe a source like that?!
You know who I believe? ArduinoVersusEvil. Nobody knows who he is but his truth is the greatest truth of all.
I do this for fun and for free. You don’t pay me. I owe you absolutely nothing. What should you get for free? What is my responsibility here? How about – fuck you. Often, I will leave one word comments on a thing; “junk” or “crap”. People get upset. They act like I have a duty to support these evaluations with academic rigor and test sessions. I don’t. I’m busy. I do enough already. You get long winded write ups on topics I enjoy. That is my fun. If a drive by snipe is what I had time for then that is what you get. Learn from it. Instead of asking more from me, how about if you ask more from yourself? Why don’t you try what I do? Grow a goddam pair and fight. I get tired of lame debates with tools that think saying anything bad about a shit product is bad. So tired. I’d like to read a decent critique once in a while, why don’t you give it a try? Do some math. Prove your point.
Q: Why do you always sound so arrogant when you say things online.
A: Simple, fuck you. That’s the tone that I put out when I’m talking with people that don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.
Q: Your bike designs suck. Why should I listen to you.
A: Show me yours and fuck you. If your designs existed or were worth talking about maybe you’d be listened to. But they don’t exist so we don’t listen to you.
Q: I work for #somefuckingbikeco so I know what I’m talking about. Fuck you.
A: No, fuck you. I love talking with real designers and engineers from real companies. I can learn a lot from them. You work in the shipping department or are some rep. Shut the fuck up.
Q: It’s not cool to bag on products.
A: Fuck you. Yes it is.
Q: I used to work at a bike shop, or I still do. My opinion is just as valid as yours.
A: Fuck you. You ‘earn’ $8 an hour to pump air in tires. Go fuck yourself.
Q: I’ve built a bike frame in the past. I’m an expert.
A: You fucking suck and go fuck yourself. Nobody cares if you’ve built a bike frame all by your little self. We only care if you built a good bike frame.
Q: I remember something about you not using the right length stem one time. Something about Toy Robot and gonads. You suck.
A: Fuck you. Where is Toy Robot now?
Q: I remember you. Fuck you.
A: Fuck you because you remember.
Q: I once rode a CT70 in the field behind my grandpa’s barn. I’m on another level.
A: Fuck you and your grandpa. Go collect your participation award and let daddy tell you what a brave little man you were.
Q: I rode with you once and you were slow or I beat you in some race somewhere.
A: Who the fuck cares. Fuck you.
Q: When I was young, someone once said ##### so that makes you wrong.
A: You’re a moron.
Q: Why don’t you help people instead of insult them?
A: Are you fucking dumb? Show me the information that you post online.
Q: I noticed a small spelling or punctuation mistake in something you wrote, so you’re wrong
A: You are actually stupid. Goddamit.
Q: I went to school to learn about bikes and stuff.
A: Go fuck yourself, I didn’t have to.
Q: I went to school to learn about engineering and stuff.
A: Fuck you. I actually engineer and stuff.
Q: I have an opinion about bike geometry.
A: You fucking ass. If I had a dollar for every knob that said this without ever having sat down and drawn a bike I’d be a millionaire. Take you’re long, low, slack horseshit and shove it up your ass.
Q: Just go out and ride, bro.
A: I get so tired of having to fix your shitty bike on the trail, you goddam sissy.
Q: Specialized Body Geometry.
A: You retarded troglodyte imbecile.
Q: What’s with the spandex.
A: Fuck fashion weak.
Q: The magazine/website said it was killa.
A: Follow the fucking money
Q: You were wrong once
A: Shut up. I’ve been wrong many times. At least I had the balls to try.