Tempest In A Peepot

Okay, I don’t know why Noah Berlatzky hates hates HATES Maus so much — sometimes it seems like he hates it even more than anything by Alan Moore, or Jack Kirby! — but even for him this may be going a bit far:

“…The page is set up as a reveal. The top visuals keep your eyes focused on neutral images, and then the bottom opens up into the horrible truth. That horrible truth is always the same truth; namely the Holocaust, symbolized with a crude obviousness either by the (poorly drawn) Nazi flag, or the Auschwitz gate, or (most viscerally) by a huge pile of dead bodies. the importance of the Holocaust is emphasized each time both by its position as revelation, and by its scale. In his page design, Spiegelman tells us, over and over, that the Holocaust is huge and that it leaps out at you.

That is not, I would argue, an especially insightful take on the Holocaust; it turns it into a pulp adrenaline rush. Those pages each seem like they’d work as well, or actually better, if you substituted Dr. Doom for the Holocaust in each case. IF you’re going to set up a supervillain behind the curtain melodrama, best to be talking about an actual supervillain. Hollywood effects work best with Hollywood content; trying to add drama to an actual genocide comes across as cheap and presumptuous.”

This essentially takes Harvey Pekar’s view and replaces the concern for art, with a concern for taste. Don’tcha think? Noah, having discovered a reading that suits his own feelings about things, appears convinced that he has also unlocked Spiegelman’s own — reading, feelings, well the two are surely interchangeable — as though somehow the intentional fallacy was something that applied to what’s read, instead of what’s written. Interestingly, the one thing we never talk about when we’re talking about HU, is what the reader brings to the table to form his or her opinion of the work; instead it’s always about how the opinions reveal the work for what it “really” is, apparently because a reading is a text that must be taken just for what it is and no more, whereas any artwork is first and foremost a confessional tally of the artist’s personal prejudices.

(By the way, readers of HU may be alarmed to see “reveal” used as a verb, here, and I can only hope this doesn’t colour their impressions of my little screed…since I wouldn’t like to see their colourful impressions lodged in my private purposes. For who knows but that I would have to wear what they think of me as something I think myself?)


Anyway, it’s pretty fucking annoying. There is such pudicity here: a right way to talk about the Holocaust, a wrong way to talk about the Holocaust, a right and wrong way to be a person who has talked about the Holocaust. Down at the bottom of the comments (at least, at the time I read them), an HU reader puts it out there that among the “talking about the Holocaust” things he thinks are better than Maus

…Is Hogan’s Heroes.

Or, sorry: not better than Maus. That’s not what he says. Tchah! Of course not, who would say that?

“More interesting” than Maus. He swiftly adds “and not just formally”. So, I guess you heard it there first:

Hogan’s Heroes is more formally-interesting than Maus.

Hey, I guess you could make the argument.

I mean: that is one poorly-drawn flag, you know what I’m saying?

It would be easy to go on, but maybe easy as well to obscure my point if I did that, and I think the point merits a certain keeping-clear. Said point being:

HU folk, you clearly have active prejudices about stuff, you know? But you never really come clean about them. You bash Watchmen because you think it puts on airs, but you never say why you think it puts on airs, what creates your idea of what “airs” are and how one can put and not-put them on…Harvey Pekar would say all these things, but you don’t, and you know something? You really should say something about the “why” of this, because without the context of that “why” you seem to be talking about form and craft and intention (hey, seriously, why are you talking about intention so much?) when you are really talking about yourself, and this disjunction could one day — one day, if it happened to produce something that finally sounded just really fucking crazy — possibly make someone feel battered enough by the dissonance of it all that they felt moved to write a slightly pissy blogpost about it on the spur of the moment. And you don’t want that. In comments on HU once, Noah vouchsafed to me that he was primarily interested in assessing his own responses to works he’s read…

…And so, that idea having retracted my claws, I patiently sat back and waited to see what would be the outcome of these investigations of his. Why did he jump instantly to “thinking about Wolverine”? Was it, indeed, that he had so thoroughly taken on the pithy maxim “talking about superhero comics for adults is like talking about porn for kids” (GOD, but I wish I’d said that, Bloggers!), that he could no longer tolerate the slightest suggestion of the mixing of the two? And that he felt fine, even freed, so long as every artwork knew what it should be supposed to be trying to be, but when it came to any blurring of those lines he experienced a kind of revulsion?

I did wait, for a little while. But since those answers never came, that context remained inaccessible, and in the end it honestly really didn’t matter that much to me…I mean, is it my place to come up at Noah and say “go on, tell me how you really feel, tell me about your childhood” or something? Over Wolverine? No, no…that would be ludicous. Wolverine isn’t real life, and I like Noah, and I’m certainly not going to try to ride herd on his likes and dislikes when it comes to his fantasy entertainment.

The Holocaust, though…

The Holocaust is actually real, and so it pisses me off to see it treated equivalently with Matters Wolverine in this way, even if they are both in the context of comics. Noah says it himself, in the comments-thread there that I urge you for the sake of your sanity not to read: aesthetics and morality must go together. Yet if they’re going to go together, wouldn’t it be safer if they held hands, instead of pretending to just be coincidentally walking in the same direction? In that post and its comments there are (it seems to me) moral judgements masquerading as aesthetic critique; as well, there are piffly little matters of taste dressed up as outrages against moral delicacy and centredness. Pudicity, pudicity, it’s all just a little too careful about its carelessness: morality and aesthetics drafting like cyclists from poorly-drawn flags to Holocaust Exploitation Genres, all the way down to The Big Reveal. And that it’s a bit of a double standard is something I think anyone can see: after all, if I were to treat Noah as he has treated Spiegelman, I could say that his review is clearly informed by his strong feelings about the policies of the Israeli government, indeed that his eternal return (sorry) to the subject of Maus‘ overratedness and Art Spiegelman’s assholery is only caused by the fact that talking about Maus is the most convenient excuse he has for talking about the Golan Heights, and Spiegelman is the substitute nearest to hand for Netanyahu. And to do that that wouldn’t exactly be fair play on my part, I admit it; but it sure as hell would be fair-is-fair play. Is Spiegelman really a shit artist? Is Hogan’s Heroes really a formally-interesting “genre or exploitation treatment of the Holocaust”? Are genre/exploitation treatments of the Holocaust really a Thing? Or are Noah and his interlocutor just tired of people bringing up the Holocaust as a sockdologer when they start bitching about Israel and is Maus to blame for that? Mark it well, Bloggers: I do NOT say that this is what’s bugging them. Because I do not KNOW THAT. And because that would be MEAN.

But it sure as hell wouldn’t be something they could do a whole lot of complaining about the unfairness of. Because they are not being upfront, see? Up in that quote from the post, Noah seems to say that Maus bears a pretty meaningful resemblance to Raiders Of The Lost Ark: glib about the Nazis, glib about the Jews, all about the WHAM! and the POW! Perhaps he is trying to draft Harvey there, but unfortunately Harvey is too far ahead of him for it to work. Because is Maus really a motherfucking failure, honestly? Even Harvey didn’t go that far.  Does the fucking quality of the drawing really cheapen, in itself, the suffering of millions?  I don’t know who would go that far.  Reading this post, you’d think Noah was talking about Maus as written and drawn by Dan Brown…

…And it all breaks down. On one point, over here, you have the dude who likes the formal-interestingness of Hogan’s Heroes — don’t really see how that guy can be against the “funny animal” thing? But then there’s Harvey, who thinks the funny-animal thing is a shuck. Standing a little bit apart from each of them is Noah, who seems to be taking a very high road indeed, about absolutely all of it…

But where his road ultimately leads I haven’t a fucking clue, and let me tell you something:

That’s on Noah. Not me.

Because in the same gesture where he indicates Spiegelman’s agenda, he deftly rubs out his own!

With an elbow.

Well, here is most definitely an elbow back.  People of HU, your erudition is laudable, your certifications are impeccable, you certainly aren’t lacking in the spit-and-vinegar department, but you seem to stub your toe on the whole “forthcoming” thing, and through that fault you access a terrible reality of basically being CSBG with bigger words.  There is some advice I should give you, therefore, and I hope you will take it to heart:

Disclose your goddamn beefs.

They will never be so big, that we can’t forgive them far more easily, than the weird-ass things you senselessly swear to when you’re trying to cover them up.

And it’ll make the conversation more interesting to future generations!


23 responses to “Tempest In A Peepot

  1. Indeed, it’s possible to read all of HU as True Dear Diary stuff, just through a “formally-interesting” lens…it is NEVER really about those Captain America strips, is it? No not really.

    • I can’t fucking deal with these people. Doesn’t matter how tantalizing the prospect of a higher standard for comics criticism is. Doesn’t matter how good they are at calling out the TCJ types on the juvenile hypocrisy of their standards. Something about that place just gives me the woolies. There is no love at The Hooded Utilitarian.

      I mean, if you really wanted to go into the differences between Berlatzky and Pekar, it’s kind of obvious, ain’t it? Pekar liked comics. Liked them enough to write them, liked them enough to bug anyone he could find to draw them. Pekar had integrity, he said what he meant. Nothing in his writing (critical or in his comics, for that matter) ever obfuscated the point he was trying to make. Pekar had an ideal for comics. He wasn’t intent on criticism for it’s own sake. When he criticized Maus, it was because he thought graphic novels could and should be better. I’m not certain anyone at THU thinks the same. One of their members had to defend Thimble Theatre to the others, for fuck’s sake! Do they like comics at all? Even if they didn’t, surely they could spend their time imaging what a good comic would look like. I’ve not seen this at THU.

      Maybe I’m having a cathartic hate-in here, but I don’t want to be like that. They probably have something insightful to say that no one’s ever said before. I want to find out what it is, but every time I look at that website it’s just full of hate. Not the inspiring kind of hate, the aspirational kind, the hopeful kind, the kind that says “fuck you, this is serious, we have to do something.” It’s all bile. They’re disgusted by everything, and by consequence the casual reader is disgusted by them.

  2. It’s hard to come to grips with what goes on over there, just what exactly the flavour of it all is. Well, it’s very collegiate, like the bull session after class…it’s extraordinarily concerned with the justification of personal taste, again like the bull session after class…heavy on theory and light on texture (sometimes to the point of seeming callousness), obsessive about the perfection of its studied contrarianism (to the point of being extremely refractory about the admission of facts to the argument)…in all ways the after-class bull session! And like the after-class bull session it’s stunningly unconscious of the wider discourse around it, that’s it’s situated within. TCJ and HU share this: that not only do they listen only to their three favourite radio stations, but they seem to think that whatever’s on the news breaks there is “current” by definition, even if it’s insanely old hat to everybody else. Lee vs. Kirby, comics vs. art, Superman vs. fascism! This news break brought to you by the good folks at 1993, where every purchase comes with a free copy of “Craft Is The Enemy”! It’s a bit like listening to a bunch of Victorian biologists arguing about the definition of life — from the modern perspective, it’s hard to say what the one wrong thing about that conversation is, eh? Is Maus overrated? Isn’t Watchmen a bit annoying really? Shouldn’t we really be calling them graphic novels? All questions that as far as I can tell the comics blogosphere (how quaint that term seems now!) was practically invented to hash out…and I do believe that for most of the bloggers I know, they were indeed pretty comprehensively hashed by the time we entered the 2010s. Who didn’t know everything they needed to know about Lee vs. Kirby five years ago? Who continued to wonder about which things in the world were “overrated”, once they crossed the age of thirty? I once knew a guy who said that Mozart was overrated, and that Beethoven was much better.

    Yeah, when will Beethoven finally start getting the recognition he deserves? DON’T TASE ME, BRO…!

    Which is a very roundabout way of me saying I don’t know if it’s “hate” they’ve got going over there, exactly…maybe it’s more a compulsion to sort out the ramifications of taste? Taste can be a very harsh mistress, as I recall…and I did bring that up above, “taste vs. art”, for a reason, because I think I’m pretty decently on record as saying that I think taste is the most unimportant thing in the world. I mean, I like mine, obviously…but I don’t think anyone else has got a real compelling reason to give a damn about it? And even I don’t find my taste especially relevant to any discussions of art I may get into — Harvey’s got a point about Maus and Love & Rockets, but my taste doesn’t need defending from it, anymore than it needs to approve my own aesthetic judgements. In fact it’s rare that my taste and my thinking go hand in hand, really — I fucking hate to read Walt Whitman, but that doesn’t mean he’s “overrated”, and it doesn’t even mean I rate him lower than people who do like to read him! So whaddaya do, whaddaya do…well, there’s a lot of places to find good comics criticism nowadays, and join in on it. The general TCJ constellation suffers from a bit of tunnel vision that varies with the topic under discussion, they’re none of ’em really very good at bridging the gap between art’s eternal verities and the topical bullshit of the moment: bad at writing music reviews of comics? That’s mostly okay; I go to the TCJ universe to hear them talk about Krigstein and Shelton, not Millar and Hitch. They sound like Donald Trefusis when they talk about what the young people are into! But by the same token, who would read Chuck Klosterman on Bach…?

    Oh dear, I think that got a little incoherent towards the end of the coffeepot…

  3. I honestly don’t get what you guys are talking about. Noah practically worships Alan Moore in general and Watchmen in particular. Harvey Pekar complained about Israel repeatedly in the course of criticizing Maus. As far as I can tell, the Hogan’s Heroes person only posted on the site a couple of times and hasn’t had anyone there agree with him. Google indicates that the word “overrated” is used less frequently on The Hooded Utilitarian than just about any other adjective I checked(although “underrated” is used even less). And I always thought justifying your taste was (1) fun and (2) a big part of what criticism is all about.

  4. Pingback: Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » DECADENCE: Munching on Neptune’s Fungi for Fun and Prophet·

  5. Howdy, Jack — you know it’s a funny thing, but I really don’t get any pleasure from justifying my taste (I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to justify it, actually), and I wouldn’t agree that it’s a big part of what criticism is all about, so in that sense I don’t know what you’re talking about!

    Maybe I was wrong to be so glibly jocular at the beginning, here, when I said Noah hated Kirby and Moore…without looking back over everything I really wouldn’t be able to say that any opinion Noah’s tossed out on those subjects counts enough to make that more than a rhetorical flourish, and besides we all know that it’s really Sympathy For The Devil that gets his goat more than anything else, eh? HOWEVER, it isn’t exactly like no one at HU’s ever written a big post, or left copious comments, about how much they hate Watchmen and find it “overrated”? So it’s hardly like I just pulled that comparison out of thin air. I dunno what your Google search really proves — “overrated” used very rarely on HU compared to other adjectives, well Good God I should hope so! — but I’m not sure I feel like I have to be as super-scrupulous as you seem to think I should be, when describing the prevailing tone over there. I didn’t misattribute the “Hogan’s Heroes” remark, did I? Or claim it inspired a chorus of agreement when it didn’t? Why does it matter how often the guy has posted comments? Are you policing me, Jack buddy? Am I not talking about HU in the right way, or something?

    Also, I’m not seeing the relevance of Harvey criticizing Israel. So what if he did?

    Hope the tone of that isn’t harsh, I haven’t eaten lunch yet so may be a bit cranky. What confuses you about what Anonymous and I are talking about, specifically? Maybe I can clear it up for you.

  6. Well, I don’t think your or the other gentleman’s criticisms of The Hooded Utilitarian make sense; that’s why I’m confused.

    Regarding the Hogan’s Heroes remark: You seemed to be criticizing it as if it was some kind of official HU position, and I don’t think it was. I mean, if someone wrote an essay attacking your blog and complained at length about the comment I left earlier (or this one), I believe your reaction would be along the lines of, “I don’t know or care who the fuck this ‘Jack’ fellow is, and I don’t agree with him anyway, so please stop lumping him in with me.”

    Regarding Pekar: You appear to approve of Pekar’s Maus criticisms while disapproving of Berlatsky’s Maus criticisms. As far as I can tell, one reason why you disapprove of Berlatsky’s Maus criticisms is that they made reference to Israel, which, in your opinion, suggested that Berlatsky had an ulterior motive. However, Pekar’s Maus criticisms also made reference to Israel. Can you see why I thought that was relevant?

    I wasn’t implying that you need to be super-scrupulous about anything; I just don’t think HU is obsessed with deeming things “overrated,” as you seem to think it is.

    Finally, I’m not sure what you mean when you ask whether I’m policing you, “buddy.”

  7. 1. Jack, when you say me and Anonymous aren’t making sense — we’re not just wrong, but we’re not even making sense! — I can’t help but think of that as hyperbole. HU has a tone; we are in agreement that we frequently find the tone grating. That, at least, has to add up to you.

    2. I’m not criticizing the Hogan’s Heroes thing as an official HU position.

    3. Hmm, maybe I would disavow responsibility for your comment, but then no one is going to mistake your comment for anything I agree with anyway, are they? A better example might be if someone wrote a long post attacking the comments of Anonymous, above, where there’s some clear overlap between his/her views, and mine…and in that case, I wouldn’t be so sure that I’d say “fuck that person, I don’t even know them”. Even this blog, too, has something like a general character — though not to the degree that HU does — obviously made up in large part by my own remarks, but also made up by the kinds of conversations I wind up inviting, and the contributions of readers to them. I don’t know if I could reasonably claim not to wear any of that, so if I didn’t have a problem with the comment myself I might well feel obliged to defend it…I’m kinda grateful for commenters, actually! Someone comes here to say something that’s not just “what a piece of shit blog”, or something, I do feel like I might stand up for that person and not duck while criticism of them sailed over my head.

    4. I do approve of Pekar’s Maus criticisms, and disapprove of Noah’s! But you’re wrong about me disapproving of his criticisms because they made reference to Israel — I just double-checked, and I don’t see me getting all irate about Noah’s references to Israel anywhere at all, do you? And I completely ignore Harvey’s references to Israel in favour of his artistic criticism of Maus, because I’m not interested in, and I’m not talking about, a possible politics-based criticism of Maus. In my view, this is a conclusion you leapt to.

    5. I do not suggest Noah has an ulterior motive that involves Israel, I only point out that if I treated him as he treats Spiegelman I’d feel myself at liberty to impute views to him that he hasn’t actually revealed himself as holding. For example, that he has a big problem with Israel, which prejudices him against Maus. But, I don’t feel at liberty to talk about Noah’s inner states, so I would not claim he has an anti-Israel agenda. If you’re wondering why all the bold-face all of a sudden, it’s because in the post above I bold (and capitalize!) the bit where I say I am not doing this, and would not do this. So, no: I didn’t see why you thought that was relevant, since I didn’t intend anyone to get the idea that I was saying Noah was working off anti-Israel prejudice. Thus the Harvey reference just made me go “whuh…?”

    6. I differ from you on the subject of HU’s obsession (but, see there, you’re doing it yourself: talking about HU as though it had a corporate character, rather than just being a bunch of different autonomous people saying a bunch of unconnected shit that strikes their minds!) with determining the overrated…but we knew that already.

    7. You did seem a little bit like you might have been policing me. I’m “attacking” HU. I’m claiming false things about HU. I’m exaggerating the importance of individual commenters in order to cast a negative light on HU. You don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t understand my point, I seem to be lashing out for no reason, what’s my problem. But that may have been a result of the hunger-related crankiness, as I feared.

    8. I still haven’t eaten, so I hope I don’t sound snippy here.

    Hope that clears things up!

    • Sorry, I mean: me jumping right to saying “you’re not policing me, are you?”, THAT may have been an artifact of the crankiness.

  8. 1. I don’t see a clear distinction between “this is wrong” and “this doesn’t make sense.” The Webster’s 6a definition of “sense” lists its synonym as “intelligence.” I didn’t think it was intelligent of you to spend a lengthy portion of your critique complaining about the Hogan’s Heroes comment. You obviously think I’m wrong, but that’s not the same as being hyperbolic.

    2. Okay, great.

    3. Your analogy isn’t any better than mine, since you explicitly agreed with the anonymous poster. But I guess we’d have to ask Noah whether he endorses the position that Hogan’s Heroes is better than Maus. I’m tempted to tell him about this blog entry/discussion, since he clearly loves arguing with people who don’t care for him or his blog, but I’ll leave that up to you if you’re interested.

    4-5. Okay, I overlooked/forgot your line, “And to do that that wouldn’t exactly be fair play on my part.” Sorry. You didn’t actually say that he was using Spiegelman as a proxy for Netanyahu.

    6. I never said or implied that HU is just “a bunch of different autonomous people saying a bunch of unconnected shit that strikes their minds.” I just said that the Hogan’s Heroes comment did not typify the site. Nor did I imply that HU has a corporate character. If I serve on jury duty with 11 people who are not obsessed with complaining about overrated comic books, it does not logically follow that the jury has a corporate character.

    7. I still don’t understand what you mean by “policing.” The Webster’s definitions involve keeping order and prosecuting violations of rules, but you seem to be complaining that I criticized you in an overly harsh manner. I’m not trying to maintain any kind of order or punish rule-breaking, and I don’t think saying, “I honestly don’t get what you guys are talking about,” is overly harsh.

    What’s my motive for writing all of this tedious, long-winded bullshit? I think Noah is a smart guy, I enjoy his blog, and the horrible reputation of both—Gary Groth has called Noah an idiot, Jeet Heer thinks that TCJ disgraced itself by printing Noah’s writing, Heidi MacDonald compared HU to a bunch of crazy rich kids at summer camp, etc.—is at least slightly perplexing to me. However, I’m not a super-fan, and Noah has, in fact, run some articles–Vom Marlowe’s (sp?) review of Ghost World comes to mind–that struck me as stupid. So I have no desire to defend Noah and HU to the death; if you don’t like them, you don’t like them.

    I’ll try to leave it at that. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my posts.

  9. It was no trouble.

    However, this annoys me:

    “You seem to be complaining that I criticized you in an overly harsh manner.”

    NO. That isn’t correct. I do not actually “seem to be complaining”, and if I thought you were criticizing me I’d say so. I may think you’re doing the bulk of your communicating with Webster’s and not with me, but I defy you to find me whinging about it. As for Noah, what makes you think I don’t care for him? Didn’t I just say that I like Noah?

    And for the record, it was extremely intelligent of me to spend a lengthy portion of my critique discussing — NOT “complaining about”, but discussing — the Hogan’s Heroes comment.

    (Also for the record, if that guy shows up here, I will most definitely owe him an apology for using him so harshly when he was just commenting on a blog like a normal person.)

    Thanks for dropping by.

  10. Hey, and what’s all this about my analogy not being any better than yours? It’s WAY better; why the hell d’you think I made it in the first place?

    You can go, Jack, but you can’t leave your interpretive scheme behind you; for example you are both wrong and being hyperbolic about the sensemaking that Anonymous and I are doing. Jesus, what kind of a parting gift is that, to drop all these fake facts off and roar away?

    I’ll do the dictating around here, thank you very much.

    • On reflection…

      I might just add that it’s hardly obvious that the Hogan’s Heroes comment doesn’t typify the site…is it some weird freaky outlier of a remark that just sounds like crazy gibberish in the context of the blog it’s appearing on? I’d argue that it isn’t, and that Jack hasn’t demonstrated otherwise…perhaps as significant as the fact that no one’s come out shouting their agreement with it, is that no one’s come out bellowing their disagreement with it, which would lead me to believe that the comment falls well within HU’s community norms. But you see, if it really is an atypical comment, if it’s not something you can point at and say “this is a pretty HU-compliant assertion”, then I really should feel like a bad person for shooting my mouth off about it, shouldn’t I?

      But then, arguably…so should Jack feel a bit like a bad person, for cutting that dude loose in such a tearing hurry. Is he really so very different, that my comments are best construed as picking on him, just him, because of his atrocious badness? You play the cards you’re dealt, and the cards available to be dealt are always the same, but you play them in a way consistent with the rules of the game you’re in, and as far as I can see that guy didn’t outrage any such rules. It’s not like he took a dump on the floor during dinner, for Christ’s sake! All he did was agree with Noah, y’know? But then shit comes up, and suddenly he’s the fall guy. When Jack suggested I was criticizing the Hogan’s Heroes comment as though it were some Official HU Position, I really wondered if saying “no, I wasn’t” was just going to make him say “no, yes you were” all the more strongly, so I’d considered expanding on how I wasn’t doing that…before deciding I couldn’t be bothered, and figuring it’d cause a hassle but I’d just deal with the hassle…but then…surprisingly…

      No hassle!

      Jack was cool with it!

      That was interesting, I thought. All he wants is for me not to start a beef with Noah. If I say I’m not doing that, he’s gotten the concession he wanted: doesn’t require elaboration. Perhaps even: doesn’t want elaboration? Curious that it is the ONE thing that we managed to achieve a balance about, and we did it by me not explaining any of my motives or methods as I would usually do…


      Anybody else smell bacon?

  11. I do believe this matter may now have been dealt with to my satisfaction, and I don’t anticipate any further discussion about Jack and his upthread remarks.

  12. This is a lot simpler than it might appear. Berlatsky is only interested in attracting attention to himself.
    That’s all it is.

  13. I almost wish Jack would return; Noah’s latest event, “Who’s The Most Overrated Band/Musician” is so supremely consciously trolling for comments that I wonder how no one’s ever hit on the formula before. It was right there, all our lives. Still, no one realized what we all had in hand. You’ve got to read that thing, Patrick, it may be the best use of the Internet I’ve ever seen…absolutely gorgeous performance art. “The Beatles simply suck!” “Beethoven’s a fraud, why does anyone even like that guy, dum-dum-dum-DUMB! yeah buddy we’ve heard it all before…” Studded with diamonds. I am a bit miffed that the thread seems to have died, I feel a bit disappointed on Noah’s behalf: in a perfect world the number of comments on that thread would have defied the constraints of the number line and been an Internet Benchmark. It’s a fucking tragedy that the commenters got bored.

    I think my friend Noah actually is trying to attract attention, and I wouldn’t say he’s doing a bad job of it…he’s a good contrarian! Although let us not blame all of HU’s contrarianness on him, as recently I saw him take a moderate view on something and get slapped down by HU readers? My point being: Noah couldn’t stop this train if he wanted to, now. Every blog’s audience is self-selecting, and HU is no different. Wild general statements about relative worth, bellowed FEELINGS about what’s overrated and what’s not…that’s not all down to Noah.

    Although on the other hand let’s not let him off too lightly: after all, he is the man who thinks Schindler’s List is the worst movie EVER made…!

    Wow, the worst movie in history!

    No movie is worse!

    He’s obviously not seen Lawrence Of Arabia or Casablanca or The Third Man, then…

    In conclusion, Patrick, I think you are right. And I have no bad feelings about Noah trying to attract attention to himself.

    But the shit he says…ho ho, I think it does not get to escape critique, and that’s where my particular focus is.

    Thanks for commenting!

  14. There is an obvious pattern if you pay attention for very long.
    There are (or now perhaps were) a couple of people that that seemed to have genuinely elitist tastes. I can respect that. As long as the person is consistent, perhaps they are a very harsh critic, and perhaps they are only interested in art which has some informed philosophical intent? I might wonder why they are bothering to write about comics if the case is they like almost no comics, but I beyond that, it their opinions are consistent I can respect them.
    That isn’t at all the case with Noah. He is blatantly trolling for comments. Without getting into me putting a stamp on his tastes I would just say consider some of the things he does like, and measure them against many of the things he not only says he does not like, but disparages completely.

  15. I’m much less inclined to respect “elitist views”, myself…I mean, there are those views that are deemed “elitist” by other people, and that’s one thing, but I do think that some people elect on some level to be “elitist”, and that’s a whole other kettle of wax. I maybe make that sound a little harsher than it is — what really does it mean, to hold elitist views? I suspect that much of the elitism inheres in the consistency itself, the consistency of the system of judgement and evaluation. Isn’t elitism just a slightly more dignified word for “classism”? But what the classes in question are is something that frequently goes unmentioned, perhaps just because the consistency must be a flexible one at some level or other if it’s to maintain itself, and not simply fall apart under the pressure of contrafactuals. I think there’s a lot of people who struggle with this very thing, who find themselves on footing less sure than they’d originally taken it to be when it comes to figuring out what they like and why they like it, and why they don’t like other things, and how those topics are all related…and I think in the end your tastes either become ossified, or mercurial, as long as you keep trying to rationalize this sort of thing. Not that I’m saying it’s an unworthy effort, to try to figure it all out! But for me, as perhaps you may know Patrick, the conclusion of the struggle came in the realization that taste is the most unimportant thing in the world?

    Hrmm, the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet, so that may all have been just a little garbled…

  16. I mean, when I think someone holds elitist views, I guess I am saying something about them that isn’t very nice…but on the other hand, it’s entirely possible that imputing “elitism” to their views just reflects some inadequacy I perceive in myself? I dunno, I hope I don’t do that second thing too often, but I can’t be sure…

    (Come on, caffeine, what is keeping you, man…)

  17. I agree. Elitist views often stem from pretension or insecurity. The respect I mention has more to do with consistent thought rather than elitism.
    I’m just saying that if a person is at least consistent their viewpoint has a kind of logic.
    With Noah it’s clear he’s simply trying to agitate people in an attempt to drive hits on his blog.

  18. Not quite so successful in the trolling department as the Bands/Musicians one, though, is it? I feel he’ll never be able to top that one…

    This one’s great, though, for exposing the small-scale patchwork nature of the general HU contrarian tone…far easier to agree that Every Band You’ve Ever Heard On The Radio is overrated commercial crap, than to pick on the offerings of a beloved subculture and expect the same sort of basically-harmonious snark. I’m hypnotized by the guy who hates PKD’s Valis, and the way Noah counters him. “I actually sort of love Valis…?”

    Asimov’s such easy pickings, and they’re all so wrong about him…not only that his books were just junk, but also that anyone can be overrated who’s actually so incredibly obscure! Most people, even most people who read books, have never heard of any of these guys, so the whole thing reads to me a bit less like “who’s the most overrated” and a bit more like “who deserves their middle-class living least”. I mean, it’s pretty easy to parse it all straight up as “I don’t think Asimov deserved to own his own home, on the other hand I’m all right with Heinlein having a two-car garage…” That’s not really an overrated/underrated thing at all, is it? “I don’t think Asimov deserved a Lifetime Achievement Award” or whatever…

    Well, whyever not?

    Once again it’s all interesting to me primarily for the way there are no criteria supplied — no one’s on the same page about what it means to be “rated”, obviously! I mean, who’s even doing the rating, clearly it’s no one at all, yet instead of saying (perhaps) “I don’t think this person is over/underrated in the way you say because I think you’ve radically misread their popularity/esteem”, they all take the ratedness as something they all agree on, by the clever device of never actually examining what the ratedness is or what connection it may have to reality. Instead, they disagree on whether the assumed ratedness is what it should be, which is sort of fascinating to me as an alternative strategy. Everyone knows what the world thinks of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but no one knows what the world thinks of Clifford D. Simak and Poul Anderson, because the world doesn’t think anything about them…

    I’m not trying to rain on your “HU sucks” parade, by the way, Patrick! Clearly this trolling aspect of HU is a central one, and no one could accuse you of being unreasonable to say it sucks! (Well, maybe that Jack guy) (Okay, I should probably stop beating on Jack now, it’s starting to look not so good on me) (The holding of blog-grudges says more about the gruder than the grudgee, at some point) And of course HU is supposed to be controversial, which is the only reason I think it’s fair to criticize it even though I firmly believe that Bloggers Should Not Talk Shit About Other Bloggers as a general rule…but Noah doesn’t mind, and doesn’t ask me to let our friendly acquaintance mitigate any criticisms I may have, and besides for a variety of reasons too boring to go into right now I feel much less free to comment on other blogs as I used to do…

    Sorry…rambling…it may be the whiskey that’s making me wander this way…

    But yes, don’t let me catch you thinking I don’t think HU merits your criticism, and even your disgustipatedness! “You know who’s a really overrated character in Peanuts? Fucking SNOOPY, I hate that dog”

    “For me it’s the Kite-Eating Tree, I mean what an ASSHOLE…!”

    “I’ll just put it right out there: Charlie Brown brings all this shit on HIMSELF, and I think it’s a bad message for kids…”

    Oof, had more to say, but that was a BIG digression…anyway, YES, Patrick, if you’re coming here to say HU sucks then give yourself the run of the place!

    I will be back to complete my original thought later.

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