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Why there can never be a universal standard


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#21 overbooked

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 04:29 AM

Isn't the issue here less one of reviewing any one thing (be it a wrestling match, jazz album, or sushi joint) and more an issue around our pathological desire to rank everything?

 

In the case of an individual review we probably wouldn't bring up completely unrelated items in the spirit of universality. The lucha review needn't mention a shoot style show, the jazz review won't reference death metal, the sushi review won't compare the tuna roll to the cheeseburger you can buy in the next town. Any reference to anything else will make sense within the particular context, as a means of making a point about what is under review.

 

However, once you start making lists you're bound to hit problems as they are subjective and full of issues and contradictions. The discussion then becomes one around rules and semantics rather than the actual stuff. Which is why I much prefer reviews to lists, and why I find ratings pretty reductive and problematic too. I want the writing to make the argument, not a number within an arbitrary system.



#22 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 04:38 AM

Right, but even a review at its most basic has to point out why something is good or bad, and I'm not sure that it's possible to do that without making explicit or implicit reference to that which is beyond the realm of the text. If you review something praising it for certain qualities, at some level you are saying those qualities are good and desirable and that certain other qualities are not.

Do you see a way around this? How can the individual review NOT do this?

If it doesn't, it seems to me to become a little more soft and nubulous, more a case of "appreciating" the item under evaluation. And you end up with a system that can only speak in gushing praise (see also New Critcism).

#23 overbooked

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 05:01 AM

A review can (maybe should) reference beyond the realm of the text. But it doesn't make that reference in isolation - the reference is there to make a wider point about whatever is under review. That might be in order to show similarity, contrast, or to make a value judgement. 

 

However, with lists it is more a case of throwing together a band of disparate items and trying to make sense of it all, and essentially comparing apples with oranges for the sake of comparing apples with oranges. And so the debate becomes all about ranking systems and rules and the actual subject matter ends up neglected.

 

I also think reviewing or criticism more generally is more interesting and worthwhile when it properly analyses art/food/wrestling within a sensible context to understand if it works, how it works, and what it might mean to us. When it becomes an exercise in "What is better - A, B or C?" the whole thing becomes a lot more boring, and ultimately simplistic. I'd much rather read someone reflecting, analysing and explaining how and why the sushi joint makes them happy, or the jazz album moves them, than why the sushi joint is better than the burger joint or the jazz album is better than the punk EP. If they do that by referencing other relevant things, great, but that doesn't require some sort of universal standard, just a level of empathy and intelligence.



#24 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 05:15 AM

I don't disagree with that. Good critical insight is better than ranking or ratings, for sure.

But let's pretend for a second that your person is writing these wonderful David Foster Wallace-esque essays on the joys of sushi, jazz, burgers etc., do you expect him to recognise the joys in all things or to find joys in all things?

On the contrary, if he's going to be interesting at all there'll be other stuff which he finds irritating, or with which he doesn't connect, or whatever. In fact, the most entertaining criticism ever written (see Clive James on TV for example) tends to be in cases where the critic has found cause for complaint.

As soon as you take the step of moving beyond a basic report of "joy" the whole process of evaluation proper starts. And then there comes the added pressure of consistency. So your Clive James or Robert Ebert or whoever over time develops a sense of the sorts of things he finds joy in and the sorts things he's going to rant about.

I can't think of a famous critic worth his salt who didn't do this. But with it comes a championing of some things and a condemning and closing off of others.

The demand to be able to see the good in ALL things, in all styles, just isn't realistic to the critical experience in any field to date. Some things are held as being good, others are written off rightly or wrongly. Without this, these is no critical discourse really, just bland expositions on people finding joy in sushi shops. Which, even if they were excellently written, would become exceedingly tedious after about a week.

#25 overbooked

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 05:33 AM

The review can definitely be negative, or a plain rant. They are often the most entertaining ones. I could rewrite my post above to include "I also think reviewing or criticism more generally is more interesting and worthwhile when it properly analyses art/food/wrestling within a sensible context to understand why it doesn't work, how it doesn't work, and what it might mean to us, or why it fails to mean anything."

 

I suppose the only issue is when we set out to write a hatchet job, rather than going in with an open mind, or conversely go into the process from the "joyful" position. I guess different personalities take different approaches, and are more likely to spend time on writing glowing reviews, or scathing ones, so there is that bias too.

 

The pressure of consistency is a tricky one. I suppose we as readers get to know what critics like and what they don't, and so can read them through that lens. As critics what do we do? I think we probably just write through the problem. The more we write, the more we evaluate, the more we understand our own tastes, biases, critical positions. I guess then we're also in a position to make more interesting (and hopefully novel) connections between different texts, where our insight can illuminate both, rather than just saying "A is like B but not really as good". I suppose I enjoy criticism that ultimately reflects on the critic as much as the subject.



#26 Loss

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 06:00 AM

JvK, what do you make of my response on the first page? I ask because we seem to be having different conversations. I also ask how you reconcile what you are saying with things like the WTBBP episode you did ranking your top 100 matches. They weren't all from the same company/era/style, but by ranking them, you were making comparisons.



#27 El-P

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 07:04 AM

 

Oh yeah, I remember why I used to love when Gordberg was posting a lot back in the days.

 

(btw, just watched the Osaka Pro Super J Cup from 04 and it was probably the best card up and down as far as variety goes from all the J Cups, although no classico like the 94 version or even nothing as great as the best 95 stuff. Some of these Osaka Pro guys I had never seen before were really fun to watch, thinking about MAGMA, Tigers Mask, Murahama, of course the comedy duo.)

 

Looking forward to your review of the Osaka J-Cup!

 

I think anyone who deliberately watched the Dying Years of WCW and Early TNA and found stuff to love even there... such a person has definitively proven their love for pro wrestling. Perhaps, he has gone too far in doing so.

 

The Osaka J-Cup is going on there : http://prowrestlingo...cups/?p=5768236

 

Well, I went too far. Or I'm just dumb as fuck. Either way.



#28 El-P

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 07:12 AM

 

Parv seems a bit distrustful of people with eclectic tastes.


You've been reading my music list so far, is that true?

 

For fuck's sake. No jazz apart from a few vocal jazz and old swing stuff, no metal, no experimental. No *women* almost. And hell, out of the 75 first entries, NOTHING that is not anglo-saxon. Really open-minded stuff, yeah.

 

I can listen to Selda Bağcan, Darkthrone, Jacques Brel and Steve Reich the same day without having to put myself in any specific kind of mind and enjoy the fuck out of their respective brillance.



#29 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:17 AM

I did list Scott Walker so Brel got some due as a songwriter.

#30 El-P

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:27 AM

C'est trop, vraiment.



#31 gordi

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:38 AM

...taste by its nature, as I've stressed, depends on writing off certain things. You cannot say something is good without also suggesting a certain other thing is bad.

 

That is simply false. Taste is absolutely not a zero sum game.

 

The idea of an all-accepting universal palette is completely and fundamentally at odds with the process of making value judgements. You cannot do both. We might be able to like foods of all five tastes, but very few of us would like all foods.

 

Nobody  - - NOBODY - - in this thread has suggested that the answer is to simply like or even accept everything. 

 

What's being argued, and what it seems to me you have yet to address, is that it is absolutely possible to enjoy a wide variety of different things: Music, food pro wrestling, and so on. 

 

To decide I like one type of pro wrestling in no way necessitates that I dislike other types of pro wrestling, even if those other types of pro wrestling are wildly different from the type I have decided I like. That's a frankly ridiculous idea. 

 

And, to clarify: To like various types of pro wrestling in no way means that I therefore have to accept everything.  That's also frankly ridiculous. There's good lucha and bad lucha, good southern style and bad southern style, good indy and bad indy, good shoot style and bad shoot style. Surely everyone understands this. 

 

So, why not choose to seek out "good wrestling" whatever form it may take. Surely that's better than pre-determining what is good and then judging based on how well those pre-determinations are met. 

 

Taste is defined by discernment, literally speaking "the ability to judge well".

 

I think that "applying a limited standard and judging based on how well that standard is adhered to" is absolutely not "judging well." Paula Kael had a wonderful essay where she took to task those critics who analyzed and judged every film - regardless of its intent and regardless of other virtues or failings - on how well it addressed issues of social justice. Those critics were relentlessly applying a limited standard. They were not judging well. 

 

Things need to be judged on their own merits. A broad perspective is most helpful in trying to do so. Here is what is not helpful in doing so: Artificial guidelines of what should be considered good, with the idea that all else must be considered bad.

 

And so, in the end, I agree that there cannot be a universal standard... or at least, there should not be. 



#32 overbooked

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:42 AM

"Artificial guidelines" are a pretty handy tool to wield when arguing on the internet. They don't make for great criticism.



#33 gordi

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:47 AM

"Artificial guidelines" are a pretty handy tool to wield when arguing on the internet. They don't make for great criticism.

 

I agree. 



#34 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 08:53 AM

I think gordi and I ultimately think some very similar things here insomuch as what he said is very similar to something I said here:

What I will say though is that I'm broadly consistent in insisting that to understand blues you need to do so within the traditions of the blues, to understand hip-hop you have to come at it from within the genre not try comparing it to Bob Dylan or whoever.


Judge blues from within blues traditions, lucha from within lucha traditions, cheeseburgers from within burger traditions. We agree on this.

We also agree that there can be no universal set of guidelines with which to approach all music, all wrestling or all food. So we agree on that.

I owe Loss a reply, so I will work on that and in the process also speak to gordi's other key point.

#35 gordi

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 09:12 AM

I think gordi and I ultimately think some very similar things here

 

 

Yep. I have a habit of throwing out ideas that connect to my reply in such a way that it seems like I'm arguing against whomever I'm replying to... but in fact we do largely agree. My disagreement with you is on one or two kind of specific points, I think. Looking forward to reading your reply. 



#36 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 12:05 PM

My answer to Loss (and to gordi's one point of objection) is as follows:

1. It is possible to like and appreciate many different styles of a thing.

2a. However, I am extremely sceptical of anyone's capacity to like and appreciate ALL styles of a thing.

and

2b. In practice it is almost never the case that anyone likes or appreciates ALL stlyes of a thing.

3. As a corollary, some styles are actually antithetical, that is ideologically or aesthetically opposed. It is possible to like both sides of a given extreme, but it naturally (though not necessarily) follows that fans of extreme A tend not to be fans of extreme B and vice versa.

To make this a bit more tangible, let's zoom to the early 1990s and consider Lou Thesz's vision of pro wrestling, Paul Heyman's vision and Vince McMahon's vision. Thesz was helping to promote UWFi, meanwhile Heyman was introducing barbed wire and flaming tables to wrestling, and all that while Vince was pushing clowns, garbage men, tax men, evil dentists, undead phenoms and whatever Adam Bomb was meant to be on his show. While liking one thing does not preclude you from liking the others, the reality on the ground tended to be that fans of any one of them had cause to disparage the others.

-------------

So I guess, in the abstract, it is theoretically possible for someone to like and appreciate all styles, but in practice it is almost always the case that people have a preference for certain styles over other styles.

And also:

It tends to be the case in art that movements produce counter-movements and counter-counter movements which define themselves AGAINST each other. That is, they depend on, for their very existence, some sort of rejection of what has gone before.

We're all very post-modern and eclectic now so we listen to bubble-gum pop alongside punk alongside new wave etc. as if there were no aethetic, political or ideological contradictions in so doing -- there are less stakes, I suppose, consumers gonna consume. But one of those movements has at is core a visceral rejection of mainstream values and art, so how much of a TRUE fan of the thing can one be if you don't share in that?

I see my beloved 80s-and-early-90s WWF put down ALL the time, all of the time, on an almost daily basis as one of the go-to bases-of-comparison to put over some different style. People have always defined their identities not ONLY in terms of what they like but ALSO in terms of what they don't like. Championing one thing need not entail a rejection of another thing, but in practice it very very often does. See also, the entirety of history to this point.

#37 El-P

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 12:29 PM

To make this a bit more tangible, let's zoom to the early 1990s and consider Lou Thesz's vision of pro wrestling, Paul Heyman's vision and Vince McMahon's vision. Thesz was helping to promote UWFi, meanwhile Heyman was introducing barbed wire and flaming tables to wrestling, and all that while Vince was pushing clowns, garbage men, tax men, evil dentists, undead phenoms and whatever Adam Bomb was meant to be on his show. While liking one thing does not preclude you from liking the others, the reality on the ground tended to be that fans of any one of them had cause to disparage the others.

 

I've said it again and again, I'm an ECW fan. FMW is also one of the dearest promotion in my heart. I love Onita. And I'm a huge shoot-style fan. My favourite pro-wrestling match ever is Tamura vs Khosaka 30 mn draw from 98. And likewise, I think the nWo era Nitros are the apex of US pro-wrestling TV. I don't think I'm schizophrenic at all.



#38 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 12:33 PM

To make this a bit more tangible, let's zoom to the early 1990s and consider Lou Thesz's vision of pro wrestling, Paul Heyman's vision and Vince McMahon's vision. Thesz was helping to promote UWFi, meanwhile Heyman was introducing barbed wire and flaming tables to wrestling, and all that while Vince was pushing clowns, garbage men, tax men, evil dentists, undead phenoms and whatever Adam Bomb was meant to be on his show. While liking one thing does not preclude you from liking the others, the reality on the ground tended to be that fans of any one of them had cause to disparage the others.

 
I've said it again and again, I'm an ECW fan. FMW is also one of the dearest promotion in my heart. I love Onita. And I'm a huge shoot-style fan. My favourite pro-wrestling match ever is Tamura vs Khosaka 30 mn draw from 98. And likewise, I think the nWo era Nitros are the apex of US pro-wrestling TV. I don't think I'm schizophrenic at all.

Now talk about some stuff you don't like.

#39 El-P

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 01:24 PM

As far as style goes ? Never got into straight lucha, but never quite made the effort to. And yeah, I admit I may don't get the style entirely, but then again, I would never say lucha libre is a bad pro-wrestling style. It would be ridiculous. Maybe it's just not for me. I dunno. I loved numbers of luchadors working elsewhere. I loved some lucha matches I checked for the GWE poll in 2006.

 

As far as what I don't like. Well, I don't like shitty pro-wrestling. But there's shitty pro-wrestling all over. Hell, most pro-wrestling is shitty.



#40 Loss

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 01:32 PM

I'm not a huge fan of the modern WWE working style, but I still think it's capable of producing the occasional MOTYC. Of course there are styles I prefer over others, just like anyone else, but my mentality is that there is good and bad within each style. Yes, all styles are not created equally, but I don't really think about it that way. The type of wrestling I like is wrestling that's good. The type I don't is wrestling that's bad. That's my ultimate bias. Triangulation is possible.






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