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ira said:

Marvin...I'm impressed at your thoroughness and also a little self-satisfied that my little quip provided impetus for your cyber-jouney to young Ted's website.-Ira.

Well truth be told, the only reason I did it was to prove that there are other sites out there that have intelligent and interesting people. Like I said, I'm not a fan of Ted's music or his beliefs, but I'm sure that he has fans who possess cerebrial activity.

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Alright...Here I go again...This is an imcredibly intelligent,perceptive,eloquent site...And I doubt that the "Question Mark And The Mysterians" Site is as thought provoking as ours.

Your mission Marvin...if you choose to accept it...is to infiltrate the "Question Mark And The Mysterians" site and see..if like Ted Nugent's site...There is intelligent life out there that can truly rival the superior intelligence of the esteemed members of EricCarmen.Com.

I eagerly await the findings of your report.-Ira.

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OK, I come back here and all heck has broken loose again...I don't know whether it's because I have the audacity to disagree with Eric on something or what, but I do hope not...

Let me clarify a few things in what I have said, because it might actually provide greater insight into what I meant.

Do I believe some reviewers are full of crap, and can do great and unfair damage? Yes. Do I believe all reviewers are qualified? No. But I am not of the school that believes that it is necessary to be able to do in order to be qualified to criticize. And if you are, you better never watch another baseball game and critique the work of the batter, pitcher, outfield or umpires, nor watch a football game and complain about the quarterback, the rest of the offense, the defense, the kickers or the refs. Etc., etc., etc....at least not unless you yourself have played the game.

See what I'm driving at? It's not necessary to have played a sport in order to know whether or not a team or player is any good. To be sure, having played it yourself gives you a depth of insight others may not have, but it's not essential to understanding and judging what you're viewing or the complexity thereof. It's not even essential to sportscasting. If you know the rules, you can do a passing job of it, and if you watch it a lot, you'll be even better.

It's not quite as cut and dried as that, but the same is true of any creative work, be it music, art, films, theater, books, what have you. Being experienced in the field and having seen it from the creative end does round you out, and may well make you a better and more informed critic than some others...but it's not a prerequisite, and it's certainly no guarantee that your criticism will be of a higher quality than that of those who never attempted to work in the field themselves.

Are educated critics better than uneducated ones? Absolutely. A critic with a depth of experience and knowledge of a given field, even if only academic, is way ahead of the game vs. someone who "doesn't know much, but I know what I like." Then again, if you're choosing, say, a movie to see with a friend or a book to spend some time with on a vacation, it may not really be the advice of a critic that you need. You may be better off solicting the opinion of someone who knows your personal tastes, rather than a critic's opinion--or just choosing for yourself. Because the critic, ideally, should NOT just be expressing a "personal taste"...that really IS purely subjective, and it's not what criticism is supposed to be...criticism is supposed to be fair judgment according to a standard of some kind, not just a matter of whether or not someone personally "likes" something. Ideally, a critic will try to be a fair judge of the quality of whatever it is he or she is reviewing regardless of personal preferences or petty likes or dislikes.

Then again, personal preferences, likes and dislikes may be exactly what matter to YOU in a given circumstance--in choosing which band to go hear, or which music to buy, or which play to attend. What a critic says may not matter a damn to you. And that's OK. Because in those circumstances a critic really doesn't matter. You are the judge and jury. If you like something, for whatever reason, to hell with whoever else doesn't. If you hate it, you don't have to like it just because someone else thinks it's great.

But it doesn't mean critics do no good. They do. Ideally, they educate us, give us some kind of measuring stick against which to evaluate creative work. If all they deliver is their own personal opinion, they're pointless. Yes, their conclusions are bound to be colored by some of that opinion, but ideally, more than that alone will guide what they do. Also, more than the tastes and trends of their own time will guide them; they won't just follow fads, they'll be able to discern what's most likely to stand the test of time. (That doesn't mean critics' views of things never change, but the ideal critic has vision that extends beyond the present.)

Eric said: "I believe Roger Ebert's 'claim to fame,' prior to becoming a film critic, was that he wrote the screenplay for Russ Meyer's 'Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls.'" True. But what he was "famous" for doesn't necessarily tell us about what value he had as a critic when he started out, nor does it tell us anything about his value as a critic today. Who knows? Maybe Ebert has done a better service to the world as a critic than he ever could have as a screenwriter. Maybe criticism was where he found his true talent. I do know I respect him more today than I did back in the early days of "Sneak Previews." I think he's gotten better, and more thoughtful and eloquent. To judge him by a long-ago screenplay would be like judging Eric solely on the quality of, say, "Light the Way." (Note to Eric, lest he feel picked on: I chose that one randomly out of a hat, as an example of your long-ago work. I haven't even heard a single version of it. So rest assured, it's not meant as a slam on that song!)

The only reason I got into this discussion in the first place was that I don't believe it entirely fair to slam critics and their occupation whole cloth. Are some of them uneducated? You bet. Do some of them stink? Sure. Are some of them failed creatives who get the only jollies left to them out of being able to rip apart what they can't do themselves? Probably. Do some get drunk on their power to destroy? No doubt. But others are good and worth giving attention. And while I don't know enough about classical music to be able to judge who has the most legitimate beef in the Donald Rosenberg-Plain Dealer-Cleveland Orchestra flap, I'm not inclined to side against Rosenberg just because he's a critic. I would have to know enough about classical music to be able to judge what kind of a critic I thought he was. And to do that, I'd have to also attend a lot of concerts and put my judgment of them up against his. (I also suspect he's a much better critic than the ones I used to read in other places I've lived. I recall this one critic in Binghamton who would review the Binghamton Philharmonic--don't laugh, they're damn good, or at least I thought they were--probably in part because of the Ithaca College/Eastman music school influence--and if they played a certain Rachmaninoff symphony, she would write in the paper about how she couldn't even judge that one movement because all it did was remind her of that horrible Eric Carmen song so she couldn't stand to hear it. Remembering her, I'll take Rosenberg!)

I don't feel qualified to judge classical music critics who sound like they actually know what they're talking about. I admit that the fact of the matter is that anytime I go to a Cleveland Orchestra concert I'm probably going to feel blown away--and not just because they ARE one of the best, if not the best, orchestra in the world. Unless somebody really hits a sour note, I'm not going to come away with a serious opinion about whether or not the pieces were played well, conducted well, which musicians were on and which were a bit off, the interpretation, the acoustics, etc. I'm just not well educated enough to do that. But that doesn't mean I'm incapable of enjoying the music.

Now, if I read in the paper the next day that the performance was subpar according to a critic, I'm probably going to say "Wow, I sure couldn't tell!" and move on. It's no skin off my nose--just like if someone gives the Raspberries a bad review--F 'em, I had a good time, who cares?

But I can see how the orchestra might feel that its very reputation hangs on every word written by the local critic, because his word is taken seriously, and if he says they're going downhill, or that a certain soloist isn't sounding so great, it will be believed. I can see how they'd be frightened of that, if they thought it was unfair. At the same time, I can also see how they'd be frightened of it if it were TRUE. So, who's right? I don't know. All I know is, I don't automatically take the orchestra's side, and I don't automatically take the critic's.

And that's my long way of expressing my opinion. Typical me. But I think it's pretty respectful--of both sides of the equation. Please, let's not forget, I saw some pretty nasty reviews of our 'Berries back in the day and my teenage heart was pretty outraged by some of the crap I read. Nowadays I'm older and wiser (I hope), and more likely (I also hope) to recognize a bad criticizer (thanks, Wally) when I see one. At the same time, I can say "OK, this one is probably right, but so what? Who cares?"

Oh, and to answer Eric's question, I'm a marketing writer in the legal field. Who writes fiction on the side, hoping to actually finish and sell it someday. I admit, one of the hardest things about fiction is stifling the internal critic long enough to even get it done, and no, I don't relish what kinds of things I might see written about my work if it did go out there. But I also realize that a certain degree of thickness of skin is pretty much requisite for anyone who does anything in public.

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ira said:

Your mission Marvin...if you choose to accept it...is to infiltrate the "Question Mark And The Mysterians" site and see..if like Ted Nugent's site...There is intelligent life out there that can truly rival the superior intelligence of the esteemed members of EricCarmen.Com.

I eagerly await the findings of your report.

Well ? & the Mysterians actually have a neat site but there is no forum, so I can't determine whether the people there "rival the superior intelligence of the esteemed members of EricCarmen.Com" Speaking of which what the heck does listening to Celine Dion live have anything to do with the topic at hand?

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Ira - I would assume that any ? & The Mysterians site would probably be trying to raise funds to help Rudy Martinez (AKA "?") replace his Michigan home which burned down within the past 2 years or so....and his dogs who also died in the fire. Rudy's main non-music business was raising and breeding Yorkshire Terriers. Several benefit shows have been held for him over the past 2 years. Just saw him & the band in New Orleans (Ponderosa Stomp) this past May....and they sound just like they did 40 years ago!

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peanut8 said:

You people are rude. Don't worry...won't be back. Buy yourself some class.

One of the common mistakes people make when jumping into a new Message Board is starting to post before they understand how things work. Simple things like sticking to a topic, posting in the right place and not asking questions that have been asked a thousand times before are just some of those mistakes.

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hollies65, if you were paying too much attention to the length, I can break it up into chapters for you if you like...however, I'm sure that if you found it too boring to read as a big chunk, you'd find it equally boring broken up into small pieces.

As for Barbara LV, rest assured, "this person" never meant to imply that it was a "badge of honor" to disagree with Eric. My comment about "all heck breaking loose" was meant as a joke. And there's no "self importance" involved. I did feel the need to elaborate on my opinion because of one particular poster who implied that I was being "disrespectful" by expressing it. And yes, that made me wonder: what was meant by "disrespect"? Is it "disrespecting" someone to disagree with his or her opinion? I don't think so. I'm glad you don't either!

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I've read everyone's post about this topic and I have to say that I agree with Trindy. Eric's viewpoint was in no way wrong nor was Trindy's. They each have expressed their opinions and that's what they are... just opinions. To me, there was not any disrespect on either side.

For those of you that have not met Trindy, she is one of the nicest people I've met. I had the pleasure of visiting with her last Dec the day after the show.

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Barbara, I'm still not sure how you draw from what I have said that my comments "don't respect what professionals (in their own respective fields) go through everyday to raise the bar ... to strive for excellence."

I fully respect that professionals do try to raise the bar and strive for excellence. However, I would argue equally that so do many critics. They are not all in it just to throw their weight around and ruin someone's career for the sake of wielding their power, any more than all professional performers are out there just trying to come up with a cheap gimmick to make a buck.

I think my viewpoint encompasses the entire spectrum out there and acknowledges that many performers really lay it on the line and criticism by someone who is just trying to cut them down hurts. (Then again, I think if I were one of them, criticism from someone who was good and sincere and truly meant it would hurt more than criticism from some easily dismissible hack.)

I would agree that when the messenger becomes more important than the message, they both lose their value. But there are messengers who have become important because of the power of their messages. That deserves some respect, too.

In case anyone thought this was too lengthy, I can sum it up in one sentence, too:

"I don't believe all critics can or should be dismissed as egototical hacks, any more than I believe all artists should be dismissed as egotistical hacks--it's too facile a way to dismiss them when, in some cases, they might be telling a painful truth."

Hope this helps.

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"when the messenger becomes more important than the message, they both lose their value"

I believe that is as true of artists as of critics.

As for whether or not one makes judgmental statements in posts, we will be judged not by what we say we do in that department, but by what we actually do. I'll be the first to admit I say judgmental things online--and I'm not ashamed of it either.

Eric's description of how disheartening it can be for an artist to pour his heart into his music and have it be critiqued by "someone who hasn't really stood for anything, doesn't have a background of defining excellence, but is doing a 'job'" made a significant assumption about the critic that I thought was worth addressing. Why assume that the critic "hasn't really stood for anything"? Why assume that the critic "doesn't have a background of defining excellence"? Why assume that the critic is just a failed artist looking to vent his frustrations upon successful or would-be successful artists? While it's comforting to tell oneself that and use it as a justification for discounting a critical opinion, it's not always the case.

So, that was the thought I tossed into the mix...spoken with no disrespect for anyone involved.

To do something creative and to release it to the public is to risk being critiqued, by everyone from serious and thoughtful critics to envious and vengeful hacks. The trick is in knowing the difference, and in having a thick enough skin to be able to deal with the hacks without making your hide so tough that the thoughtful comments don't penetrate. It's got to be a hard balance to find!

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