Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Regrets and Apologies

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a post* on this blog that offered savage reviews of the video output of one Amir Blumenfeld. Amir was a student in the Squelch De-Cal class I taught with Sean Keane who had gone on to contribute to College Humor. Naturally, Amir and his associates eventually saw the post, and Amir was reportedly "surprised and slightly hurt." His friend Jakob Lodwick offered the following comment:

Kenny, please know that a movie that YOU find unfunny is much better than a blog entry that PRACTICALLY NOBODY will ever read.


For reasons I'll get to in a moment, I've been meaning to revisit this issue at some point. But someone beat me to it. Recently, I was mortified to discover that the issue had resurfaced in another blog that referenced my post and cited the above comment. This blogger deemed Jakob's response "Awesome."

I think "Awesome" is perhaps overstating it. Richly deserved? Absolutely. Admirably succinct? Also true. But the sentiment of Jakob's response is pretty standard when it comes to anyone whose work is attacked by arrogant bloggers. The person creating something that people actually see and enjoy always trumps the cranky blogger with an audience of few. Indeed, when I was a Squelch editor and blogs were something new and even more inconsequential, I once wrote a response nearly identical in sentiment to a blogger who dared impugn the latest issue of the Squelch. It's ironic, then, that a scant couple of years later, denied the bully pulpit of a print magazine, I myself turned to attacking others from the flimsy perch of an obscure corner of the blogosphere. I don't have a real good reason. I was mad with the power of a newly-minted blogger flexing his strength. I thought I was being fair and constructive (my post did, in fact, include mentions of a couple of videos I thought were sorta okay). Like many people, I also reveled in being as mean as possible to people I didn't have to look in the eye.

Basically I was being an asshole and I'm sorry for it now. It was cool of Jakob to come to his friend's defense, and even classier of Amir to ignore my attack completely. In fact, it is Amir's response, not Jakob's, that I would call "Awesome."

The saying goes that "Living well is the best revenge." And--not that I had anything to do with it--Amir has gone on from his slapdash early videos to create videos for College Humor that are not only wildly popular, but actually, genuinely good. His series of "prank war" videos with co-worker Streeter are ambitious and brilliant in conception (in an odd crossover event, watch for my own video partner Mike in the Human Giant prank video). Amir's current series, Jake and Amir, is in my opinion the finest web series on the internet. It's got a rich, very specific character dynamic, a fast pace that never wastes your time, and most importantly, hilarious and consistent comedy. Even more frustrating, they make it look easy. Once you watch a few episodes and learn its groove, it's addictive. It is, I think, the model of what a web sitcom should be.

Revenge doesn't get more "awesome" than doing work so good that it forces your detractors to admire you. Indeed, enjoying Jake and Amir on a regular basis only deepens my shame at attacking Amir's videos way back when. I haven't re-watched his old videos, and I don't expect I would enjoy them even now. There was likely a basic difference in Amir's personality and sensibility that is probably why he disliked the Squelch while he was at Berkeley. But I have to admit that there was more to his old videos than I allowed at the time. They were slapdash, yes, but what I read as smugness was a sense of joy that continues to add a spark to Amir's videos today, and what I saw as sloppiness was a freewheeling willingness to try anything that has served Amir well. What I didn't see was that there was good in those experimental videos, and they were leading to something better.

Back then, part of my venom may have been jealousy. I admitted in the original post that I was envious of the attention he was getting, but on an even more basic level, I think I envied the fact that he had the resources to make videos at all, which I did not. Nowadays, I'm just envious that my videos aren't as good.**

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*I'd link to my post, except that I've decided to delete it entirely. Sure, maybe you can find it through the magic of Google cache, but I feel no responsibility to preserve something myself that I now see as a source of embarrassment. The post itself is not only mean but cringingly unfunny.

**Still, I beat Amir to this premise by several months. Amir's version is eerily similar and possibly funnier, but at least I got there first, right?

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