1.29.2004

a little bit tweaked

Usually, I try not to take the time to defend myself when people disagree with things I say. That isn't my deal, isn't what I try to do; I've never claimed that my views are The Way It Is, only offering them up for people to consider. I'm the agent provocateur, trying to get the dialogue going.

Like any critic, I am the Observer, and I hope that my observations are getting more keen… but I have no doubt that my views aren't necessarily representative of the grand scheme; rather, I try to give one honest, individualized point of view, whether or not it's popular or right.

I mean, face it -- I'm a regular guy. I'm NOT an academic, I'm NOT a professional, I'm NOT a paid critic. But to me, the ability and the willingness to present honest and informed opinion lies at the heart of criticism. When it all boils down, I could give two farts about actual critical theory, no matter which school we're discussing, no matter what application may be used. They're all just tools to be used to present a particular viewpoint.

So yeah, I play the part of observer.

Sometimes, though, I get tired of hearing from the people that are demanding answers to every problem and observation that I've presented. For some reason, I'm apparently supposed to map out an action plan for everyone within the genre, to outline step by step the way to 'fix' the problems that I've presented.

Why is that?

I mean, this isn't some process management seminar. I'm not here to solve everything. I'm not here to say "Plug your Widget A into Slot B, and you will find yourself with a fully-functional viral marketing scheme!". That isn't the point.

To me, it smacks of laziness on the part of the readers. An inability or an unwillingness to take what I've said, filter it through their own observations, and use what they get out of it. If I point to Asimov's and say "Your presentation sucks, your paper stock is too cheap, and your design sense is outright disturbing", what makes it my responsibility to solve those problems? What would satisfy? Am I supposed to put together a relaunch strategy for the magazines? Do you need me to be the lovecat, and put people in touch with designers and printers and marketers? Do you need me to point you to Seth Godin or something?

So yeah, I get a little tweaked that I'm criticized for not offering solutions. YOU COME UP WITH THE SOLUTIONS THAT WORK FOR YOU, by god. That's your job. If you want me to do it for you, you'll have to pay me.

On the other hand, I get thoroughly disappointed by the reactivity and inactivity. Whatever happened to taking chances? What ever happened to being bold and risking failure, just for the thrill of doing something different?

Let me tell you a little story. Yesterday, a woman came into the Caribou Coffee where I'm doing my store manager training. She was carrying a Starbucks travel mug, which kind of bothered me. So what did I do? Did I bemoan the fact that she was clearly frequenting Starbucks instead of my store? Hell no. Instead, I offered to trade her travel mug for a Caribou mug… and she gave it up with her blessing. So I threw in half a pound of coffee for her willingness.

That's being outrageous. That's taking chances. I could have offended her, but instead ended up giving her a memorable experience while going above and beyond her expectations. She'll come to Caribou for the rest of her life now, and every time she'll remember the dude with the spiky hair that stole her Starbucks mug. And she'll be just like the women that come to my store because they know I make the best damn cappuccino they've ever had -- she'll be loyal.

That's the lesson I'm trying to share with the SFF community. Nothing more, nothing less.

And if you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY think that I can give you solutions, feel free to email me at gabe_chouinard@yahoo.com. I'm a lovecat. I'll share.




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