28 August 2013

Let's Review: All Of The Things

What kind of a blog do I have? I wouldn't really call this blog a review blog. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to come up with an "elevator speech" for it, because really all I do here is ramble on about whatever detritus is rattling around in my head, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Okay, then, it's a personal blog.

Somehow, though, I've ended up on any number of PR lists - either because I've stuck it out here since 2006, or because I've been to BlogHer, um, five times. I trash most of the pitches instantly (though I sometimes daydream about eviscerating the really heinous, useless, misguided products). But once in a while I get offered something that interests me for one reason or another, and within the week, a box lands on the doorstep.

Ooh, what is it this time?

It's a conundrum though. I - by the very fiber of my being - must be honest in my opinions. So, when something turns up that sounds good on paper but turns out to be not to my taste, what do I do? I can choose not to review it. But an absence of critical attention to a product is almost tantamount to an endorsement.

I remember, years ago, having an argument with someone about the Nielsen ratings. It was back in the day when I lived in a tiny apartment, and had a tiny TV with rabbit ears, and once in a blue moon I'd watch David Letterman, through the snow. TV wasn't something I did, or do - it's just not a part of my life. But, I came home one day and found the Nielsen booklet in my mailbox, along with a crisp dollar bill. And when it came time to mail that booklet back, I found that in fact I'd never turned on the TV that week. So I sent it back blank. My co-worker, with whom I then argued, thought it was wrong of me to have returned the booklet, since I hadn't watched anything. But watching nothing is as valid a response as watching everything. Yes?

Not too long ago, a PR firm sent me a sample of some cookies. I wanted to like them: the brand makes other really good cookies, and they contained no untoward ingredients*. But I didn't like them, so I sent an email back to the representative, explaining why I wouldn't write about them on my blog:

1. The package is either too small or too big. It's too big for a lunchbox - in fact, it says the container has four servings in it. Better if it were a single serving container. Better still would be a big box, to pull a snack-sized handful out to be repacked into a ziploc.

2. I love love love (redacted), and I like lots of oatmeal cookies. I didn't really like these - I found them too sweet, rather bland, and under salted.

Should I name names? Just because I think the cookies were kind of boring, and in an idiotically sized package, doesn't mean that you'd agree with me. If I name them, they're getting free publicity (well, free but for the box of cookies they sent me). Don't forget what Oscar Wilde said: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

My local newspaper is the New York Times. In the arts departments, they review dance, musicals, books, movies. Sometimes they rave about something, sometimes they pan, sometimes a review is mixed - the point being that they don't hold their punches. Honest criticism. I may not always agree with them, but I appreciate that not everything will be said to smell like a rose.

What to do, what to do? It's easy to review things that you love. It's fun to review things that you hate. It's good to review things, because it engages your critical faculties. Besides, if you want the world to be a better place, you need to speak the truth. Let's review all the things.

No, I'm not turning this into a review blog. No way, no how. But I think I'll make "Let's Review" into a more regular feature. Anything you want an opinion on?

* Wheat flour, butter (22%), wholegrain oats (22%), sugar, golden syrup (partially inverted sugar syrup), raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, disodium diphosphate), skimmed milk powder, salt.


Ilina said...

I struggle with this too. I don't generally do reviews and am not on many PR lists (perhaps because I say no all the time). I don't get pitched for things I would use or buy so I don't bother with the review. I recently got a big box of organic snacks, right up my alley, but they tasted like puppy chow. I didn't write the review and quietly gave away the unopened packages. I never breathed a word of the brand name and have no reason to.

But beer/wine/spirits reviews? We might be on to something there for 5:00 Fridays...

alejna said...

I definitely enjoy your reviews *because* you are honest about them. (Plus I do enjoy the witty way you write.)

Also, I love that "under salted" was listed among your complaints for the cookies. I love a nice balance of salt with my sweet! I have a friend who bakes and made some really yummy tahini cookies, as well as curry cookies. They were really memorable! Not too sweet, not at all bland, and a nice amount of salt.

MARY G said...

Whatever you write I will read with delight.

Wrath Of Mom said...

I have no good advice. Because I feel conflicted about reviews. On the one hand: I LOVE FREE STUFF. On the other, when I see sponsored posts I don't read them b/c I know they will ALWAYS be positive.


Free things are awesome.

So if someone wants to send me lots of free Star Trek things, I'll write whatever they ask.

Yeah. I'm no help.