About At Whit's End

Matthew Deep in Thought My name is Matthew D. Miller. I’ve written about Odyssey before. I enjoy reading and programming. I combined the two passions in BookShrub.

At Whit’s End are my reviews of Adventures in Odyssey episodes. I’m listening to and reviewing the episodes in the order they appear on the Odyssey albums. This is akin to the A.V. Club’s TV Club. I’ve enjoyed watching Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The next Generation along with Zack Handlen. Slate has an article about how the A.V. Club-style episode recaps are changing the landscape of TV criticism.

Now there’s an interesting word. Criticism. What is criticism and how does it differ from reviewing. Film blogger Tim Brayton wrote:

The distinction between reviewing and critiquing a film is a subtle, but easily understood one. A “review” is an evaluative description of a film’s content, aiming to suggest whether it’s worth watching or not. Criticism is not concerned with the merits of a film, but seeks to analyse how it functions; describing that the effect of a film comes about as a result of X or Y, but not claiming that the effect is worthwhile or not.

I hope what I’m doing is more criticism than reviewing. I’m not trying to tell you which episodes of Odyssey are worth your time and which are not. Obviously, I think they’re all worth your time. I’m not only listening through them all myself, I’m taking the time to write an in-depth analysis of each one too.

I’m a Christian. And I’m a writer. A lot of the Christian art I see is poor quality or just doesn’t work. When I see something as high quality as Adventures in Odyssey that works, I want to find out why. That’s the point of these reviews. If you’d like to join me on my adventure through Odyssey, subscribe to the feed to be notified when I post a new review/critique.

Spoiler Policy

It is a maxim in cryptography (I’m probably the only person who would draw an analogy between criticism and cryptography) that secrecy does not equal security. An encryption method is considered secure only if how the method works is public knowledge. In fact, this axiom has been around since at least the 19th century and even has a name, Kerckhoffs’ Principle, which states, “a cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge.”

I would paraphrase this principle for criticism as “a work of fiction (radio drama, movie, book, etc.) should still be interesting even if you know all the major plot twists in advance.” In other words, whether I will enjoy a work of fiction or not should not rely on how much I enjoy and/or am surprised by “the twist.”

Someone should be able to tell me as I walk into the theatre, “Oh, Bruce Willis is dead,” and it shouldn’t effect my enjoyment of The Sixth Sense one iota. If the movie is ruined by knowing Bruce Willis is dead, then I’ve got news for you: The movie was ruined long before “the twist” was spoiled. A movie is not as good as its “twist.” A movie is only as good as its characters, theme, and story. If these are good, they will remain good regardless of whether I’m surprised by “the twist.”

I dislike the word spoiler. It is a facile and juvenile word, a word that—like LOL and whatev—should drop out of one’s vocabulary after you turn eighteen. It implies one is using a review primarily as a consumer guide: Should I spend money on this or not?

As I stated above, I hope what I’m doing is more criticism than reviewing. Criticism presupposes intimate knowledge of plot details. Otherwise, an in-depth analysis would not be possible.

When writing a review, I assume you’ve listened to the episode. Of course, you’re free to read the review without having listened to the episode if you want. I’ve read some reviews where the first several paragraphs are a recap of the plot, and then just a few paragraphs are devoted to analysis. You’ll find no recap in my reviews. I presuppose you’re already familiar with the plot. If you really need a plot summary, that’s what the links to AIO Wiki at the bottom of each review are for.

Spoiler warnings are for wimps. Always expect an in-depth analysis of the plot.