Several years after we moved to the U.S., we found our friend F. who we knew back in our student days. He emigrated about 8 years before we did, and we lost each other. So it was great to re-connect. But since we settled down on the opposite coasts, we visited each other several times over the years, but mostly our communications were over the phone.
Most conversations with F. revolved around the topics of trips and theater attendance – mostly F.’s since my vSO and I, being new immigrants, weren’t traveling or going to theaters much. We would also talk about books and movies, and there we probably still had a lot in common, though sometimes during those calls I had that strange feeling as if I was being quizzed on how interesting our life was. Most likely, it was all in my head and F. was sincere in his attempts to share with us cultural experiences and impressions but I do remember the feeling and my limp attempts to keep up. And then one day F. told me about a wonderful new film they’d just seen: a very unusual, avant-garde and so forth…
Today I don’t have much patience to waste time on something I dislike, if I can help it. But 17 years ago I patiently sat through the complete 81 minutes of The Blair Witch Project, going through the stages of confusion, disbelief, annoyance, anger and – did I mention disbelief? I couldn’t believe F. actually liked that and recommended it to us! And he wasn’t the only one who raved about it: there were enough high ratings and favorable reviews and articles online. It was beyond my comprehension… And then something clicked: I knew what it was!
AT THE COURT HOUSE!
FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental Theatres,
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING’S CAMELEOPARD,
THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED
I’m not sure if you were as impressionable as I was when I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to remember what that handbill was about, but I was so captivated by the psychological component of the scam that it stayed in my memory for decades.
In short, a couple of scoundrels announce that performance in a small town. First night, when it proves to be not much of a performance, the audience figures out that, in addition to losing money, they will be ridiculed by their peers. So instead of beating up the con artists right there and then, the first half of the town goes out and tells the second half how hilarious the play was. Then the rest of the town’s population pays for the same questionable experience. So the third night the whole town comes to the performance anticipating the revenge and armed with things to throw. But the con men disappear right after collecting the entrance fee.
My theory is that with The Blair Witch Project it just took too long for the “whole town” to watch it, so meanwhile the “first half” had time to cool down.
Recently, after reading Mals’ (Muse in Wooden Shoes) review of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse, I started thinking that for the last couple of years I was participating in another adaptation of The Royal Nonesuch. And while it’s definitely not on the TBWP’s scale, I would say that it covers a population of at least several Twain’s towns.
Mals was the first blogger (out of those whose blogs I read) who openly described how awful her experience with Chypre Mousse perfume was. Until then I read only positive reviews and I paid my “admission fee” (I got a 5 ml decant in a friendly split). The first test was such a shock! I actually hated the scent but suffered through the development hoping it would get better – it didn’t. Then it took me some time to get around testing it once again – the same result but that time I quickly retreated to the shower.
I do not plan to ever test Chypre Mousse again and, just in case, I will probably stay away from the brand altogether. But for some strange reason not only I didn’t write about that experience in my blog, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on any discussion of this perfume. I call it strange because I don’t have any loyalty towards this brand, I didn’t get it as a gift from somebody’s deeply loved bottle and it’s not even a small indie company, which I would be afraid to harm by saying something negative. Of course, it means I wasn’t saying anything good about it either so analogy isn’t complete but still I feel like with my silence I helped propagating the illusion of the consensus about this perfume being great, and one day we may end up in the “third night” crowd, as it was described through the eyes (nose?) of Huckleberry Finn:
I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging or something muffled up under his coat – and I see it warn’t no perfumery, neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things; and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in.
Now, when I feel that I’ve done everything I could to warn “the rest of the town”, I do not mind hearing how great Chypre Mousse works on your skin. Does it?