• Letter From Nutopia

    From curtissdubois@gmail.com@21:1/5 to Bob Stahley on Tue Jul 13 16:40:45 2021
    On Friday, June 16, 2000 at 3:00:00 AM UTC-4, Bob Stahley wrote:
    Review of Review:
    "Sergeant Peppers LHCB: A review"
    "FirstWheel" <mar...@mindspring.com>
    Though present-day historians are divided on the matter, many who lived through the Swinging Sixties view it as a decade of change, a time when the newly-labeled youth culture came into its own and began tearing down the traditional ideals and mores of the Old Establishment, attempting to replace them with their own system of values and aesthetics. It was a time when across the country and around the world "new" thought replaced "old," even
    if the "new" ethos of the youth rebellion was merely a retread of the bohemian and transcendental movements of the nineteenth century. It was a time when those engaged in cultural radicalism truly believed that we were "changing the world for the better."
    But the ideological excesses of the seventies and, especially, the narcissistic eighties, justly labeled the "me" decade, seemed to put the lie to the idealism that, like patchouli incense and black lights, seems to pervade our cultural memory of the sixties. For a while, at least, the sixties values of spirituality over materialism and ethics over the mindless pursuit of the "bottom line" fell into disrepute while, as if in a final grand swan-song, the old aristocracy attempted to reassert itself even in
    the face of an increasingly powerful underclass.
    The "Baby Boomer" generation, however, is, if nothing else, resilient, and, as David Brooks has observed, has a particular knack to reconcile seeming opposites. Though it's still too early to claim victory, as the radicalized educated elite takes its rightful place at the top of the meritocracy, we're again beginning to see idealism becoming valued rather than ridiculed. Altruism and philanthropy have become necessary characteristics to maintain one's position of power in the New Elite. Those who continue to practice
    the old excesses and narcissism of the eighties and early nineties are doomed. Donald Trump and Michael Milken are out, Deepak Chopra and Gary
    Zukov are in, the "power drink" of choice isn't Chevas Regal but Starbuck's French Roast, and the business model of choice isn't Drexel Burnham but Amazon.com.
    But there are still a few bastions of narcissism about. It turns out that
    the "me decade" is still alive and well on the Internet. Gates' vision of a "computer on every desktop" has resulted not in the utopian ideal of the
    free exchange of information but, rather, the acceptance of the "vanity press" as the standard of information broadcasting in the twenty-first century. The Xerox machine may have Everyman a publisher, but the World
    Wide Web has made Everyman a mass communications mogul. Matt Drudge has supplanted Edward Murrow as the icon of "fair and objective journalism." USENET is, in fact, practically run by narcissists. Newsgroup after
    newsgroup is filled with the ravings of those who evidently believe that their thoughts and opinions in minute detail are all so extraordinarily remarkable that they deserve to be published for all the world to see. There's even a web site (Deja.com) where one's pithy musings about, say, one's feeling about one's pet ferret are displayed permanently for, I suppose, one's descendents. As if they would care, much less total
    strangers who would actually bother to seek out someone's crudely expressed reflections about his or her hairstyle or bodily emissions.
    These self-involved littérateurs seem oblivious to the fact that they're
    for all intents and purposes engaged in what's euphemistically called "one-handed typing." Night after night they produce megabytes of self-centered twaddle to be read only by other egocentrics. Much of it is undiluted self-adulation, typically taking the form of insults heaped upon one's fellow members of an increasingly insular self-admiration society.
    But the majority of the blather that chokes the pipelines of what was originally designed for the publication of scientific and academic
    research is endless accounts of "I think, I feel, I this, I that, I, I, I, I." Eye, yiy, yiy, indeed.
    No article more exemplifies the rampant narcissism of USENET than the
    example at hand, a so-called "review" of, ironically enough, an artifact of the sixties that virtually epitomized the sprit of the times, the Beatles'
    LP _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_, self-published in the USENET newsgroup rec.music.beatles, supposedly an area of cyberspace where fans of that sixties pop group gather to discuss that band's music, history and personalities, but in practice is a place where people seem to mostly talk about themselves.
    The review, by a three-year regular of this venue, begins with suitable reverence to the group and music itself, hyperbolically proclaiming the LP under review to be "probably the greatest work of artistry in human
    history." A strong claim, to be sure, but as one reads on, it becomes increasing clear that the author is so besotted with himself that there simply doesn't seem to be room in his awareness for trifles like art
    history, much less an ability to compare one work of art to another.
    For that matter, his ego seems to crowd out any knowledge of the Beatles themselves as well. For someone who for three years has supposedly been
    in the "virtual presence" of other and, one can only hope, more
    knowledgeable Beatles fans, he seem to know surprisingly little about the band. What few actual facts about the LP and the group he offers are for
    the most part wrong, from his assertion that "the fold out cover, for one thing" has "never been done before" (the UK's _Beatles For Sale_ sported a gatefold cover, as did the US's _Help!_) to the inability to correctly
    spell the Beatles' US record label (he does so twice in the article;
    charity prompts me to assume that the misspelling of their UK label is a typo, since he misspells it only one). There is so much misinformation in this article, in fact, that one is surprised that he actually got the
    songs right.
    Actual facts, tho, are few and far between. Instead, we are favored with
    one unsupported opinion after the other. "Day In The Life is an awesome tune," he proclaims. Why? "Intangibles," he pontificates. "There is
    really nothing I can put my finger on specifically."
    This, then, is the theme. It's good because it's good. John's singing is "wonderful," Paul's bass playing is "fantastic." Superlatives heaped upon superlatives. Hey, it's a Beatles' newsgroup: no surprises here.
    But are we offered any kind of insight into the creation of this "musical achievement" that might expand a causal fan's knowledge and understanding? Well, we are offered this nugget of "wisdom:" "It is truly doubtful that
    this will ever be surpassed, or even fully appreciated." Whatever that
    means. But otherwise, no. What we're treated to is paragraph after
    paragraph of "I like this, this is good, this is beautiful, John is wonderful, Paul is fantastic, George is superb and Ringo, he's nice, too." Historical perspective? Not a bit of it. Musical analysis? What little
    there is is so simplistic as to be patently obvious to even the totally untrained listener. "When I'm 64," for example, is described as having "a
    bit of a nostalgic feel." The deepest we come to any sort of analysis of
    the music itself is a passing mention of "Ringo's little fill" in "A Little Help From My Friends."
    Even those opinions that can be quantified turn out to be contrary to conventional knowledge. The point is made that "the only big leap musically is Paul's bass, IMO. Where he was playing around with the ideas earlier, he is now asserting bass lines as an equally important piece of the music as
    the lead guitar." Most Beatles musicologists point to _Revolver_ as the LP upon which Paul's unique melodic bass style first manifested. And to
    declare "Within You Without You" to be a "nice way to introduce foreign musical ideas to the general public" seems to display a total ignorance of "Love You To" and "Norwegian Wood." Even before SPLHCB's release, other pop groups were offering Eastern-influenced musical examples to the masses.
    Even the declaration that _Pepper's_ is "the greatest album in musical history" is contradicted by most Beatles authorities themselves, who point
    to _Revolver_ as the group's finest moment.
    But, hey, everyone's allowed an opinion, right? And in the final analysis, mar...@mindspring.com certainly has an opinion about the Beatles and about their LP _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_. He makes it inelegantly, but he certainly does make it.
    Clearly, he likes it. A lot. A whole lot. He literally tells us it's to
    die for. By his own admission, he "could go on, for days" about it. Why he likes it, though, he really can't say. "It just is," he says. But, boy, he sure does like it.
    Such an opinion from a self-professed Beatles fan! Stop the presses!
    Who'd'a thunk!
    Our self-involved critic might think there are "no right answers," but after almost two thousand words signifying, literally, nothing (that's, by the
    way, a reference to a work of art that our critic evidently believe pales in comparison to "Lovely Rita Meter Maid"), one is left with a single question: What the hell was the point of this exercise?
    Sorry, "FirstWheel" (fitting choice of pseudonym there; reeking with smug self-importance yet vaguely Neanderthal), but there is actually a "right answer:" Self-aggrandizement, plain and simple. Self-indulgent,
    self-serving egotism. Narcissism.
    There were no insights offered. No meaningful musical analyses. No
    historical perspectives. Not even an interesting anecdote about the
    creation of the work. Yes, there are a few references to some real information, an off-the-cuff mention of Hunter Davies' book and vague allusions to the Kite poster and Kellogg's Corn Flakes, but they're clearly mentioned only as afterthoughts. Heck, the music itself is mentioned only
    as an afterthought. The music, after all, isn't the point of the piece.
    The LP isn't the main theme of the review. No, it's the critic himself and his almighty opinion that's being self-adored here. It's "I think, I feel,
    I this, I that, I, I, I, I, I."
    But perhaps there's at least a redeeming value in the writing itself,
    right? Well, yes, our knuckle-dragging commentator did, in most cases,
    write in generally coherent sentences, which actually does put him a leg
    up in comparison to others of his kind. He even tried to tie the piece together thematically with a hackneyed gimmick having to do with colors; a bizarre choice given that he's reviewing a sound recording. Evidently,
    every single song on the LP reminds him of the color blue (for some reason this device left me with the disquieting image of a troubled adolescent listening to the LP over and over again in the dark). What with the
    monotony of everything else in this review (evidently stuck for
    superlatives the word "wonderful" is used half a dozen times), by the time one got to the "pastel blue" description of "A Day In The Life" (the very same choice, mind you, as for "She's Leaving Home") the utter banality of
    it all was pitiably hilarious.
    Almost two thousand words that can easily be summed up in three words: "I love me." Untold numbers of megabytes used up world-wide in computers
    around the planet world-wide just to say "look at me, look at me, look at
    me, LOOK AT ME!!" With the possible exception of last year's _Avengers_ movie, can there be a greater waste of resources on the planet?
    Sadly, such indulgences aren't out of the ordinary. As said at the
    outset, USENET is the preferred playground of the narcissist, the primary outlet for the "connected" new millenium egotist. One needn't muck about
    with soapboxes and street corners. Today's Self Proclaimed Messiah can
    say nothing at the top of his lungs to the entire planet without ever
    leaving the comfort of his room. And if he or she has enough time on
    his or her hands, can be heard by almost as many people as would pass
    while standing alongside the gutter.
    And have almost as much effect.
    The true irony, of course, is our self-absorbed mirror-hugger's choice of review material. The Beatles' _Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band_ is
    most fondly remembered by the Baby Boomer generation as the soundtrack of
    the so-called "Summer Of Love." It was a time of growing spirituality and "consciousness raising." A time of sharing, or reaching out, of communal love. A time, in fact, summed up in the lyrics of George Harrison's contribution, "Within You Without You," a song that, not surprisingly, seems to be to our narcissistic reviewer the low point of the LP, garnering merely a "nice." Obviously, the lyrics are utterly incomprehensible to him.
    To use this LP, so beloved by those who actually did try, however
    misguided they may have been, to make this world a better, more loving
    place, as a vehicle for such arrogant conceit is a cruel insult to the
    album, its message of love and, especially, to the generation that really
    did believe it could "change the world."
    The Beatles would have been appalled.

    Next up: The Marjorie Main Minstrel Show!

    Bibliography/Suggested Reading:
    Brooks, David; _Bobos In Paradise_; Simon & Schuster; 2000
    Moore, Thomas; _Care Of The Soul_; HarperCollins; 1992
    Gladwell, Malcolm; _The Tipping Point_; Little Brown and Company; 2000
    __ __
    _) _) bo...@primenet.com
    __)__) 'Tosa, Witzend Why is a raven like a writing-desk?


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