Being a bit clueless about cool new things, I’ve only yesterday heard about Library Thing, which is an online database of your books. I’ve only added a couple of shelves from home and my two shelves of history and public policy books from work to my online library, but I sorta love this chance to put my taste and refinement (or lack thereof) on display. I’m not an extrovert, but I am inordinately proud of the things I like. The books and CDs and movies I love and the songs I’ve written and the little articles I’ve published here and there are all little lights of mine, and I’m going to let them shine. Self-indulgence, thy name is me.
My position is a little naive, to be sure, but I believe that if you are a person interested in the arts, your aesthetic preferences indicate something about your character and your humanity. This isn’t a blanket truth; the best point of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity is that there are many wonderful people out there who are utterly unconcerned with the value of art. Their choices of, say, Celine Dion or John Grisham say very little about their character and humanity. However, if you found out that a rock critic, someone who has essentially appointed himself or herself as a public philosopher of aesthetics, thinks that all guitar solos, and in fact, all extended pieces of music by rock bands, are masturbatory and pretentious, shouldn’t this ear-blindness call this person’s viewpoint into question? I’m willing to cut Noel Murray some slack, because although he’s overly concerned with how his opinions fit in with critical hegemony, he’s willing to point out that his tastes change and that he’s willing to try to appreciate music that may be outside of his comfort zone. Kyle Ryan, however, comes across as a bit of a douche, lumping any instrumental music with a long running time together, as if Can = The Grateful Dead = Tortoise = Funkadelic = Rhys Chatham = Sleep = Sonic Youth. Although I’d guess that he’d claim that his aesthetics are formed in punk (which may be true), he took the most conservative (and worst possible) lesson from punk. Punk bands had a lot of different flavors. They weren’t all the Ramones, and they didn’t all hate prog-rock. Many of the first- and second-wave punk bands were art-bands, as likely to find influence in King Crimson as in the Stooges. Any music critic for a ‘zine with a national footprint ought to know his history well enough to know that.