Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Head-To-Head in the Comment Thread!

My comments about the Beatles proved to be controversial to one visitor. It all started because I mentioned feeling a little embarrassed when I listen to some of the Beatles' songs on my iPod. Here's the exchange with a couple of comments at the end:

Joe Victor said...
Embarrassed why? Why embarrassed?
9:47 AM, October 03, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
I don't know. With their truly great songs, I don't get that shudder of embarrassment, but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes. It's easy to be a Beatles fanatic and sop up everything they've done, but y'know - anyone can do it. Being a Beatles fan doesn't require a whole lot of work or attention. Their great songs are so accessible that they belie the intricacy and complication that makes them great. Their mediocre songs are just sort of there. And no one really makes an argument against their greatness, but their ubiquity makes it easy not to hear the greatness, and then the Beatles fanatic is just celebrating their ubiquity instead of their cleverness, and I feel a part of that when some of the dreck from the Anthology series pops up. I dunno, I'm having horrible allergies today, so I don't know if I'm explaining myself well.
2:20 PM, October 03, 2008

Anonymous said...
"but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes."

The end of that quote made me throw up a little. You obviously think you are a smart person by the way you talk but yet your stupidity shines through.
10:03 AM, October 07, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
Aw, there's nothing better in Internet culture than anonymous jerks calling you stupid because they lack confidence in themselves. Be sure to drop back by when you grow up a little, sport!
10:41 AM, October 07, 2008

Anonymous said...
I have complete confidence in myself. You are talking shit about people's music tastes in the past, back when there weren't 500 billion bands out and the technology that we have today.It's funny too because we happen to be in the same city so I would think that your mind would be a little more open like the rest of us.
10:23 AM, October 08, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
Hey, that's my confident guy! So confident that you anonymously call me stupid for the terrible crime of having a different opinion than you. And then, to top it all off, you accuse me of not being open-minded. Maybe that plays like confidence in your mind, but to me, it looks like you're being defensive. And, sorry to say, sort of a dick.

But, you know, I actually am interested in the free exchange of ideas, and I'm willing to talk more about why it bothers me when I'm listening to Beatles songs. I don't think I explained it very well, and I have a better idea about it now. And, I mean, this is my blog. I can write whatever the hell I want. But I'm not all that interested in going more into this unless you're willing to have an actual conversation about it. So what'll it be, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous: are you trolling or are you trying to engage me?
11:00 AM, October 08, 2008

Anonymous said...
It's cool, I don't have a google account or whatever, and this is really going nowhere anyway because you refuse to even try to see what I'm trying to say. Yes it's your blog and good luck with everything.
11:09 AM, October 08, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
I refuse to see what you're trying to say? Have you said anything? You call me stupid in the first post and tell me I'm talking shit about people's music tastes in the past in the second, which I admit: I don't know what that means, but I think you're saying that people in the pre-Internet era were huge Beatles fans because it was easy. To which I say: yes, of course. Didn't you see how many Beatles albums I have?

Since you're interested in being an open-minded person, I think you might want to rethink your strategy here. You can be anonymous, fellow, but you're engaging in classic troll behavior: you show up, throw a few bombs, say something enigmatic, and then huff off because you feel your genius is unrecognized. I'm not saying you have to try with me, but as you go to different sites, you might want to consider whether this is the way you want to be on the Internet. There's a lot of people who act this way, but I don't think they're getting much out of their experience.
11:30 AM, October 08, 2008

Anonymous said...
I never post anything, so don't think I "troll around" doing this on sites/blogs. Keep thinking that you yourself have sophisticated tastes and you will stay happy for the rest of your life (apparently).
12:33 PM, October 08, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
Hey, thanks for your concern! I am, in fact, a pretty happy guy.

I honestly hope you enjoy collecting however many Beatles albums you need, and I'm sorry I stung you with that comment about those with less sophisticated tastes. I'm sure your tastes are ultra-sophisticated, and that you get way more out of "Across The Universe" and "Besame Mucho" than I do. I also hope that maybe you find a Beatles appreciation site where everyone can reassure you about your super-sophisticated tastes in music, because we've pretty much hit the end of my compassion for a guy who starts with "I disagree, therefore you're stupid" and doesn't seem to have much more to say than that.

Just for the record, all I was trying to say was that when the Beatles are great, they're unimpeachably great, but when they're just okay, I find it pretty boring. Why I find it boring is personal: I was a Beatles fanatic when I was around 13, way back before there was an Internet. I hunted down everything I could find - which, given my limited resources, meant a lot of interlibrary loan time. I listened to them obsessively for a time, and then I moved on. It's hard for me to hear "Love Me Do" or "Twist and Shout" or even the late, more ambitious (and, less successful, I think) Beatles music without remembering the time I spent trying to figure out how to pick those songs out on a guitar and parse those twisted harmonies, and it all seems vaguely embarrassing to me now. I feel like if you're going to be a fanatic, you should find something that challenges you and expands your horizons, and Beatles fanaticism is so ingrained in American culture that it's as challenging as being a Yankees fan. For the record, I feel exactly the same about Led Zeppelin fanaticism, so if you live in a Led Zep echo chamber and can't stand to hear criticism of their awesomeness, here's your early warning.
1:03 PM, October 08, 2008

Anonymous said...
I don't need my tastes reassured. I didn't call you stupid because I didn't agree with you, I said that it was stupid for someone to basically call other people stupid for liking certain Beatles songs while you yourself like others. It wasn't/isn't necessary for you to look down on others just because they like certain Beatles songs that you don't.
3:57 PM, October 08, 2008

Hayden Childs said...
I haven't called anyone stupid, fellow. You're the only one here doing that.

I said that I don't think Beatles fanaticism is a sign of very sophisticated tastes. If you're suggesting - as I think you are - that I'm an elitist, a snob, a connoisseur, or what-have-you, then yes, you're right. That's what I am. All those words signify the time and effort I've spent trying to increase my knowledge and appreciation - the root of my authority, my expertise - of rock and many other kinds of music. I have a certain set of tastes that I think of as somewhat developed - or sophisticated, even - and you, of course, are free to disagree about my judgment, but you're probably not going to change my mind without giving me some credentials and a great, sea-change kind of argument.

But you also seem to be bristling at the idea that I think your tastes aren't sophisticated, because you feel that they are. I can't speak to that. I don't know you. You may have the tastes that impress me most of anyone in the world for all I know. But I think that's the crux of the disconnect between the two ideas: you give me a certain authority by thinking of me as an elitist whose opinion has meaning and, at the same time, you want to take that authority away because I said that a population that you identify with is "not very sophisticated."

Your real problem with me is that you saw my comment as a dig at you. You think I'm looking down on you for loving everything in the Beatles back-catalog. And man, I don't even know you. I don't think you or anyone like you is stupid, and I don't judge anyone's intrinsic worth by the music they listen to. Do you think less of people who prefer to dine in different restaurants?

Let's say my favorite place to dine is Aquarelle (assuming I had that kind of budget) and yours is Hoboken Pies (to extend this analogy, because everyone loves pizza but not everyone loves French cuisine). I can say that I really, really like several of the specialties at Hoboken Pies. If I'm going to eat pizza, that's what I want. But there's some pizzas they make that are completely unexciting to me now. Maybe I ate too many when I was young. Maybe all those years I spent toiling in kitchens has robbed those flavors of their mystery. I come to the conclusion that people who love those pies - especially if they love them as much as they love Hoboken's more complex pizzas - don't have a very discriminating palate. I think that on the flip side of this analogy, this is where you get offended. And hey, I even apologized for offending you, but man, I'm not going to apologize for thinking that some things are better than others.

Which gets back to that authority crux I was talking about before: my tastes are just my tastes. My judgment has no bearing whatsoever on yours, unless you choose to make it so. I think of my sophisticated/unsophisticated heirarchy as perpendicular to judgments about good and bad. My personal axis is built on challenge and surprise and passion. A lot of Beatles songs, despite thousands of repeat listens, still challenge and surprise me, but there's a whole bunch of Beatles songs that just sound bland and Music 101 to my ears. You hear it differently.

If anything, people with tastes like mine are willfully cutting ourselves off from a lot of music that brings joy to the masses of music listeners. Where I hear saccharine, many - if not most - people hear the voice of god. Or whatever it is that people seek out of music.

So, what are you looking for? Do you need to hear that I'm not judging your tastes? 'Cause I am. But so what? You're judging my tastes, too. Do you need to hear that I don't think your Beatles fantaticism is unsophisticated? Well, I do. I still think it's the musical equivalent of supporting the Yankees. Or choosing pizza over other foods. Or some other analogy involving picking the dominant overdog. I don't think it's very interesting to affirm the greatness of something that conventional wisdom already believes to be great. I don't think it makes you stupid to do so. It just means I'm not very likely to ask you for a CD mix because I don't think I will like it.

Since I spent so much time on this response, I'm going to copy a lot of this stuff onto the main page as a blog post of its own. One last thought: you should read Carl Wilson's 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion. Seriously. I think you'll find his discussion of music taste and the assumptions that go into it to be enlightening.
5:42 PM, October 08, 2008


A few thoughts: I assumed Anonymous was a mindless troll after his first comment and was more of an ass than I should have been with him at first. I no longer think of Anonymous that way, but I do wonder what he's looking for out of me, if not affirmation that his all-inclusive love for the Beatles trumps my less-inclusive love for the Beatles. He ain't getting that. So, a hug, perhaps?

UPDATE, 8/9:

In comments, our Anonymous friend says that he's not the Beatles fan I assumed he was (because if he wasn't personally offended and he wasn't trolling, then his reason for dropping by and calling me names is...? I have no idea) and then goes on to ask why I wouldn't want a mix tape from him (here's a hint: I only want mix CDs from people who are interesting). So I was arguing with a straw man, which I sort of suspected, anyway. I think this the towel thrown in, fork stuck in ass, and fat lady singing moment. On my iPod at this moment: Kris Kristofferson singing, "It's over; nobody wins." Truer words.


Anonymous 8:22 PM, October 08, 2008  

"It just means I'm not very likely to ask you for a CD mix because I don't think I will like it."
You have no idea who I am, and you have no idea what songs I would include on a mix, why would you make a comment like that?

Joe Victor 11:55 PM, October 08, 2008  

Good lord. If I had known it would lead to this...

Anonymous 9:42 PM, October 09, 2008  

I was going to make my comment(s) either way, so you didn't start it at all.

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