critical thinking

Posted: July 20, 2011 in Arts
Tags: , , , , ,

For a while back in University I considered pursuing a career as a cultural critic of some sort. I joined the student newspaper and began reviewing movies and music, throwing in an occasional sports piece for variety. Gradually, I moved away from film criticism and stuck with music. After all, as much as I enjoyed movies, I loved music even more. I took pride in my awareness of what was going on in those places the music scene was exploding, the seedy nightclubs of London, New York and Los Angeles. The fact I never went to those clubs was beside the point. I was on the edge, a music hipster dressed in hippie clothing. Dimly lit, cramped fire traps couldn’t further enlighten me. I was complete; I simply knew.

To alleviate the small problem of not being located where the music was actually happening I relentlessly listened to the radio. When I heard something new which sounded remotely interesting I raced out and spent the little cash in my pocket in order to own it. I devoured music publications instead of studying Botany. I was determined to right the wrong thinking which surrounded me. People needed to be educated about what they should (and shouldn’t) listen to. I was bursting with that signature mark of youth – righteous blind ignorance.

When I read reviews written by fellow students with which I disagreed I formed quick, ugly opinions of not only their taste, but their entire life. “How can he like that trite, derivative crap? Clearly, he lives in a squalid apartment with an empty refrigerator, has no friends, only showers every other Tuesday, and believes the Big Mac is the height of haute cuisine.” (Since I don’t say haute cuisine nowadays I’m certain I didn’t when in college. Especially given the fact I basically lived at Taco Bell. But you get my drift.)

Filled with a newfound voice it never occurred to me that, perhaps, my worldview wasn’t all that encompassing. Perhaps my prejudices affected my opinions. Perhaps my tastes were skewed in a certain, narrow direction. Perhaps I wasn’t as culturally open-minded as I imagined. Perhaps the fact I had no musical background and no personal experience creating music undermined my credibility. And it never occurred to me that, perhaps, I too was open to criticism. When negative feedback to things I had written got back to me…well, I didn’t like it. I bristled at the idea other people took exception to my thoughts, my words, my creation. Who were they to pass judgment? What were they contributing to the creative realm?

Funny how the critic didn’t like being criticized.

When this basic hypocrisy hit me like a slam dancer on amphetamines I suddenly felt like a fraud, a poser. I knew then my brief dream of one day making a living by passing judgment on the creative works of others was over. It was a decision I’ve never regretted.

Having said that…

A couple of days ago Styx re-released a compilation of some of their more nauseous conceptions. A Greatest Missteps, if you will. If someone was looking for a modern day illustration of the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse, surely this event sits right near the top of the list.

What heinous crimes were committed that we must suffer through this mind-numbing aural Armageddon as some sort of sadistic retribution yet again? Has society wandered so far afield of common sense and basic human dignity that this atrocity was necessary? I don’t know, but maybe (just maybe) it serves a higher purpose. Maybe it will be the clarion call which prevents the reemergence of any form of “progressive” rock. More importantly, let’s hope it squashes any pretensions of a Styx reunion tour. Haven’t we suffered enough?

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