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Stuck In A Rut

Don’t read this without expecting to be unfulfilled at the end.

The whole Facebook palaver has brought the question of whether we should be using social media as much as we are to the forefront and, as much as I hate to be the tired and edgy stereotype of the enlightened adolescent, I can only come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t be. I’ve seen enough “bombshell” viral videos about the effects of social media (and excessive Internet usage in general) to keep an entire colony of knuckle draggers occupied for a fortnight, but it’s not these that persuade me. Rather, it’s common sense.

Privacy issues aside (are recent revelations really that shocking?), it’s the distraction during a heap of work, it’s the shortened reading attention span, it’s the hours per day lost to menial entertainment, not important enough to be stored even in the tiniest crevices of my long-depleted brain. My phone is always there and, especially when stressed, bored, or just generally low, it’s a constant source of at least mild distraction, prolonging whatever problems I have outside of the screen. I’m not the only one with these problems, evidently.

But the problem I’m having is that the internet is just so useful, and social media so well-established. At university, events get announced on Facebook, tickets sold there, important information about college life is published there. Outside of the academic side of things, Messenger is, at least in my world, the number one source of contact for anyone. iMessage is no longer supreme, and instead people will message or call me with Facebook. Everyone has Facebook, so it’s primary.

This piece right here is going to be published online. Simply one of the many uses of the internet. After this, I’ll learn some Russian vocabulary using Memrise, a fantastic site and app which of course requires the internet. I’ll probably listen to music (another irritating addiction I have – that pull my ears has to earphones) on Apple Music which, naturally, uses the internet. It’s just such a convenient and extraordinary thing, yet it’s really damaging to my daily life.

So I’m making some steps. I am writing at the moment on a Pages document (because I am a filthy Mac user) since my laptop is not connected to my WiFi. I intend to, upon finishing it, copy and paste it into WordPress and, huzzah, there my random and inconsequential thoughts will be published online to my wide audience of faithful admirers.

People always say turning off notifications for social media is a good step, but I think the opposite. If a message notification flashes up on your screen, you can determine whether it is useless or not (usually is) and, using willpower, decide to prolong replying or ignoring it until later. If it is urgent, as messages occasionally are, you can respond without anchoring yourself to also checking the rest of your social media feeds.

A lot of avoiding internet distraction comes down to self-discipline, which I like to think I am somewhat good at usually. But I earlier nodded to music addiction. It sounds silly to demean serious addiction by comparing it to just overdoing music, but I seriously have a problem. Something feels off when there’s nothing playing or nobody is talking to me. I also love going from album to album in an artist’s discography or in a genre or period of music. You can’t just listen to one Krautrock album, you have to listen to them all and their influences, and who they influenced, and the band’s live stuff (usually overlong jams). I’ve gone from marathoning Faust to doing the same with Public Image Ltd in just two days, and from here, there’s much more to delve into. It’s a never-ending hobby or distraction or whatever it wants to be called and it’s destroying all my productivity.

Okay so now I’m going to do some studying using the internet and I am not sure how long I will last. Let’s hope for something not soul-destroying.

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Scaruffi’s Worth

I rather like the mischievous critic Piero Scaruffi. He likely would not want to think of himself as conducting in any mischief, but his online infamy and elitist taste for high art has made him a figure of chaos. Your favourite artist? To him they’re probably shit. Or at least very average. Scaruffi is maligned, often respected, and the butt of obscure memes for music fans.

He is most well-known for that Beatles entry into his site in which he calls the respected band overrated and denigrates their popularity.

The fact that so many books still name the Beatles as “the greatest or most significant or most influential” rock band ever only tells you how far rock music still is from becoming a serious art. Jazz critics have long recognized that the greatest jazz musicians of all times are Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, who were not the most famous or richest or best sellers of their times, let alone of all times. Classical critics rank the highly controversial Beethoven over classical musicians who were highly popular in courts around Europe. Rock critics are still blinded by commercial success. The Beatles sold more than anyone else (not true, by the way), therefore they must have been the greatest. Jazz critics grow up listening to a lot of jazz music of the past, classical critics grow up listening to a lot of classical music of the past. Rock critics are often totally ignorant of the rock music of the past, they barely know the best sellers. No wonder they will think that the Beatles did anything worthy of being saved.

Now, I love The Beatles, and I oppose a lot of what Scaruffi says in his piece, which is long and arduous. However, I keep on coming back to it. And whenever I listen to any new album, I admit to having a nosy at his site to see what he has to say about it. Usually it’s not good. Recently I checked out what he had to say about David Bowie and it was rather brutal, to be honest.

My criticism of Scaruffi is that he tends to focus way too much on the experimental and does not like commercial viability. Thus when there are interesting artists, such as Bowie, who take other people’s experimental ideas and apply them to a setting where they can be reached by the masses (in order to create a higher form of pop and popular rock), this is received poorly by Scaruffi. In the case of Bowie, he accused him of watering down truly interesting music and forewarning the death of rock and roll.

But this stance is itself interesting. In a strange way, it’s quite refreshing to be told that musicians you like may not be as good as you think. It makes you evaluate why you like them and formulate your own philosophy on music and what it should be. Scaruffi has his stance, and though many would call it pure contrarianism, I would argue that it is a unique one.

Just looking through his lists of the greatest rock albums of all time, there is so much interesting music here to listen to. There are so many genuinely good albums that are different to those chosen by the likes of the Rolling Stone magazine, and I think people should try to listen to as much as they can of what he has recommended in order to gain a different insight into music.

If we dismiss certain critics purely for difference in opinion, then what is the point of criticism at all?