I just read an article about this guy Reinhold Mack. Here’s a guy who produced or engineered over 100 million records and you’ve likely never heard of him. Led Zeppelin, ELO, Queen for openers. Amazing. I’d never heard of him. But his credits are as long as yer arm. It was so refreshing to hear about this guy, I mean.. it was like a tonic. I mean, check out his wikipedia page. Have you ever in your life seen a guy with that many credits with such a Spartan page? It’s insane.
So the first question the interviewer asks him is “Why don’t people know who you are?” And the guy answers with something like, “Oh I just prefer to let the work speak for itself. I’m not a big one for self-promotion.” And I knew just how he felt. People ask me all the time why I’m such a lame-ass about marketing. Talking up ‘the brand’ and bringing up past credits from thirty (is it really thirty?) years ago. But something just stops me every time. Reinhold’s view feels right to me. Especially in today’s climate where everything seems to be about blood, sweat, tears… and above all? VOLUME.
These days, it seems like too many people use bluster and emotion to establish their bona fides. The new Speaker Of The House here in America cries at the drop of a hat and I guess that shows his deep feeling for… er… whatever he feels deeply about. Glenn Beck? When I watch that guy wailin’ away he strikes as being just like the old testament Pharisee my man Jesus was talkin’ about. Moaning and throwing about the sackcloth and ashes as if those histrionics provided any proof of whatever he’s talking about. It’s as if people have watched so many late night tele-evangelists over the years that they have started to accept this sort of behaviour as normative. (The oratorical version of ‘Kickass’.)
My point is that it seems like we’re reaching a stage where the volume seems to indicate ‘sincerity’. How much one cries. Or pounds one’s fists.
Near the end of the Roman Republic, Cicero, that greatest of orators, bemoaned all the ‘tearful performances’ he had made in order to win his cases. He recognised—too late to save both his own life and that of the Republic he truly loved, how much his theatrics had contributed to the downfall of Rome. The stoicism that had made Rome great had been undone by appealing to the lowest visceral parts of our nature. He was kind of a chickenshit during his life, but when the end came, legend has it that he took it like a man. To his killers as he offered his throat:
There is nothing proper in what you are doing, but at least do it properly.”
So maybe he learned his lesson.
But it’s not all negative. The positive side of life is just as hyperbolic and meaningless. The words ‘fantastic’, ‘awesome’, ‘totally’ and, well… ‘totally awesome’ are now rendered complete rubbish. I have absolutely no idea what to expect when these words are used to describe anything anymore. I used to think they were just the province of youth (as in, ‘that was totally awesome, dude’) but sadly, they have been absorbed into the normal flow of speech by even conservative soccer moms. (Why the hell can’t conservatives stick with the good parts of conservativism? You know, the language of Bill Safire and George Will. I much preffered that line of elegant wordsmith bullshit to the current Mama Grizzly crap that has neither beauty nor elegance; just claws.)
My dad used to love to taunt me with the following, ‘Look, I know I’m intolerant. But if you can’t tolerate me what does that say about you?
All logical inconsistencies aside, it brings me back to the whole Glenn Beck thing. All that visceral crap has started to get to me. So what is the proper response to that sort of bloviation? When is it OK to fight fire-breathing rhetoric with fire-breathing rhetoric? Or does one have to simply let it slide off in a dignified and off-handed ‘British’ sort of way.
My grandparents can start spinning in their graves now, but I’ve reached a point, where I say, ‘Give me some of that good ol’ Brit stiff upper lip. Quiet resolve. Dignified understatement. And all that sort of thing.’
My fervent wish for the next decade (the ten’s?) That it should be remembered as “the decade of boringly competent people who just got on with it without a lot of whinging.”
OK, maybe that is a bit windy. But at least I’m saying it WITHOUT SHOUTING.