Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stay Yourself by Andy Scheer

It’s okay not to fit the mold.

I don’t usually try to be different. But often when I see where the crowd’s going, I find more attractive choices.

The day after the Super Bowl when Facebook blazed with accusations about the halftime program, I had little to say. I’d never heard of two of the performers, and had never knowingly listened to the third. One glance at their costumes convinced me I should devote my attention elsewhere. So I sliced a piece of homemade raspberry-rhubarb pie and concentrated on not spilling a single crumb.

Today while working on an editorial project, I kept myself on task by playing 1940s recordings by Count Basie and Glenn Miller. Yesterday, it was symphonies by Felix Mendelssohn and piano solos by jazz pianist Art Tatum.

Why? I like the music. Over decades of browsing garage sales, I’ve accumulated a massive LP collection that includes classical, old jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, pop hits of the 1960s and ’70s, and others that fit into what my children called “Dad’s weird music.”

It’s the same with my books. I’m always on the lookout for authors whose approach fits my quirky tastes. Sometimes I’ll be charmed by a bestselling author, but more often the volumes that line my shelves come from niche publishers. Will I try someone new? Absolutely! But most often when a title jumps out at me or I get a recommendation from a real friend.

As for the “if you liked this, you’ll love that” computer recommendations, I’m not convinced. Ten minutes ago, ebay sent me an email labeled “our top picks for you.” Of the four musical “top picks,” one was by a singer whose name I first saw two months ago. The second was by a deceased pop artist I despise. A third was by an old group barely on my radar. And the last was by someone completely unknown.

How ebay made its conclusions, I’ll never guess. The only music I’ve bought via online auction in the past year was by traditional jazz groups. (Anybody else like the New Black Eagles or the Firehouse Five Plus Two?)

Am I bothered that I seldom find my kind of music on commercial radio or books I like on the bestseller lists? Not really. I’m thankful the Internet can help create community and make otherwise obscure work accessible. As a consumer in this new, golden age of easy media access, I find that it’s easier to stay myself.

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