Friday, September 26, 2008

Why I hate people who hate John Mayer

First of all, I don't actually hate people who hate John Mayer. So why am I writing this article in the first place?

Well, there are certain people who seem to polarize the masses; folks either love 'em or hate 'em. Hillary Clinton, for one. Steve Jobs, for another. Oddly enough, John Mayer seems to be another such divisive force in today's popular culture. In case you don't know who he is, Mayer is a musician. Most people who hate him will tell you that he's a pop singer. In reality, he's a guitarist and songwriter, who also sings.

More than that, he's a good songwriter, and a damned good guitarist. We're talking Stevie Ray Vaughn good. Anyone who claims he "sucks" either has never really heard him play or (more likely) simply can't recognize musical proficiency. I can safely bet they've never heard of the John Mayer Trio, much less heard or seen them play. No one who knows good guitar playing and who's heard him play The Wind Cries Mary can claim that he "sucks". (Note for anyone interested: I found a YouTube video of his playing TWCM; the audio's great, but the video is just a lame slide show of unrelated still photos.)

So who am I to claim John Mayer's talent? Well, I'm not here to tout my credentials. But I've played guitar for over twenty years. I have a music degree from UC Davis. I've written countless pieces of music. I can explain the concept behind the neapolitan 6th chord. So I've got some basis for my opinion. But hey, don't take my word for it. Take the words of the likes of Eric Clapton, BB King, and some other musical legends:

"I just invited this young man out because I don't want the blues to die. Every once in a while, a young man comes along to make sure it can survive." - Buddy Guy

"I was astonished at how well he played live. I had no idea he was that good. ." - Eric Clapton

"He's a strong rhythm guitar player and a wonderful singer, a great voice. He's really smart and very self-assured, yet humble at the same time. He has strong convictions about things which is rare at that age." - Herbie Hancock

And so, John Mayer is undeniably an extremely talented musician. But that doesn't mean that everyone needs to like listening to him. People have different tastes in music--and thank god for that. There's nothing wrong with just saying "I don't like his music" and moving on. You don't need any more rationale than that. But then, there's the surprisingly large number of people who have decided that they hate him, and need to vocalize their hatred. So do they need rationale for that?

The sure as hell do.

Sp what is their reason for hating him? What provokes such wrath in these musical pundits? Generally speaking, it's that they think some of his lyrics are dumb.

Awhile back on a bulletin board, I was responding to a post about good up-and-coming musicians. Among other names, I listed John Mayer. Another poster responded that I was nuts; John Mayer sucked! And why did he suck? Because he was that guy who wrote a song called "Your Body is a Wonderland"! Anyone who writes a song called "Your Body is a Wonderland" must suck!

Recently, a friend of mine (who as it turns out has his own distaste for John) pointed me to this blog, presumably as his own rationale as to why John Mayer is the musical anti-Christ. Apparently Joe, the blog's author, thinks John is a douchebag because the lyrics to one of his songs, "Say", are repetitive. It doesn't matter that Mayer has countless other songs that are far less repetitive (and it doesn't matter that countless other musicians have put out songs with far more repetitive lyrics.)

Nope, Joe heard this one song, and because of it hates John Mayer so much he's going to blog about it.

Granted, the simplistic tone of the blog is actually kind of funny. And of course, the topic of whether anyone hates John Mayer, in and of itself, is hardly a pressing issue. At the same time, it's sadly representative of a common, unfortunate mindset permeating many people these days. It's as if we're becoming proud of our simplistic, thoughtless, yet voraciously-held opinions. Intellectual laziness is become not just acceptable, but heralded.

So when I hear someone rant and rave about how much John Mayer sucks because he wrote a song with a cheesy title, I have to wonder how much thought they actually put into their opinions about other--maybe more important--things.

Is this the same person who didn't vote for John Kerry because they heard that Kerry planned to give control of the U.S. armed forces over the the U.N.? Does this person hate hybrid cards because they've decided that for some reason, everyone who drives a Prius is a jerk? Do they think global warming is a hoax merely because they think Al Gore is boring?*

But do I actually hate people who hate John Mayer? No, of course not. As I mentioned, I have friends who hate him with a passion. Yet despite that one irritating attribute, there's a lot more to them that I do like. In other words, I don't condemn them for that one little annoyance.

Which is far more lenience than they give to John.

* Yes, I actually know someone like that. Seriously.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's in your mailbox?

(The following is an open letter--nay, an open piece of junk mail--to Capital One)

Dear Capital One,

Stop sending me junk mail. It seems that every time I check the mail, there it is. The same old sales pitch you always send, packaged up in some different form. The last one you sent came inside an official-looking manila envelope. I think the one before was designed to look like like a pair of airline tickets. But at its core, it's always been that same credit card application form that I've never filled out, and never will.

I understand that from time to time companies feel the need to send out direct mail. I can deal with the occasional mailer. But with you, Capital One, it's a constant bombardment. When I think of how much time I've wasted shredding your application form, and recycling the rest of the crap in the envelop, I get annoyed. When I think of how many trees you've destroyed in your futile attempt to woo me, and thousands like me, I get pissed off.

But I must admit that when I try to imagine your thought process, I get amused. Do you really think that after discarding tens--maybe hundreds--of your mailers, that at one point I'll finally break down and fill out an application? Do you imagine my getting so excited at one of your designs ("I didn't like the piece that simulated an official government form, but wow! the one that looked like a passport really sold me!) that I'd drop everything and apply? And if so, is that really the kind of customer you want?

Regardless of your rationale, please stop. Otherwise, I'm going to start returning the favor by sending you mailings, very thinly disguised as shredded credit card application forms wrapped in your prepaid return envelope.