L. Neil Smith's
Number 306, February 13, 2005

Happy Anniversary!

Three Cheers for Sir Paulie
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

My regular readers may recall a story I've told from time to time about a literary critic, several decades ago, who, at the mere mention of the illustrious works of Raymond Chandler, dismissed them with the words, "Oh, yes—homosexuals beating each other to death with coathangers".

Never mind that the phrase had nothing to do with anything Raymond Chandler, author of such masterpieces as The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, and The Long Goodbye, ever wrote. As both a novelist and columnist myself, I fully understand and even sympathize: the poor schlub had it stuffed away in an old, dirty sock, somewhere, ready to use when an opportunity arose. Unfortunately, the opportunity never did arise, so he was forced to use it inappropriately or die with it still stuffed in his old, dirty sock.

The other day, I ran across an entire newspaper article composed of such festering nastiness, which the writer, a Sam McManis of the Tacoma News Tribune has obviously had squirreled away since about ninth grade, when I'll bet he was writing snide put-downs for his junior high school fish wrapper. This McManis doesn't appear to have improved much from that infantile level, but I suppose that was to be expected.

We are discussing a critic here, after all.

What turned McManis's crank was the fact that 62-year-old former Beatle Paul McCartney—an historical and musical giant the tips of whose shoelaces McManis isn't fit to suck—was hired to provide the halftime entertainment at the recent SuperBowl. It seemed especially irritating to McManis that Sir Paul (a title which he also complained of bitterly) is a reliable individual who didn't have a pierced nipple he intended to show the fans in the stadium and at home (although Paul kidded in an interview that there would be no "wardrobe malfunction" because there would be no wardrobe—he was planning to perform naked).

Let me make it clear at this point that I have nothing personally against nipples being displayed, naked, pierced, or otherwise, as long as they are female nipples (see my TLE article "The War of Janet's Nipple"). The way that puckered orifices in general and the FCC in particular went postal over a TV network showing the world the first thing that a baby ever sees in life is something to be ashamed of and embarrassed about.

However in the spirit of not being a spoilsport—and because my 15-year-old daughter, the world's foremost authority on Beatle-lore, asked me to—I taped the halftime show and enjoyed it very much, thanks.

She calls him, "Sir Paulie".

McManis meanly asserts that "the reaction across America" to McCartney's show "was a collective shrug and requests to pass the guacamole". Then, with just the slightest touch of racism, he says, "By the indecency measure, and that measure only ... McCartney's 12-minute rehash of his back catalog could be deemed a success ... all will be quiet this morning at the Federal Communications Commission, and NFL honchos ... could breath easy and do the white-man overbite dance ... without fear of negative fallout from, like ... an exposed breast."

He goes on: "Fox ... will have to try mightily to regain its lost street cred ... But ... Fox nailed that coveted 60-to-75 demographic by propping up the ex-Beatle, ex-Wings and ex-relevant pop star ... All that was missing was Topo Gigio and a guy spinning plates on a stick."

Then he adds that it could have been worse, they could have chosen Ringo.

The sap can't resist poking fun at Paul's "neck-wattle", sneering at Wings, or criticizing Paul's wardrobe. Telepathically, he questions the sincerity of those cheering Paul and finishes with the last and cheapest of his old, dirty sock-stuffers, "Somewhere, John Lennon weeps."

I'll be the first to admit that, at 62 (four years more fossilized than yours truly) Paul appears to be a bit of a nut. It's said that he abhors glass table tops and tree trunks—no reason given—also leather car seats, and will only accept cut flowers from a "reputable florist", presumably one that doesn't torture the flowers as they're picked. He compels everyone who works for him to be a vegetarian, even though the veggie life doesn't seem to have done his first wife much good.

Nevertheless, he is the Paul McCartney, the real genius, I have come to believe, behind the Beatles phenomenon. (It was Paul who was the real wild man of the Fab Four; sad but true, John was the most conventional type of non-conformist that an individual can be.) Five hundred years from now, McCartney's—yes, and Lennon's—works will stand proudly beside those of another real wild man, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

On the other hand, we all know what happens to the "works" of critics. If they survive at all, they're held up to well-deserved ridicule by every passing generation. I have a book, The Lexicon of Musical Invective, full of nasty reviews of such works as Ravel's "Bolero".

It's the function of music to make people happy. It's the function of critics to try to compensate for personal inadequacies. Clearly, these functions are not compatible. No one should ever pay serious attention to a music critic, any more than they should to a theater, movie, TV, or literary critic. These are not nature's more successful specimens.

I would be remiss not to add that no country with something like a First Amendment in its Constitution has any business running a Federal Communications Commission. We either have free speech in America or we do not. In any decent political environment, the excesses committed by this fascist gang of commissars and thugs in the past couple of years alone would put it on the fast track to abolition, its officers forced by law to repay the rapacious fines they've levied, out of their own pockets.

But the real bottom line has to be, "Thank you, Paul, it was great to see you again, and I hope we go on doing so for a very long time, indeed".

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at http://www.lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

Neil is presently at work on Ceres and Ares, two sequels to his 1993 novel, Pallas, a decensored and electronically published version of his 1984 novel, Tom Paine Maru, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May. A 185-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach has just been released by BigHead Press.

Order The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel from:
Laissez-Faire Books or from Amazon.com

Order the works of Raymond Chandler (Library of America editions), from Amazon.com:
Volume 1 and Volume 2


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