The Tools of the Discriminating Aesthete

I‚Äôll go on record right now. I adore I believe it may have been cheaper for me if, five years ago, I would have agreed to put all of the Amazon editors‚Äô children through college and then simply decided to live an ascetic life surround by only my thoughts and a notebook. Instead, I live in a house in which my Amazon merchandise is constantly encroaching upon basic living. Double stacked books on the shelves, CDs crammed into the closet, DVDs shoved under the bed ‚Äì a foggy miasma of diversionary deliciousness. My wish list is currently larger than the federal tax code and tends to only to grow despite my consistent efforts to get it to shrink. In this respect, it is the “Oprah Winfrey” of lists. It is the ‚Äúgreat organizer of things Trevor would like to try and buy.”

Many may call me a materialist. Though, I prefer ‚Äúrepresentationalist.‚Äù ‚ÄúMaterialist‚Äù implies an impoverished level of sophistication, a lack of profundity and depth ‚Äì something that I don‚Äôt believe anyone would describe me as. For philosophers, of course, these quibbling semantic distinctions are as important as the choosing the names of our children. I prefer to take a pseudo-platonic track and describe things as instantiations of ideals. I don‚Äôt love Arvo P?§rt‚Äôs [Te Deum]( because it is a CD I own. I love it because it is an instantiation of beauty. However, contraPlato, ‚Äúbeauty‚Äù doesn‚Äôt exist anywhere except in physical things that we choose to call ‚Äúbeautiful‚Äù ‚Äì likewise for, ‚Äúwisdom,‚Äù ‚Äúhumor,‚Äù and other qualities we use to describe the things we love. Therefore, I will horde those items that collectively create the ideal of ‚Äúbeauty‚Äù with a sumptuous, yet highly discriminating, fervor.

Anyway, enough about me. These are my delusional ratiocinations that perpetuate my self-image so I‚Äôll leave them alone. I would appreciate it if you would do the same. Suffice it to say that I am a severe critic with highly discriminating taste. I spend a significant amount of time making sure that I know about all the stuff in the world. Thus knowing, I can sort out the stuff that is worth my time and passion from the stuff that is, to put it mildly, pure, unadulterated crap. The kind of crap that, with every minute spent involved in it, a minute is wasted that could have been spent doing something more enlightening, say, standing in line at Target on Christmas Eve, or flossing with piano wire. Contemporary Country music, ala Lonestar, immediately springs to mind. This type of devoted “stuff sorting” is especially true of music ‚Äì which I attack with the fervor of Indiana Jones looking for biblical artifacts. And let me tell you, the Ark of the Covenant can stay buried, and we can all keep our faces firmly attached to our skulls, but the [Czars]( need to be heard.

But, several hundred words ago I was talking about Well, I can tell you right now that is the greatest weapon in the discriminating aesthete‚Äôs arsenal. If you have the time and patience you can use Amazon‚Äôs many resources to discover countless things that will renew your faith the artistic abilities of human beings. Their unique peer-association software ‚Äì which records your tendencies, your purchases, and your likes and dislikes in order to classify you into a consumer class and proffer recommendations based on what others purchased ‚Äì is very effective. However, their editors’ choice lists are second to none.

Amazon‚Äôs annual best music lists are invaluable resources to discovering new music. I am still working my way through their latest edition, the editors’ list of the 100 [best albums of 2004]( (the [customers’ favorites]( are interesting but not recommended), by listening to samples, reading reviews, and finding websites. The Amazon list is always the best of the many ‚Äúbest of‚Äù lists every year. It is distinctly better than [Pitchforkmedia‚Äôs]( lists – the official repository of all sacred indie-rock, music elitist knowledge in cyberspace – which are increasingly compounded by the type of music snobbery that is displayed across the Ramones-shirt-wearing record store clerk face as he winces when you ask him where the newest U2 album is located. [Pitchforkmedia‚Äôs lists](, while informative and worth looking at, are increasingly curtailed – as they revel in their theistic indie-rock status – by an image-consciousness that Amazon editors seem hardly to have. If Amazon’s editors think that Prince made one of the best albums of the year, they will gladly say so without reservation. Furthermore, the Amazon list is stylistically diverse to the highest degree ‚Äì always choosing albums from jazz, classical, rock, punk, country, soul etc. for their annual panegyric.

If you are a musical adventurer the Amazon list is always worth careful scrutiny. I can personally vouch for many albums on the current list – Iron & Wine: [Our Endless Numbered Days](, Sonic Youth: [Sonic Nurse](, Ambulance LTD: [Ambulance LTD](, and Interpol: [Antics]( to name a few. But towards most of the list I am blissfully ignorant. And I will spend a lot of time in the next few weeks forming opinions on the suggestions.

I certainly can vouch for the past lists ([Best of 2003](, [2002](, [2001](, [2000](, [1999]( )), but mostly retroactively. By having scrutinized those lists with the same fervor I will apply to the current edition I discovered many artists that are now invaluable members of my collection Рnow crammed into the aforementioned closet. This is really the only reason I am writing this encomium to Amazon right now – my experience having shown me that they are often, if not usually, right. Hopefully, you can discover the same.

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