“The Beatles” 2018 Remastered Collection Review

In 1968, The Beatles released what would become one of their most beloved and controversial records. The self-titled double album often referred to as ‘The White Album’ due to its blank cover contains thirty tracks, among them many of what are considered The Beatle’s absolute best and worst tracks. Now, for its fiftieth anniversary, the album has been remixed and remastered as part of a massive commemorative addition, including acoustic demos, alternate takes and personal stories from those involved.

From the very first track, Back in the USSR, its clear that the changes made are noticeable and in some cases, significant. Much of the warmth and ‘fuzziness’ common in recording from the 1960s has been exchanged in favor of a much crisper, more modern sound. The drums on Glass Onion are punchy and powerful, and the individual instruments in the composition are more distinct than in the original recording. This is the case throughout the record, and with a few exceptions, it improves the song. The exceptions mainly come when the rougher, bluesier tracks such as Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?  and Yer Blues are remixed to sound cleaner, and so lose much of the roughness that made them sound like authentically angry breaks from The Beatle’s usually wholesome, almost childlike style of songwriting and production. In contrast, the especially heavy track Helter Skelter often called the first metal track ever recorded, is made more intense by a brightening of the guitar sound and a bringing forward of the vocal track into the mix. It sounds much more like a modern punk or metal song than ever before.

The new mixes shine brightest in delicate acoustic tracks like Dear Prudence, Julia, I Will, Blackbird and Long, Long, Long. Julia, in particular, has been given a new level of intimacy; it sounds like Lennon is hovering beside you, almost whispering the words straight into your ear. You can hear his fingers sliding across the neck of the guitar, and this sort of effect is found across the record, giving the listener the feeling that this album was not just remixed: it sounds as if it was written and recorded yesterday.

The dozens of demos and outtakes are interesting for those who want a look into the long, difficult process of making an album. Many of the takes are not and were not intended to be listened to casually, and so likely are there for a mostly instructive purpose; even The Beatles struggled to make good ideas into great songs. The Esher demos are essentially acoustic versions of the album tracks and are most likely to interest casual listeners. Others are early versions of tracks released on later Beatles albums and the individual solo albums, but again these will hold the most value for those who are interested in the Beatles from a historical or technical perspective. However, a few of these demos and outtakes are illustrations of what made The Beatles so great; what would have been songwriting achievements for other bands were left on the cutting room floor.

Any fan of The Beatles no matter how casual will find enjoyment with this new collection. There is new life in the album tracks and a few impressive surprises in the demos and outtakes. Those who have never enjoyed The Beatle’s music in the past will not likely be swayed by this lengthy and extremely in-depth collection.

‘Act of War’ Response

Act of War tells the story of Hawaii’s overthrow by a league of private actors supported by the United States government. The first clips are perhaps the most powerful in the entire film; Hawaiian protesters march through the streets of Honolulu calling for sovereignty and responding to the tragic events of the past. They make concrete the historical abstraction that is an “overthrow”—the faces shown are the ones affected by the actions of greedy men more than a century previous, and their voices express the pain and anger of generations. It is an interesting choice to put these clips at the beginning, which puts the effects of the overthrow at the forefront of the viewer’s minds, in order to lend meaning to the historical explanations that follow.

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The story of Hawaii’s history as part of the United States is a tragic one, especially so because it was achieved by relatively few people, and in the face of much anger, opposition, and resentment from both the Hawaiian people and the American citizenry. By tracing the lives and decisions of particular individuals and groups, such as Queen Liliuokalani and the Calvinist missionaries, the film achieves both concise explanations of the cultural and social forces that influenced their reactions, as well as their characters as human beings. The characteristics of Calvinism are important in understanding Hawaii’s colonization, though I wish more time had been given to an explanation of Hawaiian cultural values and practices prior to the arrival of Europeans. Outside of the crowd shots at the beginning, the film fails to convey the attitudes of Hawaiians towards the overthrow, as well as the effects, both positive and negative it had on Hawaiian society. 

Social Media and Conformity

Perhaps contrary to the conscious intentions of its creators, not since the reign of theocratic governments in the west has our civilization seen such a forceful urge towards conformity as that generated by the many-screened internet.

The voices of other people are with us always, if not being funneled directly into our ears, then simulated by our minds, who so familiar with the voices of the crowd, can simulate them easily and without conscious effort. The empty, quiet room is a thing of the past. Like our prehistoric ancestors, the tribe is with us forever, in our beds, on our hunts, around the fire, and always chattering within our heads.

Solitude is our greatest shame, though it is half-forgotten and we often mistake ourselves as having access to it. Our alone is not really alone at all; all things are now sharable commodities, with potential and actual measurements of value according to the judgment of our peers.

Every action is on a continuum of quality, determined by the values of others, who in turn have their values determined by our feedback to what they put forth for our consumption.

Sustained deviation from the group determined hierarchy of value in regards to actions, and thus, the thoughts preceding those actions, results in that most ancient form of punishment; exclusion and ostracization from the tribe. But this so rarely happens, for the hierarchy rewards us lovingly for obedience, and we are almost never exposed to that which falls outside of it.

Only minds that are both creative and socially deviant can generate actions outside of and not motivated by the bounds of its punishment-reward system, and few are they that can generate an effective sequence of such actions, towards the end of somewhat dissolving the accepted hierarchy. Those that do may be lauded, and the hierarchy expanded to accommodate them.

The many-screened social internet is the great tool of both the deviants and the crowd; for it gives the crowd a platform on which to proliferate and make the hierarchy concrete, and give clear rewards to those who obey its rules. Yet it also provides small islands for the deviants to stand on, and scream their shrill and sometimes beautiful song.

How to Self-Sabotage

It’s fascinating to me that the better my life is going, the harder it is to analyze the thoughts and notions within my mind.

Yet when I’m sad or anxious, self-analysis and philosophical inquiry is a breeze!

Maybe it’s simple laziness.

Perhaps I can’t be bothered to dig into difficult questions unless I really have to; unless my very existence seems contingent upon approaching answers to those questions.

When you are getting what you want, there is no survival pressure to question or examine whats going on. Why examine pleasure, and risk tarnishing it?

One does not consider the mechanics of walking until confronted with unstable, hazardous ground.

There is one comforting conclusion I can take from my thoughtless, lazy condition; that self-examination and philosophical analysis are the results, and not the causes of my negative states.

Self-sabotage hides in waiting for those who feel uncomfortable with their own success and resultant satisfaction. If you are identified with the chase of positive emotions and high social status, you will knock yourself down again and again in order to maintain the identity of the chaser.

Unable to stand naked without the lack you think of as the essential driving force behind your personality, you will destroy all gifts you are given, and fill in all the ditches you’ve dug.

You will pursue the zero state as fiercely as you did the dreams you thought you wanted.

The zero state is not difficult to attain. It is life’s default. If you are not careful, you’ll be back there in the blink of an eye.

 

 

 

Understanding Failure

Failure shows us what to avoid.

Success tells us what we must repeat.

The success-starved are lost because they do not trust their own judgments. They have no verification that their own judgments are credible. Like a disoriented man in the water, they have lost their sense of up, and are immobile because they fear swimming only deeper down towards the abyss.

A gulp of air, a flash of light, however brief would tell them “Yes, this is the way!” and lead them towards the surface.

So many of us have lost sight of the surface, and are either slowly suffocating or else swimming away from the air we so desperately need.

Today, I caught a glimpse of light and realized I’ve been swimming in the right direction for some time. It came just as I was beginning to doubt myself. Right at the point where I was going to change my aim, reality rewarded me.

Thanks, reality.

It is hard to overstate the importance of monitoring the world’s reactions to your desires and actions. Often we confuse intuition and passion with our rational faculty for calibrating to the external world.

Passion can guide you but rarely does it course correct.

Passion is the engine and rational analysis of the world is what steers the vehicle. You must have both if you are to reach your desired end. Otherwise, you will stall out, or crash head-on into one of the many obstacles arranged on the track.

 

 

Society’s Progress

Succesful systems are not necessarily characterized by efficiency.

The best systems are those that are immune to catastrophic failure and allow for incremental improvements that compound across time.

Literate societies that pass down all accumulated scientific and ethical knowledge to future generations tend to be very successful.

We are the beneficiaries of such a system, and we are complicit in its decline insofar as we do not contribute to the process of improvement that makes our very existence possible.

Some people are simply apathetic, or outright malicious against the system that provides them with safety, food, water, and economic potential.

However, most people do hope for improvement. The issue is that they ignore history and believe improvements can be achieved via means and principles that are antithetical to what got the society to its current state of prosperity.

Or, because of bitterness and a pathological attachment to perverse ideology, they envision progress in terms of systems that have consistently failed in the past. Such people read history and ignore the thread of progress that runs from ancient Greece to the modern day.

What is this thread?

The belief in and the pursuit of objective truth, a limited representative government, and property rights.

The degree to which these are valued by the individuals in a society is the degree to which long-term scientific, economic, and moral progress can be achieved.

There is no surer sign of a civilization’s decline than the relegation of these values to the status of “radical”, “extreme”, or perhaps even worse, “boring”.

You do not make progress down a road by tossing out the engine of your car, or by dismantling it piece by piece. Perhaps some of those modifications will increase your speed in the short term, and give you an illusory pleasure. But by way of these changes, you will have created a system without incremental improvement, prone to sporadic catastrophe.

Failure is Not Fun

Self-help junkies hate to admit that unfiltered self-expression inevitably results in embarrassing mistakes and mishaps. The romanticization of failure, struggle, and authenticity is a good thing, but it is rarely contextualized with concrete examples of failure.

When failure and the integrity it necessitates are kept in the abstract, they sound attractive indeed.

However, once we actually see someone acting with integrity around disapproving peers, or failing at something they are passionate about, the prospect of doing the same ourselves becomes repulsive.

From our privileged perspective as an outsider, we can say: “What a fool! Doesn’t he realize what he’s doing?”

The closer the failure is to us, the more likely it is to affect us and spread like an infectious disease, the more conservative we become with our own ambitions and creative instincts.

We fear the mess, the chaos, the rejection above all else. The fear and disgust for these things are programmed into us at the biological level. An intellectual understanding of the positive power of failure or the wondrous freedom of honest expression is not sufficient for overriding our instinctual aversions.

We must measure failure beside the ultimate goal towards which we aim. It is in regards to this goal that failure is necessary, and authenticity rewarded.

Failure is not good, but it can be useful.

Failure can hurt us, but aren’t there some things for which it is worth it to get hurt?

Authentic self-expression can lead to severed relationships, but what use is a relationship that honesty can break?

We must measure failure by the quality of our long-term outcomes. The approval of others is weak evidence for any given action’s utility in achieving our goals.

Other people don’t know what we are aiming at, or why.

We ourselves may aim at the wrong thing, and find that our vision of success was due to a failure in self-knowledge. Such pitfalls are numerous and necessary, but no amount of affirmations or mind-expanding quotes will change the simple fact that failure is a very painful thing.

The successful person does not love failure and rejection.

They choose a goal so large that pain and frustration are rendered insignificant.