Controversy struck over fried potatoes. Kuma's Corner, a favorite heavy-metal burger bar among my non-vegetarian friends, switched their fries from frozen waffle fries to fresh, local, hand-cut fries. It was announced, it was a fact, and there was no apologizing.
Yet, when complaints flooded in, to which almost any other business would release carefully worded PR statements, Kuma's replied succinctly: "Suck it."
This occurred just before the release of the film version of "Atlas Shrugged" and so got me thinking: is Kuma's the restaurantification of a Howard Roark
type of character? They are
the bar that famously refused Lady Gaga any special treatment, making her wait an hour to be seated.
A few weeks ago, I claimed
that Beethoven was neither hipster nor nerd but something more like an Individualist - in a Randian sort of way. And yet, according to commenters, Rand herself didn't appreciate Beethoven's individual style, preferring instead Rachmaninoff, a fellow Russian émigré - an individualist composer, for sure, bucking the trends and writing in a more antiquated style, but not the irascible, pig-headed artist that we see in Roark and Beethoven.
I still contend Beethoven is a better parallel for Roark.
Aside from Beethoven, however, most of music history is populated with less extreme cases of individualism. The "hipster
" composer that I attempted to define would certainly be more of a "second-hander", and yet their music is loved by many.
Whatever ideals are represented by these aesthetic preferences, they remain ideals at the extremes, held aloft to give us direction in the sea of ambiguity. They attempt to answer the question: individualism or collectivism? Both have been exalted as good or decried as evil, depending on the circle.
Is it WWJD? or WWHRD? Jesus or Howard Roark? [Rand, of course, was an atheist.]
Jesus would look out for the collective good while Howard Roark would turn his back on the collective and say "Suck it."
It worked out pretty well for Beethoven; he's one of the few Classical composers that people know by name, probably even able to hum a few bars. The model for Howard Roark is purported to be Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the few architects known by most Americans. [Although Chicagoans can probably name several of the ones who made our architecture so famous.]
So being an irreverent individualist can work out pretty well, if you're into that whole legacy thing, although there's a high risk of burning out and self-destruction. We may never know the names of all the individualist artists lost forever in the flux of history.
Here's the rub: just because Beethoven and Wright found success in their arrogant solipsism doesn't mean it's the path to success for everybody. Even though those are the models that I, myself, aspire to, I don't fault anyone for not achieving (or even aspiring to) those models.
[That's not entirely true: I find fault with mediocre art held up by superior marketing. A good marketer, like a good lawyer, should be able to see through the bullsh!t.]
While there's something Romantic about the fully-realized, self-actualized artist exploring difficult terrain and coming down the mountain with a new kind of fire, there's something even more heroic, humbling, about returning to earth and helping the terrestrial mortals to find their own fire.
Both individualists and collectivists have one fatal flaw in common: they each expect everyone else to be like them.
Doesn't matter what you see
Or into it what you read
You can do it your own way
If it's done just how I say
~Metallica, Eye of the Beholder