One must use good judgment

An interesting exchange over at EHSSQ on the Ask Ernie thread about why EH doesn’t answer all the questions people ask (though of course the one about EH trying out foundation make-up and face powder at something like the Clinique counter and fearing “someone might walk by and notice and take a picture and it end up on the web,” … well, that’s a pretty good one too). You will recall of course that I have a longstanding unanswered question for EH, so naturally EH’s reason for not answering all his mail is one I’m particularly interested in. Frankly, I expected EH to say something like “I don’t answer all the questions I get because I just get too dang many.” Not only is that probably true, but it has the added benefit of reinforcing the image of a superstar under cyber-siege by legions of fans clamoring for information about The Star (there seems to be a little of that mentality in EH, as suggested by the stuff about fearing the fan who would be following him to the Clinique counter and taking his picture). But EH didn’t say that. Instead, he implies that the only questions he doesn’t answer are the ones that ask for something sensitive, potentially controversial, or address a topic he doesn’t like. Then he quotes this line: “In the pursuit of any high calling or profession there must be an intimate knowledge of its ugly side” (though he doesn’t say so, the quote is from James Baldwin). Haase implies with this quote that the “ugly side” of sg is the existence of anyone who would ask a question that traduces the “privacy within the lives of my guys and myself” or “will only cause strife and division.” God and Haase only know what kinds of sordid, inappropriate, and invasive questions he gets from SSQ fans, though I would note that SSQ, like almost all other musical artists, are happy and eager to publicize their private lives when it works to their advantage or shows them in a flattering light.At any rate, “privacy” seems like a pretty decent reason to refuse to answer a question. But “causes strife and division”? By whose standard, is the more important question to ask here. A question like “Dear Ernie, why is it that even when you hold your mike down around your waist I can still hear your voice at the same volume as when the mike is right next to your mouth?” may seem from Haase’s perspective to cause a whole lot of strife for sure. But from a fan’s perspective, this is a perfectly legitimate question. If I paid $10 or $15 or $25 bucks or whatever to hear a group, I’d want to know if their star was giving me a truly live performance or doing live sing-along with the same vocal track I could hear on the cd. Doesn’t necessarily mean I “deserve” an answer (I tend to think an answer is in order, of course, just as I think it’s perfectly legitimate to ask EH about those sneaky stracks), but the question is no less legitimate because two people can differ over whether or not the question should be answered. Which brings us to the real ugly side of things. I chuckled when I read EH’s Baldwin quote, because it could just as easily be referring to the kinds of trade “secrets” and corner-cutting and insider moves and self-dealing that make worlds go ’round and are generally masked from typical, non-specialist observers. In sg, a person could easily argue that one facet of the “ugly side” of the profession is precisely the technical augmentations like stracks that allow groups to keep grueling schedules and still sound like a million bucks night after night, all the while pretending it’s just us chickens singing. The thing is, at this point, I’m becoming more fascinated by Haase’s refusal to answer my pretty simple question than I am by the answer itself. After all, there are only so many plausible responses to this question (I proposed a few here). And as Haase says, when unpleasant or difficult questions get asked, “one must use good judgment.” Indeed.

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