|Image from my own TAROT OF THE ZIRKUS MAGI © 2013 Duck Soup Productions.
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The long process of duping all my old vinyl LPs over to electronic format is almost done. I’ve got maybe a couple of good albums left that I have put off just so that I wouldn’t be stuck with nothing but dreck at the tail end of the project — but of the dozen albums remaining, most of it really is dreck.
This morning I did the first (and as far as I know, only) album to come out of the original Saturday Night Live, featuring the original Not Ready for Prime Time players. This made me smile a bit, but it also dredged of thoughts of Time Passing By.
I was in High School when SNL debuted. At that time I thought of it as being Not As Funny as Monty Python, but also harder for me to process than Python. This, I now know, was Asperger’s manifesting itself. Python was by far the more visual of the two and with its mannered British voice easier for me to absorb, whereas SNL was largely verbal, not counting Chevy Chase falling all over the place.
That’s neither here nor there. It dawned on me today that for young people now in their twenties, the seventies are just as far removed as the thirties and forties were to me. Here’s part of what time does: the thirties and the forties still seem like far-off distant lands, but the seventies still feel to me like yesterday. Those now in their twenties will experience the same feeling in their own way, soon enough.
I used to believe that things didn’t actually change all that much throughout the eighties and nineties. Culturally, yes: television changed a lot during that time; meanwhile Reagan and Bush the First were pushing the country farther and farther to the right while I just stood still in my beliefs. Call me an Eisenhower Republican, which as anyone ought to know is a very different animal from a Bush Republican. I’m now registered as a Democrat, because the political world has shifted so far under my feet.
But physically: the cars, the houses, the dress, the way we lived our lives and the tools that we used — I would have told you back in the early ‘naughties that it all hadn't changed all that much. Certainly not nearly so dramatically as the five decades between the twenties and the sixties did, each with their own distinct culture and flavor.
Of course now I think differently. In nearly every respect, the world is a completely different place now than it was even two decades ago, and the rate of change does seem to be constantly accelerating. There are the Constants that I think will never change: Religious Intolerance, the human capacity for War, that sort of thing… there’s still no level that humans will not stoop to. But in most other ways, we’re living, as my friend BC sometimes likes to point out, in what for people of my generation is a Science Fiction World. We’re only missing the flying cars that fold up into briefcases.
The world is far more corporate controlled than it was. Big Business always did hold sway, but Big Business now vs. Big Business then are two different animals. The Corporate Culture has had a distinct and negative impact on the world: we are today far less free than some of us were twenty years ago.
Another difference is more subtle. I can never recall a time when I was anything less than fascinated with the World that had existed before I was born. The first half of the twentieth century and the last half of the nineteenth were for me always marvelous sources of culture, places that I lived in vicariously. Perhaps because it was dead and gone, it was easier for my Aspergian mind to comprehend than the wild rush of things that were happening all around me. I could learn the past by heart; but the present was always full of surprises, most of them unpleasant.
I don’t see that in the twenty and thirtysomethings of today. They seem to have little or no interest in What Has Gone Before, in The Story So Far, so to speak. Their eyes are turned forward. They have their Katie Perrys and … whatever else it is they listen to these days, and Past Cultures hold no interest for them.
John Belushi and Gilda Radner have been dead for a long time, now. Come to that, so has Graham Chapman. They used to have the world by the balls. Given enough time, they won’t even be remembered.