29 Zeus - Year 88 p.s.U.
The first decade of the Gregorian millennium is wrapping up. It seems unreal...what's that line from the Floyd?: "And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you/No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun..."
Ten years ago I was sitting in a somewhat modest apartment in Manchester, CT. It was New Year's Eve and I was hoping that 'Y2K' bug would manifest itself in some form. The girl I was kinda/sorta seeing at the time had gone home and I sat in the darkness near midnght, looking out of the living room window--waiting for something to happen. Even just the streetlights shutting down for a few minutes. Nope. Nothing. So much for the big scare. That's how 2000 started for me...I didn't even party like it was 1999.
What's happened in the last ten years, in my view? I'll try to write a short summary...
- September 11, 2001/The War On Terror: It'll be a cultural touchstone for ages. Where were you when the planes hit the Trade Center? It also gave King George II carte-blanche to start a never-ending war...on terrorism. That's right--he actually thought he was going to 'git all them tererists'. Starting with that known Islamic fundamentalist, Saddam Hussein...leader of a secular Middle East gubberment. Now, I'm not saying Hussein was an innocent..far from it--but it seemed his ties to al-Qeada (who became the new threat--like the Russians were in the 1950s and early '60s) were fairly faint. That didn't stop ol' George and his cronies. It worked really well, too--as Iraq is now a peaceful, democratic place, full of contented citizens all praising the U.S. for their action. Soon, Afghanistan will be doing the same. That "War On Terror" was a great idea. Feel the sarcasm, George & Karl & Rummy & Dick & Condie & on and on...
- The Rise of "Z-lebrities": I'm not sure when this all started. Maybe it had it's seeds in the 70s or 80s. All I can observe is that one day, critters like Paris Hilton and Jodie Marsh were being feted for....well, not doing much at all. They were given television shows, perfume contracts, film roles, music deals, etc. Most of them seemed to have no particular talent, even when various secret (or not-so-secret) sex-tapes surfaced. I suspect maybe Charlie Brooker or Stewart Lee has already taken this topic on with more finesse, but hey, I can have a bash as well. I'm hoping most of them go away in the next ten years...or at the very least, get off of my Tee Vee and computer screens.
- Reality Shows: Urgh! They started out innocently enough, I suppose. Survivor...Big Brother. Then they were all over the shop--tons of 'em. I think some channels in the UK were nothing but 'reality programming'. The worst side-effect, to me anyway, were that these shows became breeding grounds for Z-lebrities, whose 'careers' were fed by magazines like Heat and Hello!. There seems to be hope, however, as the UK "Big Brother" may be cancelled, given that the last run had the lowest ratings for any of the series. I've definitely had all the 'reality-TV' I can take.
- The X-Factorisation Of Pop Music/Talent Shows: Yes, I know - the pop charts have always been a place where a slick producer with access to studio musicians and a gullible moppet can make a quick fortune off of a hit record. The past ten years, though, have been a boon to the charlatans (no, I don't mean the 60s psych band or the Madchester outfit). Simon Cowell has made more than a fortune with Pop Idol and it's more famous off-shoot, The X-Factor. He brought it to the States as American Idol and so on and so on. I realise I come off as a snob and I also realise there is a market for slickly-produced love songs for the teenage set--but really, some of this stuff just seems like dreck to me. A treadmill of one-hit wonders and disposable singers. It shows no signs of slowing, as Willy Wonka would say. Oh dear. Some bright spark also thought it would be nifty to have an 'X-Factor'-type show, but open it up to all kinds of fame-hungry critters with various talents..and so Britian's Got Talent was splattered all over the toob. Great--thanks for that.
- Global Warming: The bugbear that's divided critters of all stripes. Me, I don't know if it's really happening...but something seems to be happening. 'Is' it man-made, or the natural cycle of the planet? I don't know and I strongly suspect nobody else really does either. I try to ignore the zealots on either side of the debate and work out what I can from the information available. As my man Robert Anton Wilson used to say: "Don't trust your own belief-system 100% and don't trust anyone else's B.S. 100% either." I suspect more will be revealed in the next couple of years.
- 2012 Theories: As that year now looms on the horizon--the theories are heating up. Some bleak, death-trip scenarios about the Earth snuffing out humankind are abounding. Those seem to be mostly the domain of religious types and misanthropic cranks. Terence McKenna thought it would be an immense enlightenment, a massive concresence of 'novelty' bringing about an evolved humanity. I lean more toward McKenna's view, but again, I don't know what will happen. I try to remain as agnostic as possible about what may take place in December 2012.
But hey now - it's not all war and death and famine and AIDS. It seemed to me there were some good things in the past ten years, too:
- Music Files/Blogs: Don't ask me who it was (I can't be bothered to look it up), but some critter figured out how to turn music tracks into files. Not only could someone copy a CD (blank recordable CDs were a cool thing, too), but they could post it up on a page for others to download. Then Napster came along and headed up the whole 'peer-to-peer' network movement. The creators were forced to go legit and charge for tracks after a big court battle--but others sprung up in it's place. Another groovy development was the rise of music blogs, which showcase a lot of obscure, long out-of-print albums. Most of the albums were copied from LPs onto hard-drives, then converted to files. The only problem with that is, now there's almost too much music to listen to. I suppose some of those records are unknown precisely because they weren't good enough to make the wider muso conciousness. Still, if you want to hear some Hungarian progressive rock or Japanese art-punk, there's a blog out there for your perusal. Now, I don't condone down-loading albums that are still available or 'leaked' copies of new albums. I mainly stick to bootlegs and out-of-print stuff...support the artists when you can by actually buying the CD or files, especially directly from the artists's website.
- The Internet: Yep. That collection of servers, computers and satellite connections that lets me type this post out and you to read it. Pretty fascinating. Just over 10 years ago, I was pretty much an internet virgin. I had sent a few e-mails through a work e-mail address and checked a few sites out. Since then, I've posted on 4 blogs, I've got two personal e-mail addresses, signed up on several sites to purchase music and other stuff, and on and on. I mean, yeah, it seems the Internet has gobbled up a lot of my spare time, but I still wouldn't trade it in. I've been able to catch up with old school friends and read about subjects that would've taken me ages to track down in a library. No, this isn't an ad for anything - it just seemed to me that the Internet definitely changed a lot of the way critters view their worlds in the past decade.
- Humanity Gets Smarter: Er...actually, maybe I'll hold off on this one....
Heroes Who Checked Out: Robert Anton Wilson, George Harrison, Rick Wright, Syd Barrett, Arthur Lee, Paul Newman, George Carlin, Terence McKenna, Michael English, Alton Kelley, Joe Zawinul, Hugh Hopper, Philip Jose Farmer, Stanley Kubrick, Kirsty MacColl, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer...and to any others I may have forgotten, rest in peace!