Dr. Thorburn’s intoductory remarks underline the arbitrary separations that:
- prejudicially divorce high and low culture from one another, and that
- make the future SEEM so different from the past that looking to history for insight only happens in retrospect.
It’s probably accurate (enough) to say that digital technology/culture actually had a beginning, and that we’re presently ploughing though its middle. If the end of folk and digital culture is written anywhere (other than the totally-suspect Book of Revelation) it spoils this entire season of metareality technovision. Where this interesting, modern era fits in a halfassed, arbitrary category-system: comic, action/adventure or dramatic…? remains to be determined by somebody who jumps the gun by anticipating its end and defining the character of this age based on the arbitrary insertion of a delusional barrier.
“Modern” life is just like a massively-multiplayer ongoing television serial (for excellent reasons), and the showrunners’ identities are assigned retrospectively by wallflowers in subsequent eras, often for underscrutinized reasons.
Last night I caught a few minutes on television of a PBS documentary called The Sixties, in which a number of fascinating speculative conclusions were drawn, that:
- The new&improved “less ruthless” Robert Kennedy’s presidential candidacy in 1968 was significantly shaped and tempered by the 1963 assassination of John Kennedy and Bobby’s literary introduction to Albert Camus.
- The revolutionary movement in 1968 was global and thwarted in America by the murders of MLK and RFK, transforming boomers and our sympathizers from a generation dedicated to profound political and social change (back) into an enormous mass of addicted freaks who instantly became nostalgic for what might have been.
- Had Richard Nixon refused to appear on LaughIn, his paper-thin 1968 victory over Hubert Humphrey might not have happened. As though 40 years of conservative political dominance in America stems from vastly improved candidate marketing practices. Half of that sounds to me like it’s absolutely true, but the other half sounds like an alibi.
This documentary was narrated by Peter Coyote, whose previously-discovered penchant (San Francisco is a city of seven square miles, and 24fps is Ed’s legacy) for mouthing intriguing nonsense leaves me less than confident in the speculative conclusions scripted by the documentarians.
I don’t have an insatiable appetite for the study of history, but the comforting appendices and soothing conclusions afforded by better students than me (and narrated by Peter Coyote) should facilitate a hunger for much closer inspection of arbitrarian rhetoric and a brand new lust for the constant discomfort and fidgeting of living culture; folk, digital, media, commercial, “modern”…because the fat lady’s singing is probably always going to be some arbitrarian’s hallucination.