That’s across the street from the parking lot at work. I had to change lots because they’re going to build an immense office and housing complex where I use to park. Groundbreaking is in May. They’ll have to take a blowtorch to it first. I have a vision of the dignitaries spearing the earth with the blade of the shovel, and the handles snap. I hate the new lot, just because it’s not my lot. It’s a different lot. Good ol’ slot 212, with the same cars on either side, the same bumperstickers of the other cars, the same jaywalking across the street after checking for a bus, always thinking of a particular Onion piece noted by one of my editors in 1999, and knowing that if I was ever struck by a bus that’s what he would think, and would start laughing. I have already given him permission to do so.
Anyway, the old lot is verboten to all. When it was closed off I parked in one of the other lots the paper runs; half is for paying customers, and the rest is deserted. There were three vehicles, maybe four. When I left work there was a ticket informing me I was in the WRONG LOT and I had to go across the street and my transgression & license number had been filed away for future disciplinary action, should I choose to park with such heedless abandon. At which point I felt like Lionel Mandrake in “Strangelove” arguing with Keenan Wynn about busting open a Coke machine for change to make a phone call and prevent WW3: it’s over, man! It’s all going to be gone, poof! And you’re bringing me down with your RUUUULES.
Of course, Lionel Mandrake sounded nothing like that; he was a civilized man, not some Haight-Ashbury simpleton with a brainpan a-slosh with bongwater. Which brings us to something I read today about an interview with Bob Dylan. I have no interest in Bob Dylan. Other people like him, and that’s fine. It takes all kinds to make a world and there’s owt as queer as folk music and all those cliches. Mind you, I didn’t read the interview; I read a piece about the interview, which was annoyed at the tone and the endless fascination with Boomer icons.
The problem is that there are so many of them—an entire generation that, through sheer force of numbers and will, has realigned our culture’s natural evolution—and they refuse to shut up, partly because we continue to listen to them. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond and Elton John—these guys may have been good, even very good, but they weren’t important. Before the great cultural cleaving, each generation had its songs to hold dear, ones that would always mean a little more to them, things they could play at their 50th anniversaries and grow misty over. Now, we’ve been so thoroughly hammered by Rolling Stone and Creem and Woodstock and Woodstock and The Big Chill and Almost Famous and Esquire (edited by David Granger, born 1956) that we have come to believe it. “Stairway to Heaven” was the last song played at high school dances decades after any properly self-involved generation would have abandoned it. Boomers are the generational equivalent of Americans: enraptured by their own mythology, and uniquely capable of foisting it upon everyone else.
Yes? And? What’s remarkable is that we’re still saying this in 2014, when the point should have been moot by 2004, but the narcissism of the Boomers is like a siren that wails 24/7 - but only at certain frequencies. If you read the old press, the newspapers, the glossies like Esquire, then yes, it’s Boomerism uber alles, but if you read the sites aimed at the Internet demographic these icons don’t exist at all. Time began around 1992, and the only cultural artifacts that matter are those that could have been recorded on tape and put on YouTube. Plus “Goosebumps” books and some toys. The internet demographic is as cheerfully ahistorical as its predecessors.
If the author identifies something, it’s the irritation of those who fell into the spot between the boomers and the Internet generation.
. . . every generation’s mainstream since has had to admit to itself and its elders that even though they may like Nirvana, or Dire Straights, or Billy Joel, they’re not of the golden age. Prince, Elvis Costello, Melissa Etheridge, Lou Reed, Kate Bush, Iggy Pop, Madonna—depending on your taste, if you were born any time in the last 40 years, you’ve probably become used to an instinctive subordination of these greats to those other ones.
Interesting. Supposedly I’m in the Boomer demo, and I find all those artists, with the exception of a few (go on, guess) to be superior to the ones who came before in many ways. Dire Straits, certainly; much better guitarist than any of the heroes of the Boomer pantheon. Billy Joel: natural, effortless songwriter with throwback bravado. Madonna was certainly more interesting for 15 years than . . . Marianne Faithful? Joan Baez? When I first got to college everyone in the dorm was serious about the Important Bands like the Doors, the Stones, and so on, and I couldn’t figure it out. This isn’t yours. This stuff happened, like, eight years ago, maybe ten. That was another era; that was another country, really.
In high school one night we went for a ride, and the driver decided it would be an Intense Experience, a soulful time of communing with the great spirits of the Doors, and curfew be damned. He put “Riders on the Storm” on the 8-track and we were commanded to listen, man, really listen. Okay. Simple obvious keyboard line and sophomoric poetry. It’s possible to imagine one’s self as a Rider on a Storm, but if the case arose I doubt you’d turn to your fellow rider and say “Man, I feel like an actor out on loan.” Your comrade wouldn’t say “I understand. Personally, I bear an emotional resemblance to a dog without a bone.”
Both conditions are characterized by the absence of something, but neither seems to fit with the idea of being a Rider on a Storm. But hey, actors. We’re all actors, man. When you think about it.
Gary, turn around. I have math tomorrow.
The internet generation will have no such icons; they will have memes, regarded in retrospect with affection and embarrassment. OMG I can’t believe that was cool OMG I remember liking that. See also, Olivia Newton John. Eventually the ones who can see past the date of their own awakening will find what’s worth remembering. The other day coming back from piano, daughter had control of the radio, and we discussed and dissected the songs. Then it was my turn. A Cars song came on; she’d heard it and liked it.
“That’s good for a movie sequence when the couple is having fun in different situations,” she said. This is how they think: cross-contextualizing cultural products into the pre-provided shapes. It’s normal. But I don’t think a 13-year-old in 1947, after visiting several ice-cream parlors and soda shops, would say “this is where in the movie you’d see neon signs floating by at an angle.” The next song was “I Will Survive,” and she paid rapt attention. I was lending some lessons on disco strings and the high-hat, and she couldn’t care less: that song had something.
She was right; it did. It does. It will. Tonight after dinner she started singing: bum bum bum bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum bum bum.
“Mister Sandman,” I sang. “Send me a dream."
“I don’t know why that’s stuck in my head,” she said. Doesn’t matter why. Just as long as it is.
We return to the thrilling days of yore when FX were cheap and budgets ranged all the way up to $7.98 per episode. King! King of the Rocketmen!
Handy recap, with Rocketman looking rather dismayed by all this:
So they were headed down in a plane, and we saw it crash - surely they're dead! Well:
This leads to more of that famous Rocketman chivalry: (seven seconds)
Let's go back to episode two: (12 seconds)
I think he's saying "you keep getting into these stupid scrapes, the trip home's on your dime."
Back to the cave, where the good scientist is hiding from Dr. Vulcan, working on a new coffee-bean extraction process that requires minimal radiation:
Actually, no. He’s in the cave working on the Sonic Decimator. Meanwhile, at Vulcan’s HQ - which is carefully disguised in an office building with enormous radio towers that raise no suspicions whatsoever - Henchman Dirkin calls Vulcan, and says he wants to knock off Jeff King, who we know as Rocketman. Vulcan says “you know, I think King is the Rocketman, so sure.”
Up to now the plot revolved around possession of a photograph that may have revealed the existence of Rocketman, which was a big deal for some reason, and now we’ve moved to knowing who he is. Well, it is episode six.
Back at Egghead Central:
The guys are talking about bringing yet another invention to Science Associates, the Nation’s Most Porous Secret Lab Complex, and King is tasked with safety delivering the Sonitron. Some henchmen dressed as movers try to waylay him, but they forget: we’re seven minutes into the episode without a fistfight, so: (five seconds)
The mighty wind of the King Fist! He’d double-teamed and overcome, and it’s off to the warehouse for the Sonitron. (Which is entirely distinct from the Sonic Decimator.) While chatting with his abductor - no one has a split lip or busted tooth - he surreptitiously turns on the two-radio, which alerts the nerdy scientist back at the lab. Realizing skullduggery is afoot, he calls the cops!
Well, no, he puts on the Rocketman suit and flies to the warehouse. Because anyone can put on the suit and control jets strapped to your back. He bursts in; there’s a gunfight, and the most surprising cliffhanger yet. Ahench appears to shoot Jeff King right in the noggin, and then: (14 seconds)
Well no one expected that. Man! That’s one car crash, one plane crash, one truck crash - it’ll be fire next time, then.
More horrible French food, although for all I know it's delicious; hit the button over on the right. Work Blog between noon and one, but it'll be a short one.