A Tale of Two Towns: June 26, 2009

Contemplating it all…

A long time ago in that faraway country that was my youth, I wrote papers for school in long hand and then typed the final product on a black Royal portable that had been around our home since long before I was born. Were I now my age when that portable Royal was young, I would be sitting in front of it with a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray with a martini to accompany them while I typed with the hard, tough strokes of a manual typewriter, working to make sense of the world in which I was living — rather like a Walter Winchell [anyone remember him?] or a Hemingway or Fitzgerald, were I to aim very high.

It has been that kind of week — the kind in which the world needs figuring out. Half way across the world, protests continue to sputter in Iran over the election as the Twitter posts also sputter. Once separated by nanoseconds, minutes if not hours now separate the Iranian posts. What remains to be seen is the lasting changes that will come from this. And there will be lasting changes – Iran, as much as the Mullahs may pretend, will never be the same.

There was a piece of video I watched last weekend, uncorroborated when I saw it though later it was, of a young woman shot and dying on the streets of Tehran. It was shocking, horrible, real: it was the ultimate price people pay for protest. Neda was her name, a 26-year-old graduate student who wanted to lead tours; she went out to protest the elections and was killed with a bullet fired, probably, by the pro-government paramilitary Basiji. The video has become a rallying image around the world for the Iranian Protest Movement. It will be an image that will live on and haunt the Iranian government. Beautiful, full of life and now gone, her power to galvanize will remain.

As “#Iranelection” is trending downward on Twitter, soaring upwards in the world of internet chatter are tweets about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, two icons who died yesterday and who are being remembered by the legions who idolized them. Both of them will be remembered for their great influence on pop culture in their time and for the feeling that something went wrong for both of them, with Michael Jackson the winner in that dubious category. From beloved superstar to very, very weird dude it was a long hard bumpy ride down the superstar slope. Still beloved by many, he had become to many others a parody. Dogged by rumors of pedophilia, drug abuse, and just plain over the top weird behavior, Michael Jackson will remain a symbol of all that can go wrong with a superstar life and will be up there with icons like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland – talent that got very lost along the way.

Farrah was the epitome of beauty for every straight boy when I was much younger and the poster of her in that red bathing suit was ubiquitous; you couldn’t ignore it if you tried. That’s what she’ll be remembered for – that and some later life behavior that seemed to indicate drug troubles. What probably won’t be remembered is the depth of her performance in THE BURNING BED or the haunting portrayal of heiress Barbara Hutton in the mini-series POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL.

So it’s come to this: I think the ’70’s and ’80’s are now officially done – they have just moved into that past that is that foreign country. The iconic links we had to them, pop culture wise, are gone and we are left with individual memories, adrift now in our remembrances. Pop Culture is only part of the essence of those times.

More important than Farrah or Michael were events like the fall of Saigon and the iconic photo of the helicopter retreat from the U.S. Embassy and the crash of the Challenger. Pop Culture seems to define us while somehow failing to be the essential substance of a time.

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2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Towns: June 26, 2009”

  1. Carolyn R Says:

    70’s and 80’s are not quite dead. The Middle East was boiling then, Chrysler was bailed out, early 80’s was huge unemployment, later 80’s a financial meltdown. Come to think of it CETA, that savior jobs program of Gerald Ford’s reign, was a 70’s phenom. So either we are repeating these times with less identifiable icons and more at stake and/or we are now suffering the lack of dealing with the problems of those times.

    The leaving of candles, teddy bears, cellophane wrapped flowers and photos on every step and lawn to express grief over someone never personally known is a 90’s and apparently enduring pop culture viral thing. Ditto Tweeting one’s every feeling by the moment about a dead person not known. It baffles the mind.

    I like your new forMat.

  2. tombers Says:

    LOL on the last

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