It's Garbage time in the last game of this blog's life. We are trailing by 50. The other team has long pulled its best players and is laying back (I think it probably should be lying, but no one who uses the expression ever says lying) on defense; however we are still throwing up wild three pointers that land nowhere near the basket and off-balance running one handers from outside the lane, as even with the minimal resistance we are unable to penetrate therein. I admit I am surprised by how grisly it has been. I thought we'd be competitive in most of our games and easily make the tournament. 12-6 at the worst, never 4-14 with most of the defeats by blowout. We overrated our talent, it goes without saying, but we also never identified anything we did well, or that might develop into something we did well by the standards of our competition over the course of the season if we worked at it. This all falls on the coach, of course, and in real life would necessitate his firing (to mix sports, if I am the Gerry Faust of this blog, this post is pretty much the 58-7 Miami game).
A few months back I remember articles making the rounds about how certain aspects of the culture--namely fashion, music, movies--had stopped progressing around 1992, and that while there were easily identifiable differences from 1932 to 1952 to 1972 to 1992 in these areas, there was, in the eyes of these writers, little discernible different from 1992 to 2012 (literature may have been included in the list, though people have been complaining about its being moribund since long before 1992). My initial reaction upon reading these was to think that superficially it seems to be somewhat true, but that is of course because I am stuck in many ways, and always will be, in a 1990s (and 80s)-centric idea of how the world is. Time really has moved on, and while most people I know do still dress about the same as they did in the early 90s, all you have to do is search for "shopping mall photos circa 1990" or some similar thing to see that in fact young people do dress (and look) quite differently. The main change in fashion, other than that there are a lot more really fat people, and a lot of them don't seem to be as conscious of themselves as being grotesque as they probably would have 20 years ago, is the ubiquity of tattoos, which for the most part only hardcore heavy metal fans and a few extra-bad boys and girls who backed up the look with a lot of real attitude and debauchery had in those days. I am certain that the young women show a lot more cleavage than they were doing in the late 80s and early 90s, and you would think if anybody would know about this it would be me. I also see girls wearing bikinis on the beach, even some who have less than spectacular figures. I don't remember anybody 'normal' (i.e., was not clearly dating a bodybuilder or member of a biker gang) wearing a bikini in New England at least in the 80s. In general I think people look more and more stupid the more years that go by, and project less in the way of having any kind of interesting personality, but that is also a common affliction of aging.
Again, there does not seem to be much going on in music--I seem to hear about two new songs a year that I actually like at all at maximum--but it is highly likely that if there is any new music that is going to be considered good fifty years from now I am not hearing it, and even if I were technically hearing it, like the old fogies who doubtless heard classic rock songs in the 50s and 60s and could not discerning any pleasant sounds in them at all, I would probably not be 'hearing' what is dynamic in them. New movies and literature, the other dominant artistic forms of Generation X's and especially the Baby Boomers' most impressionable years, are not giving the most emotionally devoted, or at least most critically credentialed, segments of their audiences what they are looking for either, and I must include myself among that disgruntled middle aged group, since I find it pretty much impossible to find anything new comparable to the good old stuff before everybody became stifled by the particular attitudes and variety of self-consciousness that you know everything today is smothered in before you even see it. Still, a half-century on, there will be aficiondos of our period who will think a few things from it splendid, and wonder and be saddened that there are not, and never will be, any more works of a similar character to be discovered from it. Our generation, if not dead, will be superannuated, its essential work finished (if you think, as I increasingly do, that most artists decline after age 40 my generation's work is already essentially finished) and our descendants will have from what was done a strong sense of all that was not done, and might have been done. But they will love some of the things that were done for reasons that are inaccessible to someone already past middle age now and making a living or maintaining a persona as a curmudgeon and a scold.
I do suspect that the new technology of the last 20 years may be hindering people who may have been creative in these older forms. I am not referring to myself, as when I used to attempt creative writing I wrote all my drafts out in longhand and typed and printed up copies from which I did revisions after that. I found I could not compose on the computer, that it was too fast, that I didn't have the same sense of making the actual thing that I wanted to make. I do compose the blog posts on the computer of course, because I don't have time to write them out in longhand at present, but I am always a little jittery and uncomfortable in doing so, I am always conscious of time, I am always conscious of other points I could bring in which would necessitate changing the flow of the narrative, and it shows in the postings. I think the ever-increasing stupendous-ness of the technology is probably a little deflating to would-be artists who are trying to, or need to use it, but have no sense of control over it because they don't really understand how it works. Personally I would happily give up computers long before I gave up old-style literature or music or films, and I do not think that computers are an expression of a superior intelligence to at least the greatest works of art, but it is an expression of a very powerful and seemingly very different kind of intelligence that is wholly ascendant at present. The humanistic artist of the present and future probably has to, a la Buster Keaton with the movie camera, or even better, Vermeer and the other ancient artists' necessity of making their own actual paint and other supplies from scratch, take the computer apart (not necessarily literally, though that would probably not hurt), identify what its powers and ruling premises really are and what they really signify to man in his current state of existence, and then internalize that understanding so that it is as much as possible second nature, and the technology is no longer a hindrance. Doubtless this process is already underway, but I probably will never be able to get it. I'm kind of intellectually stranded in my early 40s, and I don't like it.
Back to the main point, however. The physical manifestations and delivery of art even in my childhood were, though by machines and technology, were by machines and technology that one had a reasonable visual and cognitive sense of how they worked--printing presses, records, film reels, radio broadcasts. I have no sense of how clicking various buttons on the internet allow me not only to save my draft of this post, but in the event that I should fly to Irkutsk in the next couple of days, to be able to retrieve it there on any computer I might find that has internet access. I have no sense of how if I click a couple of buttons, that I not only can hear and see video images of Tavares' "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel", but I can have a copy of it "burned" onto my own computer and can then do I guess any number of things with it, though so far I still just make CDs out of these songs I download or upload, though how that process works I don't really understand either. The worst part is, I'm not terribly interested in understanding it, even if I could; but that is in some large sense the key to what life is in my time, regardless of whether I want it to be or not, and I should be interested in it. But back again to the main point--the computer is too powerful a tool. If you attempt to use it passively as just a cleaner and faster substitute for the kind of work you were used to doing in a way in which you had greater hands-on physical control, you will be surprised by how much power it saps out of you because it makes you aware, subconsciously or not, that there is infinitely more going on in it than there is in you.
I wanted to write some more about the negativity so many people feel about college these days, and how I do expect this widespread disenchantment to be a serious political catalyst within the next few years, and not only because of the loan debt, though that is certainly a big part of it. For a large part of the current generation especially there has been, a deep emotional investment in the whole college process from an early age, and despite the cynical exhortations and words of wisdom of their elders to toughen up, that nothing is promised or owed to anyone in this world, that they didn't study the right subjects or compete strongly enough to be successful and now they just have to live with the consequences of that failure, I don't think they are going to be so easily persuaded that it didn't really signify anything as far as the rest of life goes. But I'll have to go into that more another time. That, and I suppose other politics. Someday I'll probably break down and relate my vision of a world where published authors and professors and other intellectual authorities have attained the power of administering life and death over people who unsuccessfully aspire to join their ranks, and of my own trial and execution at the hands of this court--but yes, I should definitely stop for tonight...