On why the past isn’t so great Monday, Jul 12 2010 

Now playing: ♫ The Best Is Yet To Come – Tony Bennett

I was talking to a friend of mine last week about music.  I mentioned that I enjoy listening to rock and pop music from the 1950s and 1960s.  He replied “yeah, the 50s were great.  A happier, friendlier time, without all this emo rot on the telly and radio, and worries about oil and the impending financial doom.”  I looked at him with the most surprised look I have ever had.  Then I asked him on what merit he based this opinion on, especially since he wasn’t even born until the 1980s.  He simply stated “that’s what everyone says”.

To be fair, I do believe him.  That is what almost everyone who didn’t study world history and wasn’t alive in the 1950s says.  But I would like to rebut his comments:

  1. “A happier, friendlier time”
    Obviously, he has never studied the Cold War.  The entire world was on pins and needles, worried that at any second the nuclear war would start and the entire human race would be utterly obliterated.  The perceived fallout from the Cold War definitely added many unhappy moments to the decade, and most of the Western world was very unfriendly to anyone in Latin America, the USSR, or any communist country.
  2. “Without all this emo rot on the telly and radio”
    This is by far the easiest to rebut.  People claim that “emo” (the angsty teenagers — not hardcore emotive nu metal like the word originally meant) and songs about failed relationships and depression started in the late 1980s or early 1990s with the punk/grunge scene.  I would like to point out that one of – if not the – most famous musicians of the 1950s, Elvis Presley, recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956 and that song basically started his large success.  This song was actually inspired by a suicide note.  If you want to define “emo” as most modern people do, this is the epitome of “emo” songs.
    Note that I’m not putting down this song or Elvis Presley at all — I am simply making an observation.  In my humble opinion, the word “emo” is far too overreaching and overzealous for its own good and should be stricken from the world’s collective mindset.
  3. “Without worries of oil and the impending financial doom”
    Of course, the worries of oil were almost non-existent.  But the cost of the Cold War, namely the quickly skyrocketing cost of maintaining strong military and defence systems, coupled with the loose trade regulations led by the Conservatives, meant that there was always the chance for financial ruin.

Of course, if you were quite young (or not even born) in the 1950s, you probably don’t remember much of that.  You were too busy having fun and enjoying your innocence to remember any of that.

In a more personal look at the effect that the passage of time has on our recollections, let me point this out.  Last year, I had a longing to relive the mid-1990s.  I remembered it as a quite enjoyable time; I made a lot of friends, I graduated at the top of my class in school, and I got my first look at this new-fangled bit of technology named the “World Wide Web”.  However, yesterday I found a journal I wrote in from 1994 to 1997.  I read it and was horrified at what I found: rants about how hard school was, how mean many people were to me, and even a two-week long epic about me fracturing my arm.

I remembered none of this until I reread my journal.  And I think that’s what the point of this article really is.  The past may seem like a better time to you, but it may not have seemed like it when it was the present.  Be satisfied that you have happy memories.  And instead of reliving the past (and all of your prior troubles) over again, it’s better to live in the present and make the most of what life has dealt you.

Advertisements

On GeoCities’ closing Monday, Oct 26 2009 

Now playing: Lady of the Flowers by Placebo on Placebo [1996] (iTunes)

I’ve been so very busy at work the past few days that I had forgotten I signed up for this blog.  I remembered yesterday evening, but couldn’t think of a topic to write about.  However, this morning I was reminded that today is the day GeoCities closes.  And of course, sites like XKCD are parodying the bad HTML and broken images we’ve all grown to hate.

However, I want to remind you of a better time.  The GeoCities of the mid ’90s; the GeoCities I once knew, used, and loved.  Before the commercialisation, before the Yahoo! aquisition, before its own personal “eternal September” of clueless newbies.

GeoCities, circa 1996, before it sucked.

GeoCities, circa 1996, before it sucked.

There was, and still is, a lot of technical information of GeoCities, and a lot of it is rare content that you won’t find anywhere else.  There was more information than you would think, especially on old technologies including GEOS, Roland synthesisers, and RISC CPUs.  There were fansites of good ol’ TV shows…remember Suddenly Susan?  Smart Guy?  Even classic telly, such as Gilligan’s Island and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  There were MIDI archives.  There were some excellent history and genealogical resources.  And was there a more expansive lyrics archive on the early Web than Andrew’s Lyrics?  (There actually were much better ones on Gopher, but that’s an entirely different subject.)

And GeoCities was the beginning of the social Web revolution, allowing anyone with access to a keyboard the ability to write a Web site about anything, thereby bringing people who wanted to just have a page about their family.  I’ll admit I’m a bit guilty of doing that myself; I signed up for a GeoCities page in 1997, relatively late, and used it primarily for voicing my opinions on computing and showing off my family pictures.  I closed it down in ’99, because I was far too busy being a full-time administrator to keep it up.  Not to mention the commercialisation that came…banner ads and the watermark were just the beginning, as we would all find out when Yahoo! purchased them.  However, that was what proved the fatal flaw with “anyone with a keyboard can sign up”: the general masses gained Internet access, and back then everyone was flooding Yahoo! to get their wide variety of services (primarily for email and messenger).  These masses used terrible, disgusting editors (FrontPage Express, Hot Dog, and even Netscape Composer 4.x generated abysmal HTML) and wrote about nothing in particular.  This made the content rapidly decline in value, turning GeoCities into basically just a pile of meaningless babble and broken HTML, and the only thing declining faster than their reputation and content quality was their real userbase.  So here we are.  Yahoo! is dwindling, they’re strapped for cash, and probably just can’t afford GeoCities anymore.  In the eyes of most, this is a Good Thing™ because of the drivel that most people think GeoCities is famous for.

But I still remember the great big melting pot, the community that was GeoCities in the ’90s.  And though there are some modern hosting providers that are somewhat akin to this old GeoCities in terms of hosting (here are a few), none can match the community. And that is, I think, what GeoCities was for me and many others back then – a community of people from different backgrounds and cultures, sharing the collective of our knowledge (and family pictures) for the world to see.

Fare thee well, old friend.  Here’s to one last <marquee/> tag, and the hope that one day someone may be able to rekindle the community spark of 1995.