When I think about the cultural and historical markers in my life, I quickly reach the conclusion that I’m a 20th century kinda guy. Born in 1959, and given my appreciation for history, the last century is my default lens on the world.
My personal culture
My pop culture worldview is still partying like it’s 1999.
If not earlier! For example, when it comes to popular music, my tastes stop somewhere in the mid-80s, and I’m more drawn to composers and performers of the early and middle 20th century — the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Sinatra, the Big Bands, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc. — than any other era.
And while current television dramas are generally superior to most of their predecessors, I’ll take yesterday’s classic sitcoms — “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “MASH,” and yes, even “Hogan’s Heroes” — over “Two and Half Men” and other popular shows today. As for the big screen, I’ll gladly opt for a rich array of oldies, while passing on the dreck coming out of Hollywood now.
As far as my Chicago sports fandom goes, give me the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1990s Chicago Bulls, the
1969 Cubs, the 1984 Cubs, the 1983 White Sox…okay, it’s a mixed bag.
In terms of technology, I’ll take DVDs over streaming, CDs over MP3 (closer call), real books over e-books (though I get the convenience & cost factor), and Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS over anything to do with Microsoft Word. I’m not that crazy about cellphones, and I don’t permit my students to use laptops in my classes. (In a big bow to the 21st century, I believe the iPad is one of the most brilliant devices ever made.)
And what of the bigger picture?
Centuries are marked by the turn of a calendar, but their essence is defined by core events. For me, the 20th century era — at least from an admittedly American perspective — began in 1903, when the Wright Brothers successfully flew their primitive airplane in the dunes near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It ended with the attacks of September 11, 2001. (Hmm, both events centered on the use of airplanes…)
When it comes to grasping history and current events, I see how we’re still strongly influenced by decisions and events of the last century. World diplomacy in 2014 has the scary look & feel of Europe in 1914, and the two world wars continue to shape international relations. And if you want a milestone year for understanding the path toward America’s present domestic and international political status, then take a close look at 1980: The election of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian hostage crisis captured the nation’s conservative turn and anticipated its post-Cold War preoccupation with the Middle East.
Somewhere a place for us
I happen to believe there’s still a place in this world for those of us whose outlook on things reaches back into the last century. If not, whatever. I’ll just pop that best-of-the-80s cassette back into my Walkman and try to get over it.