¡Fo Reels, Yo! (...and for rants, and for other things too.)

December, 2008
(Part 1 of 4)

usually, without time allowing for prosper perspective, pinpointing exact moments of change isn't the easiest of tasks.  The turbulent 60's were considered the dawning of a new day.  But even that extraordinary decade is difficult confining to numerical years.  Yeah, mathematically they began on January 1st, 1960, and ended on December 31st, 1969.  Yeah, Richard Nixon was in the White House for both dates, but the President in 1969 was presiding over a much different land than the Vice President of 1960.  The often used one-liner goes something like "Those who remember the 60's, weren't really there." 

Fortunately, a few historians were square enough to not "Tune In/Turn Off/Drop Out" and document the Age of Aquarius.  But questions still remain.  Did this era begin with JFK's stunning Presidential victory?  With his tragic assassination?  Or with the following year's Brit-Pop invasion?  Figuring out its end is just as perplexing.  The 1970 break up of the Beatles?  The 1970 killings at Kent State?  The 1973 withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam? The Watergate scandal?  Most difficult is figuring out which one year stands out as the era's most definitive one. 1969 is a popular candidate.  The year brought with it many incredible moments like July 20th, when the entire world watched two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, fly off of it for a walk on the moon.  Far less incredible but culturally, perhaps slightly more significant saw the 1969 birth of New Hollywood with the release of Midnight Cowboy.  Woodstock took the concept of concert and turned it into an organic yet still high profile four day love festival of music and peace.  To this day it is still the music event by which all others are judged.  Broadway Joe Namath cemented the NFL-AFL merger by making the championship game truly "Super" while delivering the greatest upset in pro football history.  The Miracle Mets matched that by pulling the greatest upset in World Series history nine months later.

Like the rest of the era, violence dotted 1969.  From the UCLA shootout between splinter black nationalist groups, to the Stonewall Riots, to civil unrest in our nation's urban centers, to Nixon's expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.

More often than not, cosmic shifts happen before the vast masses even realize it.  For instance, although many thank Nirvana for taking spandex out of rock, only a select few can say they were there for the "real" start of the grunge revolution.  Brooding to the angry start-stop three minute songs of the Pixies, while most were still banging their heads to comically bland, mind numbingly superficial, hair bands like Poison.  So, while 1969 might seem like the seminal moment of the 60's, the proverbial dye of a new age had been cast long before.  Again, we just don't know exactly when.

We do know that Hollywood was aware of a counter-culture by giving it bad guys to root for when making Bonnie and Clyde in 1966.  We know that the Monterey Pop Festival introduced the music world to the hippie sound over two years before Woodstock.  We know that while the Jets and Mets shocked America in victory, neither team was as shocking to America and to the world after victory as American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Their act of political defiance (the two were joined by Australian sprinter, Peter Norman) 
at the medal's podium during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics against American racism was later matched by Czechoslovakian gymnast, Vera Caslavska, who made her own medal ceremony statement against the Soviet Union's occupation of her homeland.

Of course none of these events were as gripping as the two assassinations which came just months apart in the spring of 1968.  Would the Civil Rights movement have become divided without the murder of Martin Luther King? Would the Democratic National Convention break into urban warfare without the murder of Robert F. Kennedy? Would Richard Nixon ever have been elected without their deaths?  We'll never know the answers to these questions.  Just like we'll never know which events directly started and ended America's most turbulent decade.

While these aren't quite revolutionary times, change again surrounds us.  Maybe 2008 is only the beginning to something much bigger.  And maybe because today's masses are more addicted to web surfing than acid dropping, it's easier to give an exact moment to the dawning of this current new age.  

As any online news service or personal blog will tell you, this year came in like a lion and is going out like, well, a bigger lion.  And by lion we mean the super-bad Nittany type, not the horrifically bad, Detroit breed.  Like cars, we can't even remember when Detroit last put out a good football team.   1957?

Thanks to the 24 hour (unless it's the weekend and MSNBC is in the mist of a Lockup marathon) news cycle, we can now almost, just about, name the exact moment of change.  In fact, this year took only three days to feel a seismic shift.