Saturday, December 22, 2007

1969: A Year In Review

1969 - the year I was born - has always held a great fascination for me; since we are shaped by the times we live in (and, in my case, by the media created in those times) it's always been a year I've regarded as special - and not just because it's the year I was born either, although in personal terms that does make 1969 the most special of them all.

The year began, as it ended, with the US embroiled in an unjust foreign war declared on the basis of specious intelligence; thank goodness people today have evolved beyond all that. Not that I was aware of it. I wasn't even aware of Sesame Street, the show that would have the greatest impact on my young psyche, which made its debut 18 days before I made mine.

1969 was the year evil media baron Rupert Murdoch began making his inroads into British media, with his purchase of News of the World, yet also the year the media's saviour was born, namely me; of course, in those days blogs, the Internet, and even the concept of pop culture were all just glimmers in various eyes, awaiting the One who would whip them all into a frenzy affectionately known as the Pop Culture Institute.

The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, President Lyndon Baines Johnson left office prior to the inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, and martial law was declared in Spain as The Beatles gave their final public performance (on the roof of Apple Records) which was included in their film Let It Be; the event later paid homage to in the U2 video Where The Streets Have No Name. And that was just in January!

February saw Yasser Arafat appointed head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an oil slick fouled the harbour of Santa Barbara, California, and FLQ bombs fouled the Montreal Stock Exchange. In March Concorde made its initial test flight, Sirhan Sirhan confessed to killing Robert F. Kennedy while a week later James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr., NASA launched Apollo 9 to test the lunar module (later returning safely to the Earth), Golda Meir became the first female Prime Minister of Israel, and either Nixon or Kissinger hatched the brilliant plan to bomb the shit out of Cambodia.

In April the Harrier jet entered service in the RAF, 300 members of the Students for a Democratic Society seized the administration building at Harvard, and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as President of France; things got really interesting in May, when the Soviets landed Venera 5 on the surface of Venus where NASA's Apollo 10 flew within 15,400 m of the Moon as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were conducting a Bed-In at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

While still in bed in Montreal in June John Lennon recorded Give Peace a Chance (the first solo single by a Beatle), whereas an hour away in Ottawa the finishing touches were being put on Canada's National Arts Centre; at the end of that month, the event that would most profoundly effect the way I live occurred at the Stonewall riots.

In July Charles, Prince of Wales, was invested with his title beneath a vast perspex pavilion at Caernarfon, French was elevated to official language status in Canada, the first American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Kopechne to her doom at Chappaquiddick, Gloria Diaz became the first Filipina Miss Universe, and the Apollo 11 mission went to the moon and back.

In August Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manson and his "family", a suitably ironic prelude to the peace, love, and harmony promoted at the Woodstock Festival.

In September Libya's King Idris was ousted by Muammar al-Gaddafi, information about the My Lai Massacre was suppressed by a co-operative (or, if you prefer, collusive) media, and the Chicago Eight trial began; October saw the opening of the Beijing Subway, Willard S. Boyle and George Smith invented the CCD at Bell Laboratories (precipitating the digital age whose fruits we currently enjoy), Willy Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany, the first message was sent over ARPANET (which would later become the Internet, the greatest invention in the history of mankind), and Wal-Mart (among the worst inventions in human history) was incorporated.

November - as has already been discussed - saw the arrival of both me and Sesame Street; additionally, Seymour Hersh broke the story of My Lai, Apollo 12 went to the moon, the UK's BBC1 and ITV began broadcasting in colour, the US Senate voted against the appointment of Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court, and John Lennon returned his MBE in protest of British support for the Vietnam War.

The year ended with the murders of Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their sleep by the Chicago police department, the fiasco at Altamont, and the Piazza Fontana bombing in Italy, all recently discussed on the Pop Culture Institute.

Among those born in this year: Christy Turlington, "Brian Warner", Jason Bateman, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Aniston, Chastity Bono, Paul Rudd, Renée Zellweger, Cate Blanchett, Steffi Graf, Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Elliott Smith, Edward Norton, Christian Slater, Matthew Perry, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwen Stefani, Brett Favre, Trey Parker, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Matthew McConaughey, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay-Z, Martha Byrne, and Jay Kay.

Among those who died include Violet and Daisy Hilton, Jan Palach, Boris Karloff, Thelma Ritter, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Osbert Sitwell, Judy Garland, Brian Jones, Rocky Marciano, and Jack Kerouac.
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Mini-Milestone: 1969

For the most part, I have rendered this blog with the utmost enthusiasm; there have been days, though, that have tested the limits of my endurance, whether emotional or intellectual or even physical. There have even been days, like yesterday and today, which came close to being all three. Over the past two years I have any number of times (and for any number of reasons) come thisclose to deleting the whole shebang; my cursor has even lingered near (though never over) the DELETE BLOG button. The longer I work at it, the more I put into it, the less appealing this option becomes; anyway, I soon get over myself, and the feeling passes.

What might seem to be a phoenix-like response of mine - rather than cleansing or rejuvenating - is actually profoundly self-defeating; the wholesale destruction of manuscripts, friendships, and even aspirations, invariably takes away more than it gives in return, and I have never not come to regret any such rash action on my part. This is why I haven't resorted to such a drastic step now with regards to the Pop Culture Institute, and also why I never will; in amongst all my clumsy attempts at evolution it seems that I just might have, however accidentally or unintentionally, evolved beyond the need to destroy. Each of these dalliances with deletion has served as a defiant affirmation, not only of the work I do here but also my ability to do it.

It's telling that the most important romantic relationship I've ever had has been with this blog; I've worried over it, been elated by it, and even occasionally even loathed it. Unlike the men with whom I've been romantic, though, this blog has let me worry over it, been in its own way elated by me, and never let my loathing become reciprocal. Despite my commitment to it, whenever I've needed space it's been offered without question, and upon my inevitable return it's greeted me with open... Er... Peripherals?

I've decided to start taking it a little bit easier, so as not to burn myself out. This blog was originally intended as a kind of workout for my writing; rather than a couple of leisurely hours of stretching a day, though, it's become something of an endurance test, like trying to compete in the decathlon while wearing anvils instead of shoes. The imposition of such strict discipline on a person who is essentially lazy may be necessary to help him realize his dream of someday not having to be a security guard, but it's really played Hell on my psyche. When a masochist says something hurts, it really hurts, and the last two days have been very painful indeed.

In the end, it's your warm words (as much as my love of the work) which invariably end up bringing me back. Mr. Gagne, of course, has been the best friend I (or it) could ask for, and is solely responsible for much of the look of this blog, being the one to teach me HTML, the literary equivalent of calculus; Mr. Davey, too, has helped me to shape its attitude with his own. Being added to the blogroll of Y|O|Y in March gave me my first shred of credibility, in that a total stranger liked my work enough to recommend it to others. Daniel, Eddie, and Javier have all taken to it enthusiastically in recent months, and offer input and insight (rather than adding insult to injury) for which I am deeply grateful; they are a brilliant foreboding of readers yet to arrive. Finally, there are the dozens of people who've crossed this path and, whether they've left their mark on this blog or not have left their mark on me, whether by bruises or lipstick traces...


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