When I was just a wee lad, I was taken to see Halley’s comet. Remember? All through ’86 we had comet fever, not least of all because it only comes once every 76 years (and you thought Santa’s sack was big). Viewing the comet was considered the quintessential ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. For me, hearing of the comet’s tail was the first time I got my first inkling of the limited ink of the human story arc, when I realised that I might not live to see the celestial anticlimax a second time. Tragic, isn’t it.
For Halley spotters in olden times, there must have been other transitional moments: imagine being born on the cusp of the decline of the neck ruff; watching the codpiece die out; seeing the public wearing of sabres fall into disrepute. For so many of our ancestors, there must have been the sense of something slowly becoming extinct, of moments (and accoutrements) ‘never to be repeated’: monocles, pith helmets, mutton chops, moustache wax, pipe smoking… all of them, slowly fading, then gone.
But sometimes these days, it feels like we’re dealing with the death of eras in nanobits and flash memories. Four years ago, I was shooting film, playing records and thinking nothing of it. In 2008, it seems silly to buy into C-DJs or even Final Scratch when the ultimate ‘integrated mixing unit’ (with onboard flash drive) is nearly upon us. It should make me quiver in anticip…….. pation, but actually, the pace of change makes me really, really anxious. I have two wired functions to help stem the flow, but it’s more like sticking your pinky into a bursting dyke than dabbing a tear. So I ‘download’ and I ‘delete’, and between these two essential functions, I try (at least) to contain the torrent of content. As far as hardware goes, I don’t even bother – who’s got the money? Even the thought of it makes me feel so enervated that I want to lie down and give a half-arsed squeak of ennui (if I could be bothered).
Even the return of the Olympics makes me feel depressed. Leap year again?! Devil take you! Was it really four years since Athens? And eight since Sydney?! I suppose that’s why people (in rich countries) update their televisions for the Olympics. You feel sad, you get depressed, you go shopping to compensate, and you come home with something that makes you feel, for once, like you’re surfing (the safety grip of) the cutting edge, with the hard bite of the credit crunch only the distant inkling of suspected deadly masticators.
But then on Friday night a beautiful thing happened to me, something calming and energising, an event that gave me strength and hope.
You might have noticed that Oakley has sensed its wave is about to break again, with the re-release of Frogskins, the mirror-lensed Californian mutation on the Wayfarer. ‘No way,’ you say like Point Break Keanu. ‘Way,’ say I as Wayne. Go to my family photobox, you can probably find a picture of me wearing Frogskins, with a Bad Billy’s top in red acid wash, a pair of quick-dry boardshorts, and a pair of Puma Cats, the same as they used to wear on 21 Jump Street. I was the Hypercolor portrait of a pre-pubescent, flourescent knob end… come to think of it, when will they re-release Hypercolor t-shirts? Now’s the time, fo real.
Anyway, so they’re re-releasing Frogskins, just like I used to wear in the late 80s. ‘Big whoop’, as we would have said back in the day. But then, on Friday night, I came home and warmed up the family telly, an old Sony Trinitron that my dad had bought in 1988, probably to coincide with the Seoul Olympics. I have this memory slice of watching Bryan Brown get his head chopped off by the ‘Japs’ in Blood Oath, the very first night we used it. The blood spattering the sand was a much richer red than I’d seen on our old Philips (purchased when Beyond 2000 was still called Towards 2000). Suddenly, new and far more colourful violence seemed possible, and with our remote control, we could flick quickly between channels- and channels-worth of rich, vibrantly rendered horror. We were ready for the nineties.
Cut to Friday last and the colour on the old Sony now seems distinctly flat and full, compared with the positively ‘Oakley’ colour range on some of the new LCD tellies, but despite the dullness and the high-pitched whir of the old tube (and the pots and pots of Carlton sloshing around inside me), I could still make out that I was watching Meatballs… Meatballs IV, the tagline to which is: “There's only one thing wilder, crazier and sexier then last summer – this summer.” There, in a pair of Oakley Frogskins and a fluoro wetsuit (that would have perfectly matched the colour schemes of my BZ bodyboard and Peak springsuit), was Corey Feldman, doing his best impersonation of an over-the-hill manchild giving the cashteet of Goonies fame one last squeeze before checking into the world of has-beens (which, in case you’re wondering, is over the hill right next door to the rehab clinic).
‘Good God,’ I guffawed at Corey, ‘There is no avant garde!’
It all hit me at once. Last year, Amy Winehouse lost the Mercury Prize to the Klaxons. Their lead singer, who I can imagine sporting not only Frogskins but most of my ‘88–‘90 wardrobe, was quick to point out that “her record is a retro record, and we have made the most forward-thinking record since I don’t know how long.”
Now, Winehouse might not have much to look forward to given the way things are going, (get Corey Feldman on the blower, I say), but without a doubt, the Klaxon’s near future is a myth. What does it mean to be forward-thinking in 2008? If you ask me, the flipside of being in a world where nothing is old is that nothing is new (and vice versa). Constant change means that nothing changes. The other side of redundancy is the eternal novelty of rememberabilia… I’d weakly thought so for a while, but it was seeing Corey in Meatballs IV, no less than viewing Halley’s Comet, that reminded me what life has become, and what kind of world we’re living in, more a memory-go-round (or a comet’s tale) than a edgy shuffle into the never-never.
‘Yes yes,’ you say, ‘things go in cycles, in the way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael.’ But no! We’re far beyond (?behind? ?below?) that. This year, Jacko is re-releasing Thriller as a NEW album – he’s just re-recorded it, with new guest spots. It’s the ultimate ‘guaranteed hit’ as well as the perfectly 2008 ‘new album’. Take the tip, 2008 is a year to relax: just choose your favourite combination of historical modes and roll with it, or go back to whatever you were doing and wearing then, with the self-assured pride of an Elizabethan at the height of codpiece fever. Sooner and later, mark my words, thou wilst be at the very heighth of fashion, O my brothers.
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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