Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The generation of... what?

I have a question. What will be worth remembering from this generation?

Where is its imagination? What is its creative essence - its expressionist soul? What will be "classic" or iconic about it all when people look back? I can't think of a thing...

First - what are we going to even call this decade? It doesn't have a handy title to look back on, like "the roaring '20s" or "fab '50s." It seems awkward to say, "Hey, remember the 'Oh's'?"

What is its legacy? We have The Greatest Generation, the Hippie Generation, the Me Generation, Generation X... what does this generation have - aside from fears of itself?

About the music - Fergie. Snoop. Billy Ray. Toby.That's the stuff of the Top 40 charts this week. We have whole years of "hits" in which the key word in the lyrics is "ho." C'mon, people won't remember that crap next week, yet alone in generations to come.

You can still turn on the radio and hear the joyful pioneer rock of the 1950s, the daring peace songs of the 1960s, the driving instrumentations of change from the 1970s, the creative singer-songwriters of the early '80s, the departure of the early punk movement, the flannel-clad societal challenge in the grunge of the '90s - even the much-maligned disco has its legs.

Fifty years from now, people will still know "Born to Run," "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," "Imagine," "Let it Be," "Layla," "Hotel California," "Free Bird," "Ring of Fire," "Like a Rolling Stone" and on and on.

So, what is music today producing to be classic? Where are the future Rolling Stones, Zeppelin, U2, Marley, Ramones, Hendrix, Hank Williams, Queen, Doors, Beach Boys - you know, the kind of stuff that lasts?

Instead, we have Britney Spears. Yeah, our grandkids will be thrilled.

Surely we have classic movies though. Stuff to stand up next to "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "The Godfather," "Schindler's List," "Wizard of Oz," "Bambi..."

Sure, we have, ummm, The Simpsons, Spiderman part 806, a cooking rat, Transformers. Mindless comedy and violent gore. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." Chipmunks.

I think this is actually listed in Revelation as a sign for the end of the world.

TV has a few thoughtful shows, but I see no Cronkite or Cousteau or Lucille Ball, no M*A*S*H* or Little House, nothing that to be remembered years from now. We get Paris and Nicole and I Love New York.

Where are the great artists of this generation - the Monet, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Michelangelo?

Name a famous artist today who will pass the tests of time... go ahead... Ummm, the guy that paints the NASCAR cars? The guy who does graphics for "Grand Theft Auto" video games? Half of what we think of as art today is generated by computer, not imagination.

To be honest, the most creative people out there may be the ones doing guerilla art on train cars and in alleys with spray paint after dark. At least they haven't sold out.

My wife came home with the latest "Harry Potter" book. They charge like 30 bucks for the thing - for that price Danielle Radcliffe should come to your house and read the thing aloud while he scrubs the kitchen floor.

My kids are getting a bit old for Harry's magical hijinks, but they grew up reading those books, and apparently want to finish the cycle by having the final installment.

Before I could complain about this unbudgeted expense, however, I stopped to think.

"Harry Potter" may well be the one literary classic of this time - the one that is remembered into future generations.

What else is out there? Atop the Best Seller list, "Skinny Bitch," and "Shooters." Lots of trashy romance novels, a few self-serving tell-alls, and a couple meatgrinder horrors.

I didn't notice any next generation of Tolstoys, Twains, Shakespeares, Faulkners, Joyces, Vonneguts. No Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, or Gatsby in the bunch.

Heck, will there even be such a thing as books when the next generation comes of age?

How is it that so little that is seemingly memorable is coming out of this era? Are we superficial, or victims of our own leisure - or just preoccupied with terrorism?

Does it start from the top, I wonder. After all, no matter what your politics, you probably don't expect the Black Hills to be expanded with a bust of George Bush the remix.

Or is the classic stuff out there - but we won't recognize it until its time is gone? Possible. They always say a great artist is never fully appreciated in his or her lifetime.

Maybe it's just that the fine arts aren't terribly appreciated in this period of history. It seems to be the first thing cut in our schools.

The insightful writers and poets, the composers, the painters and playwrights - haven't a prayer of being as famous or rich as a steroid-shooting, second-string hoodlum pro jock.

So, socially, perhaps we get what we ask for.

If Harry Potter is all we have to show for the generation's creative expression, we might as well embrace it.

Compared to the bitter, violent, hateful themes of a lot of the music, movies, TV, books, games and art that we have at the moment, Harry doesn't look half bad.

* Reach the editor at dlarsen@stormlakepilottribune.com