Thursday, November 03, 2005

Remember The Future?

We watched “Nova: To The Moon” these last couple of nights, and I kept thinking, “What the Hell Happened to the Future?”

1969. I was 12.

Kennedys were gone. At least the cool ones. King assassinated. Nixon. Viet Nam. The Beatles. Still had Jimi, Janis and Jim Morrison. The Smothers Brothers. Laugh-In. Star Trek. Shit was happening before somebody stuck it on damn a bumper sticker.

We grew up with the Space Race. We loved the “My Weekly Reader” (can’t find any website devoted to that – too bad!) especially when they would have a story about rockets and astronauts. John Glenn. Neil Armstrong. These guys were heros outside of the divide between “us” and “them.” When the teacher would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” lots of boys said “An Astronaut!” Some girls too.

July 21st. They did it. I mean, they really did it. I was old enough to think it was cool, but still did not grasp just how monumental it was that we had two guys walking around up there, ON THE MOON! That was partly because of my age, but also because we just knew that they were going to do it.

We actually believed, in spite of all the turmoil and upheaval, we actually had the temerity to believe that the future was going to ROCK. We had scientists figuring it all out. They got us to the moon. You could pick up an Arthur C. Clark paperback and read all about it. The future man, the space-travellin’ war-ending, hunger-free, no-poverty, no-more-racism asshole-absent future was on its way to a life-near-you.

What the hell happened?

Instead of peace we got idiots killing each other over which God is the real God, and oil companies making billions off of their idiocy. We got fools trying to stop the teaching of evolution, instead of a colony on Mars. We got vehicles that get 10 miles per gallon while the scientists are telling us that we are running out of fossil fuels, instead of hydrogen-powered cars. We got superstitious preachers who want to ban Harry Potter, instead of philosophers teaching us about Zen. I was screaming at the radio one day because they had some SoBap preacher who was talking about witches and witchcraft with conviction and authority, and the “journalist” who was interviewing didn’t say, “Produce one witch. Just one is all it will take.” Or how about, “Witches? What grade are you in? You believe in the Fairy Godmother too?” We got Christians who hate entire goups of people including the poor, and Christian “leaders” calling for the assasination the head of a government that they don’t like, instead of people working together to end world hunger. We got politicians on TV claiming that God sent hurricane Katrina to punish the people of NoLa for their sinful lifestyle, in spite of the fact that The French Quarter was mostly spared, we got that instead of politicians giving tax incentives to companies that produce windmills and solar-power which could have reduced the gases that cause global warming.

We got people at my company, a software company where some of us are paid to think, some of them who are paid to think - because they watch Fox - believe the Moon landing was a hoax and that the War in Iraq is not a hoax.


We got a president who claims that God tells him what to do. God. Tells him. Remember the 90s, when we had a rock star for president? People thought we had problems then! What if he said God was talking to him, during a time when things were running as smoothly as they ever have been? I’d have thought, “this guy is crazier than a Pagan in Utah.” But now? Now people believe it.

What does anyone think when the guy in the next cube says that God talks to him? I know what I think. “He’s coming back with a gun when they fire his ass! I’m taking vacation that week!”

We used to play games in the street. Touch football. Street Hockey. Stickball. Sometimes a car would come right in the middle of a play, and all the kids would start saying, “Do over! Do over!”

Well, some big gas-guzzling Hummer limo showed up in 1980 and disrupted the game. Instead of asking for a do-over, we hopped in. Not all of us, but enough of us.

I want a do-over. I want my future, the future that I remember.


Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Jesus, Al, you're bumming me out.

But, sadly, like the song sez, things ain't what they used to be.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Love that "asshole-absent future". Ah, what dreams we had, eh, V.? But hey, it's swingin'. Just talked to a friend of mine who's not political at all, stays out of it. "How can anyone vote Republican ever again?" he says to me. How indeed? Same way they voted for them in the first place, I suppose. Great post, dude. Thanks.

9:54 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Love that "asshole-absent future".

Thanks! I didn't think all that much about it at the time, but what a name for a band, eh?

"Let's have a warm welcome for The Asshole Absent Future!"

10:16 AM  
Blogger jemison said...

"90 minutes from New York to Paris." Yeah man, I remember. When did we stop trying to reach the stars and start trying to play my God's better than your God? I don't know.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Soundsurfr said...

Great post, Viscount. However, I think we need to open up the f-stop a bit. It's not the fault of the Republicans, the SoBaps, et al. They're just nailing the cover on the coffin.

We were reaching for the moon and stars on the backs of the third world. It was true then as much as it's true now, and that's a platform that cannot do anything but collapse.

"Silly Asses", as Asimov would say.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Decatur Dem said...

I never thought it really was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. I just hoped to score a righteous nickel bag (quaint artifact, that) and maybe a congenial soulmate. Or failing that, a bedmate. And a biography that didn't include the phrase "military funeral".

And of course there were plenty of people in power, almost everyone over thirty, who didn't want us to score anything other than a job with IBM and a seat in church every Sunday. With Richard Nixon in the White House, and five years of the Vietnam war behind us, it seemed things couldn't get much worse. Civil discord was a given, and to some, it seemed even anarchy would be preferable.

But we never once suspected that science and technological progress would be under attack from the highest offices in the land. Science would be misused, yes; there were missile silos and ballistic missile submarines to remind us of that. And big, expensive, centralized technology would always have more appeal to the big-money boys than would decentralized small-scale systems like wind or solar power.

But the Scopes trial was almost fifty years behind us. Evangelical fundamentalist Christians weren't involved in politics. (I repeat: evangelical fundamentalist Christians weren't involved in politics. Just think about that a minute). The Enlightenment seemed pretty much a done deal. Aside from some Sunday morning radio ranters, nobody I ever knew here in Atlanta really had any problems with Darwin. Maybe some of them didn't believe in evolution, but they didn't make religion or lack of it an issue on election day. Hell, we'd already elected a CATHOLIC, for chrissake, and the Pope hadn't taken over the country. Kids could have fun on Hallowe'en, even wear a Devil costume, and never hear any moronic ramblings about satanism. Nobody really took witchcraft seriously.

Now the Sunday morning ranters have their own networks, with huge budgets and the Oval Office on speed dial. Oil companies have "scientists" on the payroll to deny global warming. The current administration feels free to ignore real science it finds inconvenient, just as it ignores military strategists or national security intelligence experts or economists or homosexual Arabic translators or anthing/anyone else that challenges the party line. The president thinks "Intelligent Design" should be taught in school alongside evolution, or maybe instead of it. Science can't even be allowed to investigate ways to relieve suffering and prevent premature deaths if doing so would sacrifice a few zygotes in a few petri dishes. Scholars that would otherwise have come here from abroad to study at US universities are now looking elsewhere.


5:11 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...


We were reaching for the moon and stars on the backs of the third world.

I don't think it has to be that way. Moreover, I am not talking about the space-program per se. It was a jumping off point. The Space Program to me is a metaphor and a promise of what mankind is capable of being and doing. What I am talking about is a future dedicated to ending hunger and poverty, and most of all, ignorance. A future where science and the scientific method is revered instead of derided. The future that we thought we were going to get. I don't blame the Republicans exclusively, but they do seem to have a real grasp of, a dedication and perhaps even an affinity to the obstacles in the way of that future.

If you think about it, anything that is good and positive that speaks to trying to build a better world for all people is constantly being labeled condescendingly as liberal, and it isn't the scientists, the artists, the philosphers or the liberals who are doing that. It is the NeoCons, the narrow-minded, the stupid, and the religious (no need for a redundancy joke here...) who are doing that!

5:17 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

"90 minutes from New York to Paris."

Oh yeah jemison, don't get me started down that road. That song and the concept of the entire album is a future post to be sure. If I allow myself to get too sentimental, "The Nightfly" held against backdrop of the past 5 years is a very painful listen - a reminder of how far from the mark of the "I.G.Y." we have strayed.

5:28 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Decatur Dem:

Awesome comment from someone who was really there.


5:30 PM  
Anonymous dick cheney said...

Grow up. There's no cash in the future. Oink.


5:54 PM  
Blogger fuckstick2020 said...

I want your future too.

"My Weekly Reader" became "Weekly Reader"
I read them when I was in school also =)

11:45 PM  
Blogger jemison said...

I don't know...the central themes (quirky views of the future--or the backyard) have remained the same. I know what you mean though--seems these guys squandered a lot of time between '78 and...well, even The Nightfly was around '83 wasn't it?

Did they think they had becomed just too polished after Gaucho? Or was Becker's property on the Big Island paid for by then?

Either way, it was good to see them out playing, as if they've realized their roles and finally embraced them.

11:07 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...


No, I wasn't speaking of Steely Dan. I was speaking of the optmism and message of the song "I.G.Y." and how far we've strayed from that ideal as a country.

I love "The Nightfly" even more than "Gaucho." "11 Tracks of Whack" is a rough listen because of Becker's singing. "Kamikirad" was a nice effort, with some good songs. "Two Against Nature" to me is a classic Steely Dan record, at least as good as "Gaucho" in my estimation. A lot of my Dan friends don't count it as highly as I do, bit I love it. "Everything Must Go" is also good, but it is a bummer to listen to. The title track, "Godwhacker," and "The Last Mall" all seem to be about the current political climate.

8:33 AM  
Blogger cosmic said...

You ask the question “What the Hell Happened to the Future?”. I will tell you what happened.
The generation of the 40's, 50's and the 60's that brought us rockets, astronauts and the moon walk are gone. They have been replaced by a generation (ours) that does nothing but whine and complain about what has not been done. Instead of comlaining, we should be DOING things to make this world better. In 1961, President Kennedy said "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country." I wonder what Kennedy would say if he saw present day Americans whining about the problems of today.

So I suggest if you want something done, do it yourself. If you want a hydrogen-powered car, build one and put the oil companies out of business. If you want windmill and solar power in New Orleans, go build it. If you want to end poverty and hunger, then YOU should feed someone and give them a job. If you do not like elected officials, then run for office yourself. I am sure that you can give me plenty of "reasons" why you can not get anything done, that would be easy. But it take action to get anything done. So get to work and stop complaining. Where would we be if Neil Armstrong and John Glenn just sat around and talked about why man could never reach the moon? You said it yourself "they really did it",... they took action instead of just dreaming and talking about it.

If you (and me) take action, we will both benefit from it. A good example of this is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans the people of the city stood and watched as their levies broke,and the "leaders" of the city and state spent their time screaming "when is the federal goverment going to help us" and "why didn't they send us air condition buses"... and the whining went on and on... but in Mississippi, the people and the local goverment picked themselfs up and when to work... digging people out, cleaning up, clearing streets. Because of this Mississippi is well on it way back to normal life... and most of New Orleans is still a hell hole. The main difference of the people was attitude, New Orleans attitude is "what are you going to do for me" and the Mississippi attitude is "what can I DO to make my life and the life of others better.

This attitude difference I saw first hand, I spent two and half weeks flying supplys into and bodys out of the hurricane region. In Baton Rogue I was met by a New Orleans city worker who stood with his hands in his pockets as I unloaded generators and chain saws and said "is that all you brought" (I took off at gross weight), then after the Red Cross helped me load two corpses (children) into my plane, the same city worker came to me and said "you BETTER bring more next time"

Compare that attitude to the young man in his 20's that met me in Mississippi, althought he was covered with mud and sweating, he was helping unload almost as soon as the prop stopped, then with great care he helped me load a corpse into the plane. Before I left he gave me two ice cold drinks (a rare comity) and thanked me for my help. I beleive his exact words were "God Bless You".

I am sorry this post is so long, I did not mean to hijack your blog. but to answer your question “What the Hell Happened to the Future?”... You make your own future... with hard work not goverment help.


6:24 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Cosmic, I understand your points, and applaud your actions helping the hurricane victims, but I think the Viscount was not asking for government help, but decrying government hindrance.

Yes, we are at fault for letting "our future" get away from us. After the idealism and party of the '60s, we had the inevitable come-down of the '70s, and handed the government over to Raygun and his thugs in 1980. Things have never been the same since. It is time to take it back, and all of us have a part to play, according to our abilities.

I, for one, am going to start at the polls tomorrow, as soon as they open.


5:26 PM  
Blogger cosmic said...

xtcfan, Your point is well taken and I stand corrected. I too decry the excessive government hindrances into are lives. But we can still make a brighter furture for ourselfs (and tho's to come after us) by taking action (ie:work) in spite of the government hindrance and without government help.

I am also voting tomorrow as everyone should and I will be voting for a smaller government that will be less intrusive.


8:30 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

By less intrusive, I assume you mean getting rid of the PATRIOT Act? And, by smaller government, you want to return to the plan and policies designed by VP Gore and the Clinton administration, rather than the empty promises of the Bush Administration and the rampant growth in the size of government that accompanied it?

Just askin', is all... :-)


10:49 AM  
Blogger cosmic said...

By less intrusive, I mean a much smaller government that is more inline with what Thomas Jefferson envisioned, a federal government that's main purpose is to protect the Union by preserving the Constitution and The Bill of Rights. A government to negotiate with foreign powers and to protect us (the Union) from foreign invaders. NOT a government that intrudes on every aspect of our lives, but a government that allows citizens to live their life as THEY chose as long as it does not directly intrude on the lives of others.

By less intrusive, I do not mean a government that tells me which car I can or can not buy (or sell), or a government that tax's people at a higher RATE because they feel they have too much. Or a government that decides weather people can or can not smoke on MY property. And I certainly do not mean a government that tells me what size of toilet to use ect... ect... I can go on and on but I am sure you get the point.

As of the Patriot Act, it is intrusive but it is no where near as intrusive as the plans and policies designed by VP Gore and the Clinton administration. Most of the Clinton administrations plans were based on a socialistic political philosophy, and Socialism is extremely intrusive and will never work. As for the size of government, it has grown in each administration since FDR (including the Clinton administration), so for now I will vote for the candidate the will grow the government at the slowest rate .... till we can down size it into something that our fore fathers would recognize as The United States of America.


6:29 PM  
Anonymous AAAD Films said...

Hi, would the writer of the article "Remember the Future" mind if a paragraph from what was written is altered slightly and used in a short film on the vietnam war? you may be credited if you wish so. please reply


6:26 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Please send an email to - I am interested and would like to discuss. Your comment didn't include any contact info.

8:49 AM  

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