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Return of the ghost of the 90s

By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, August 9, 2004
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Nostalgia for the nineties is just around the corner, waiting to crush your spirit

Anybody paying attention will note the delay: A decade need only wait 20 years before it reiterates itself.

Right now, people are going berzerk over the 1980's. When VH1 aired it's series "I Love the 70's" nobody really seemed to care. Maybe nobody besides VH1 actually loved the 70's or maybe anybody who did didn't feel they needed it fed back to them by pop-culture pseudo-pundits.

But when VH1 aired "I Love the 80's," it seemed to cause mass-hypnosis. Those born in the early 80's sat and stared at 10-hour marathons of the program.

Though we remember the 80's, it's only in a vague sort of way.

... English majors are like tribbles these days ...

After all, I was born in 1983, which means I couldn't make fully-formed memories until around 1988, and by that time it was better to just wait it out and concentrate on the 90's.

And now the 80's seems to reappear everywhere. You're as likely to hear Ah-Ha as you are Justin Timberlake at any given dance party or club. The gaudy affluence of "Scarface," released in 1983, resurfaced in a generation of hip-hop that places a premium on bling. In indie-rock, the kind of dance-punk pioneered by Gang of Four is becoming a standard reference point.

This is all well and good. There's nothing wrong with a postmodern update of the past as a substitution for a present with which many feel disgusted. But it's easy for me to say. My memories of the 80's are so vague that I can't feel any nostalgia.

The real terror will come about five years from now. Suddenly, people will discover the 90's. Yeah, VH1 has already done its "I Love the 90's" series.

It was inevitable after the success of "I Love the 80's." But in a mere half a decade the 90's will be recycled back into pop culture in a big way.

I can already feel myself feeling myself get old. The moment I hear the term neo-grunge, I'm going to unplug my television, sell my ironic t-shirts and vote Republican, because I will know the days of my youth have already become the days of somebody else's youth. Probably somebody 10 years younger than me.

It's already happening. The hipsters are already getting younger. Go to a rock show and see a bunch of pale, skinny, androgynous kids who painted their black jeans onto their legs and spent an hour teasing their hair. When I was their age (16-years-old or so) the only kids wearing black nail polish were goths.

And now even that is edging its way towards hip. See, look at the previous paragraph. Even thinking about this stuff projects me into a future where I'm past my prime, burnt out. I can't even tell you one new CD that's come out in the past six months because I'm busy listening to the first Rapture album and wondering whatever happened to the Strokes after Drew Barrymore divorced their drummer and Julian Casablancas shot that porno for coke money. In fact, at this point in the future, I'm a chump for even wondering what CD's have come out lately because everybody knows CD's have gone the way of VHS. My MP3 library has remained in relatively the same state since the day I graduated with the degree that never helped me past my being able to put two extra letters on my resume that nobody reads anyway because, shit, English majors are like tribbles these days and, though I'm intelligent, I'm not a genius and don't have anything to say besides, "Dude, I saw Radiohead at Coachella in '04. I am awesome," hoping desperately that it will impress the girl in the bar two blocks from the monolithic office where I temp for a business that distributes nylon to Chinese nylon distributors.

I feel this is a fairly typical fear for anyone my age. Looking out the window and realizing that everything you knew when you were growing up has returned will never make you feel young again. In fact it's a sad reminder that, as you watch those kids marvel over the new Pavement "Best of" album, anything you could have been the best of has most likely been passed on down the line.

But there are worse fates.

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