May 01, 2013

Horse 1474 - Nineteen Sixty-Nine

- Stolen without permission from this Sony Advert

Whilst I don't doubt for a second that the internet, advances in medicine and genetics, materials technology and wireless technologies have changed the world at an ever increased rate, there is still a lot to be said for the year 1969 and the inspiration that it still radiates into the future.

The Sony Trinitron pictured in the advert may have come along in 1966 but a few minor tweaks made it cheap enough to start appearing in people's homes (even if in Australia, colour wouldn't arrive until 1975). It is a little ironic that the pictures which came from the moon in 1969 were all transmitted in black and white, so not even a colour Trinitron would have been able to overcome that.
Airline travel had already reached the point of relative cheapness but the Jumbo Jet (the Boeing 747) which first flew in 1969 sent prices even cheaper still. I read somewhere that it is estimated that at any point in time, there are as many as a thousand 747's in the air at once, all over the world. Also in 1969, Concorde the only commercially viable (possibly) supersonic airliner took to the skies.
The most famous event of 1969 was of course when the United States finally saw the fruition of $20bn being spent, with Messers Armstrong and Aldrin kicking the dust on the moon. Back on Earth, motoring down our roads we saw Cortinas, Minis, Monaros, Mustangs and Chargers, and The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were on the radio; supplying the soundtrack.
In contrast, today we can fly around the world relatively easily, though not as fast as Concorde, we send up communications satellites but no-one has been back to the moon since those dozen men, we have uninspiring cars on the roads like the Corolla, i30 and A3, and we now live in a world where Nicky Minaj and Justin Bieber are on the radio.
I'd ask "how did we get here?" but even that's a bit banal; the question of "why did we get here?" is far better.

In days of yore we had people who were prepared to do the impossibly stupid. People bored tunnels through the earth, went on ships across oceans; often with no idea of where they were going. People built machines, often using untempered metals; sometimes occasioning failures and explosion. People like Karl Benz, Marie Curie, Isembard Kingdom Brunel, John Snow, George and Robert Stephenson, Orvill and Wilbur Wright... the list goes on and on. These people dared to dream, dared to be really stupid and sometimes faced accidentally blowing themselves to pieces.
I'm not saying that progress and science has stopped but I am suggesting that the period from about 1830-1970 saw the greatest changes that the world has ever seen. It's not that we've stopped progress but that the same level of inspiration has.
When Armstrong and Aldrin kicked the moon, back here on Earth, we were doing more than just kicking each other, we were shooting each other silly in the mind-numbingly pointless conflict of the Vietnam War. Not only that but the power of the atom had been unleashed horribly on Japan just 24 years earlier and we were afraid of it happening all over again, only on a far larger scale and with the possibility of wiping out all life on the planet; not just a couple of cities.

It's like we looked into space, saw how vast and empty it was, then also saw how small and empty we were and gave up. We looked inside ourselves and saw the potential for tremendous destruction and then we stopped dreaming.
It was about this time that the accountants and the business people started running the world and dreams themselves suddenly became too expensive; now finally in the twenty-first century, even governments providing services is deemed too expensive and we find ourselves with no dreams at all; clutching at straws and wondering who's going to pay for it all.

I've seen a fair few documentaries about all sorts of things and have come to the conclusion that even in spite of the advances since 1969, there's not really been a whole heap to inspire us since. We can communicate across vast distances in real time. A lot of us carry smart phones which make Captain Kirk's tricorder look foolish and which in something smaller than a cigarette packet holds more computing power than the entire Apollo program. We look at each other with social media and often look back with dullard slack expressions; again we see how small and empty we are.
Can someone please give us our dreams back and risk doing the stupid again?

David Bowie - Sound and Vision (Sonjay Prabhakar remix) 2013 - sounds better than the version off "Low" in 1977.

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