Friday, March 10, 2023

Happy Deathday

 Aspects of retromaniacal culture seem to wax and wane (my overall feeling is that the R-thing is prominent but not quite as dominant as when the book was writ) but one phenom that seems to have gone into overdrive recently is the commemorative churn.

Two new syndromes I've noticed:

Odd-number anniversaries

 On Facebook and Twitter and probably the other social media that I don't frequent, it is becoming increasingly common to have people announcing or observing that is the 47th birthday of such-and-such a record, or that it's 23 years since a certain event. So not the usual number-ending-in-zero demarcations of elapsed time, or even the half-decade approach (25 years since, 45 years since), now we are getting these arbitrary, untidy anniversaries.  

Update 3/24 - slipped my mind that the previous post was spurred by a Robyn Hitchcock tribute to Syd Barrett on his 77th birthday! Which also fits the next category.... 

Birthdays of the deceased

This seems like an odd development (would you celebrate the birthday of a deceased person in your family or friend circle? Maybe you would, I don't know). But certainly, it feels somewhat.... extraneous to commemorate the birthday of some famous or notable person who's no longer around to bask in the celebratory appreciation. 

I feel like I've also seen a few deathdays being marked, so maybe that is creeping in. 

With a lot of this commemorative churn - and other retro material that is posted or circulated -  I don't think it's necessarily a product of nostalgia or aging demographic cohorts liking to re-mark the significant persons / artifacts / events of their pop consumer life... I mean that is a factor, but it's also a simple function of the churn of social media: the constant need for new material, for "news" (which in thise case is really "olds"). Even in as  busy a time as this (overloaded, over-observed, over-commented) and with as globally plugged-in a mediascape as ours, the present simply doesn't generate enough noteworthy material to keep everybody a-clicking and a-scrolling. 

It's also very easy to do. All it takes to commemorate something is a video clip or an album cover or an old photo, dash off a quick thought or not even that, just simply observe the fact that it's X number of years since ____ 

Then there's the endless lists of favorite movies and records (done by publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, but also individuals and fan groups)  Like those challenges that circulate (1000 Records That Meant A Lot To You etc) or the self-surveys  (First Gig, Last Gig, Best Gig, Worst Gig  etc). Again, there is the simple content-generation aspect. But there's also an impulse to  sort through / tie together /  make sense of one's life in loving music / film / books.  Winnow down to the essentials and peaks. Create a  map of a journey through taste;  a consumer-biography.  I can't help sensing a morbid impulse lurking beneath this - almost like getting one's affairs in order in readiness for death. 

But I'm certainly not immune to this impulse -  indeed I'm something of a habitual and compulsive ranker, a list-o-maniac.