Monday, November 05, 2007

The Museum of Western Civilization

"Keep moving, please," the tour guide said. Her voice was cool, assured and a little bored -- it was obvious she'd given this tour many, many times.

"We now enter the 20th Century Room; this century was a little over 1,000 years ago. It is an odd century because science and technology made huge advances, whereas culture and art declined greatly. The 20th Century saw the coming of atomic power, airflight and the internet, but also saw the genocide of tens of millions by totalitarian states and the coming of non-representational art -- that is, art that is not really art because it does not recreate reality. The smears of color on the wall to your right were highly esteemed and valuable paintings in the 20th and 21st centuries. After the 2050's most of the works of that school were destroyed or neglected and finally lost, but these specimens have survived. We believe the large, splattered canvas in the middle was painted by someone called Jackson Pollack, but the other artists have been forgotten.

"In the 1960's what we now call the 'Cultural Dark Age' began. The CDA lasted about 80 years, into the 2040's. It was essentially an egalitarian movement that destroyed all standards. Before the CDA, fashion was quite stylish; after the CDA -- let me direct your attention to the exhibit on the left."

The crowd gasped. One man asked, "Are they cavemen?"

"These are the leaders of the Cultural Dark Age; they are called 'Hippies.'"

"Why do they look like that?" a high school girl asked. "Have they no pride?"

"The appearance of the Hippies is egalitarianism in style. When a culture destroys all standards, this is the result. I shall now play a sample of the primitive music of the Hippies.

The tour guide pressed a button on her belt and the music of the Everly Brothers filled the room. Members of the tour group cringed, grimaced and covered their ears. "Please, turn it off," the mother of three children shouted as her kids grabbed her legs in fear.

The tour guide shut off the music.

"Hard to take, isn't it? This music is called Rockie music. The name probably comes from the Rockie Mountains, where the music is supposed to have originated. This music features a heavy beat with some distorted harmony. The vocals are often screamed. The melodies are undeveloped and primitive. There are no melodic climaxes in which a soprano might show off her high B flat. The music has no sense of beauty, style or intelligence as our music today does."

"Does anyone still listen to that noise?" a voice in the crowd asked.

"Rockie music is listened to only by a small cult known as Deadheads. Deadhead communes can be found in the mountains of California and in the plains of central Canada. The music went out of style, thankfully, with the Neo-Romantic Counter-Revolution of the 2040's, which we will explore further in the 21st Century Room."

"I can't wait to get there!" a man quipped to general laughter.

"Then let us move on through the door ahead to that happier century," the tour guide said. "Keep moving, please."

UPDATE: Changed the artist from Van Halen to the Everly Brothers. Funnier that way.


Michael Neibel said...

It's great to be able to go to a blog and be able to say "What a pleasant thought!" Well done.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you mean to imply about rock music. Hippies didn't invent rock and roll, Elvis and his contemporaries did. It is an original American creation, coming from the songs of freed Black slaves (jazz and blues) and from the music of aspiring Scotch-Irish immigrants (country and rockabilly). Yes, lots of rock and roll is no good. But at its best it is exciting, joyful, and vibrant . And even when it is not joyful, it can still be intriguing. I hope you don't mean to brush it all aside. And come on, Van Halen is pretty tame!


Myrhaf said...

I like rock music, NS. I play it. But this is how I imagine the distant future will look at it, along with modern art and the counter-culture.

david said...

Pretty damn good glimpse into the future.

But...if your entry takes place 1000 years from now...where's Bender?!

Myrhaf said...

I don't know Bender. Are they better than Winger?

Anonymous said...

And another Futurama reference goes over the 'Haf's head.

Good call on the changing the music. VH actually rocks in spite of the taint of modern culture.

Anonymous said...

"...this is how I imagine the distant future will look at it..."

If they do, they'll be just as bloody wrong as my father was.

Myrhaf said...

I knew I'd get a rise from Billy Beck with this one. ;)

Anonymous said...

1000 years into the future? How would you address the problem of the Singularity? I don't know if the Singularity is a legitimate concept or a giant mass of rationalism but every futurist I've read feels that it will radically alter future society. There are professional scientific societies dedicated to studying it like The Singularity Institute (see Al Fin's blog for more). Some even speculate that individualism as we know it will no longer exist and that a post Singularity society may not even care about music and art in the 20th century. I really don't know.

John Kim

Myrhaf said...

I wouldn't take the fact that this story is set 1,000 years in the future too seriously. It's fiction. No one can seriously predict the future.

What little I have read about the Singularity sounds like bullshit to me.

Anonymous said...

"What little I have read about the Singularity sounds like bullshit to me."

I used to think the same but then I discovered Al Fin's blog. (I think Inspector linked to it but I'm not certain.) Al Fin is a scientific blogger who is also a futurist. Politically he's a conservative libertarian. He's a pro-science guy but if you scratch him deep enough I think you would come up with a Popperian skeptic. But his blog is interesting.

Here is a link to all of his posts regarding the Singularity. As I say it may be rationalism but there also may be something to it. Peruse the site at your leisure. Its just as interesting a science site as Centauri Dreams.

John Kim

Mike said...

I liked it! Flash fiction of a different sort (and your other story you linked was quite enjoyable as well). Every time I try to flash, I end up writing a short story at the minimum. It's amazing that you can keep things within the rails and still convey your story.

Myrhaf said...

Thanks, Mike!

John Kim, thank you for the web site. I have put it in my favorites and will be exploring it more. I still think the singularity is rationalistic nonsense, but I'll read more. Maybe I can some up with an intelligent argument against it and gain fame as the blogger who killed the singularity.