Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pop culture, 1989

It's hard to believe it was 16 years ago that Paula Abdul was famously singing "Straight Up," but it was. "I don't mean to make demands," she sang, "but the word and the deed go hand in hand." Sage words.

That year I went to one of her concerts in Peoria, IL, and a boy with my name was called on stage for a hug from the singer. She was about to be married, and the audience had expressed their disappointment at their own lost opportunity. "Kyle," she said, "you never called." Then she hugged him and sent him back into the crowd of people who were not marrying her. I watched from what seemed like a mile away.

That very night, I and the folks who went to the concert with me decided to see Batman after the concert. It had been hyped like no movie I could remember, and we still had a blast. Purists complained that Batman's back story had changed too much. It's an integral part of the character that the man who killed his parents could never be found, for instance. I agree, and yet it did not detract from the Prince-dominated soundtrack, the irrepressible Joker played by Jack Nicholson, or drop dead gorgeous Kim Basinger as Vicky Vale. I wanted her to come back in the sequel, but they went with a Bond Girl strategy instead. How could you keep a playboy like Bruce Wayne from having a new trophy on his arm every time you see him? It made more sense and all worked out in the end. I was later drawn to see Batman & Robin just for Elle Macpherson's cameo.

To this day, I'll be playing Quake, and with an enemy in my sights think to myself, "have you ever danced with the Devil by the pale moon light?"

That year was also the year of the Tiananmen Square protests in which a lone man stood down a line of communist tanks. It's a striking image, but it nevertheless reminded me of a line you can now hear at your local theater. In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent lays before a bulldozer about to demolish his house. The foreman at the scene asks him, "Have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over you?"

Arthur is surprised at this question. "How much?"

"None at all."

No one knows what happened to the tank man, but we know what happened at the end of the protests. Violence broke out, and as you might expect in a conflict between soldiers and citizens, there was a massacre.

For me, 1989 was just part of high school, most of which I disliked. I had my first computer, but not my first modem. Now I'm nearly twice the age I was, and I can't help but notice there's still a Bush in the White House, and I still have a fruit for a computer.
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