Saturday, November 27, 2010

Retrospective: How Technology Tore The Roof Off My Cozy 1960's Fort

I just realized this will be my 60th post since starting this blog! Which only means I should be posting more often. But because the 1960's hold such a major significance to me, I'll celebrate this little milestone by bringing that very fascination and immersion of mine into the spotlight. And what better way than by merging together a small history of this passion with how the internet affected or diverted it?

The rise of the internet is responsible for many great
changes. It's difficult to imagine living without limitless possibilities today –– online, that is, and especially in terms of information. If you had been passionate about something pre-internet, when information was far less accessible, however, you might have had to come to terms with the fact that the cozy existence you'd spent a fair amount of time building on your own –– with considerable effort,  or sacrifice –– is now shared by any and all in a mere instant. This can of course be said for many things, even skills and trades that have become computerized to the extent that anyone might do with the click of a button what others had to be trained to do, prior. Namely in music, filmmaking, photography, etc.

I have always led a sort of double life: one right here in our current time and another fantasizing and being lost in all that is the 1960's. My childhood & youth took place in the 80's/90's but my heart and devotion belonged to the 60's as soon as I had my first inkling that a bygone time was so magnificent. My dedication to knowing everything about the era led to a borderline unhealthy pursuit. In another sense, it was as if I was working towards earning a PhD in a course of study I had created for myself. For what purpose? I wondered then, and I still don't know.

I could have been an 'expert' on the subject if it weren't for the abundance of information at everyone's fingertips now via the internet. I hoped the time I spent in that endeavor would someday reveal itself to be worthwhile, back when the 'work' really started... I fancied I could be a 60's-era style expert for any number of magazines. Or that I could be a filmmaker with 60's flair (I've already written a screenplay based on a late 60's spy thriller which came adequately close to being picked up by the largest creative agency in the business many years ago... I knew the aesthetics and was able to apply them to every page effortlessly.)

But alas, any such aspirations were foiled by the internet. Today it's so easy to pull inspiration online and make connections with the past. And anyone who might have dedicated themselves to developing specific knowledge in any given area can be rendered obsolete –– in a sort of 'man replaced by machine' sense –– at least in a culture that works on smaller and smaller time constraints. Knowledge is all about speed. It's another form of consumption and dispensing (not necessarily pertaining to any depth of knowledge.) My own immersion in all that was the 1960's, an appreciation that directed a good portion of my formidable years, can be applied to many other people and any experiences that have been devalued since the development of the internet. Not that this is all a bad thing. It is simply a fact to be observed.

Looking back, I had a feeling as a child that I was reincarnated but had lived in the 60's. This might account for something, but how would anyone really know? I had many odd moments growing up that would point to that as a real possibility –– especially since I didn't even knew what reincarnation meant. Maybe it's not so much that I was drawn to the 60's as much as the era was drawn to me. My first significant relationship was sparked by a mutual and religious love of The Beatles. We met while on a double date (both were with someone else at the time) but when the subject turned to The Beatles, we were goners. I'll never forget the looks on our dates' faces as they inched closer to each other and stared at us in disbelief. One of them actually said, "They found each other." I had found a partner who wouldn't mind joining in a 60's quest.

Biographies helped. By the time I was 19, I had read the biographies of every famous woman who fascinated me who was vital to the era in some way (particularly because of their beauty, style or talent.) Mia Farrow, Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, Joan Baez, Jane Fonda, Jean Shrimpton and Ali MacGraw are a few that come to mind. Of course, to Audrey Hepburn I dedicated a whole other part of my existence altogether. I've read bios of the lives of many swinging chicks and fascinating men –– Twiggy Lawson (a.k.a. Leslie Hornby), Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood, Linda Eastman McCartney, Patti Boyd Harrison, Peggy Lipton, Peter Sellers, Roger Vadim, Warren Beatty, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell (oh, I do love the 70's, too!!) And plenty more. I loved spending time in those other lives for the length of a book. It was a great way to travel in time and visit whatever era they roamed.

And I'd spend hours and hours in libraries scouring old fashion magazines. What a thrill to find the right section and start pulling down those plastic covered issues from long ago. I'd marvel at the funny, male-chauvinistic ads and just melt with love while staring at the images of those women, their hair, their clothes, those designs... It was a private, treasured escape into that other world. Wherever I happened to be, I needed to know where the nearest library was. In fact, it may be interesting to map all the libraries that I'd hit in the various cities I lived and visited. This was the most fun I could possibly have, for years, apart from watching classic movies or listening to music that could allow me to reminisce about what had never even been. At least not for me, in my current lifetime.

I was what one would call a lone wolf. The time I dedicated to individuals found through films and books could have been spent instead on cultivating actual friendships. I realize that. Fortunately, I had a like-minded boyfriend for a good part of my early 20's and didn't have to be completely alone in my odd and potentially lonely fantasy.

Back when I was in college, things were just starting to develop in the online world but the internet was still only used as a means of communication. Email was becoming less of a novelty, but all of those wonderful searches that are possible now hadn't infiltrated our lives yet. Facebook, Google and YouTube were still many years away. Despite being a member of a very social organization, a sorority, I would steal away plenty of time for myself and walk through campus alone –– whether I'd go and watch classic or foreign films in the film department, or look up as many old fashion magazines I could make time for at the library. If anyone wondered what I was up to back then, walking alone, here and there –– now you know.

I managed to maintain friendships (being too balanced a person to be anti-social entirely) but I had my own world to resort to if things weren't keeping my interest in this one. After all, I was becoming incredibly versed on all things 60's, whereas the 90's and 2000's I experienced peripherally. Yes, I was 'one of those' –– I didn't own a TV for nearly all of the 2000's and didn't want to. I was satisfied enough with the cultural world I'd created and had plenty of entertainment derived from our collective archives. This involvement with a bygone era was my only source of entertainment. After college, I predominantly lived in NY, despite a short stint in London and some time spent in LA. I found and bought books and old magazines from the 60's. I'd visit bookstores for photography books –– my favorite being David Bailey, but my best find altogether was a rare first edition copy of one of Linda McCartney's books. I'd even cut out photos I liked and make collages out of them. One collage I attached to cardboard and I would take it with me to any location I moved. These (sad to say, really) were my 'friends' and gave me a sense of comfort. This collage of "friends" traveled with me to several cities.
This was true for films, as well. I would rent rare films (on videocassette and later DVD), purchase ones I wanted for my own collection –– and sometimes I'd keep one (after politely paying for it) if I couldn't bring myself to return it to the video store (yes, video!) I also discovered TV shows like 'The Avengers' (with which I developed mad respect for Emma Peel and her kung fu fighting), The Mod Squad, Bewitched, Gidget, etc. I often wondered if all of this would lead to anything or if I was wasting my precious youth. I cannot describe adequately how little I socialized and how very comfortable I was with that fact. At some point I came across the film 'Privilege' and the look I wanted to have for my wedding was thus realized –– several years before I would be married. And when Francoise Hardy made her way into my life, I worked for years to achieve her hairstyle, which I wear today. It took a lot of effort to grow it the right way despite the many bad haircuts I endured at first. It takes a great deal of focus to have one image in mind despite all others that may come to view. And despite incompetent stylists. But again, that was part of my dedication to the 60's I had idealized.
Near the start of the Francoise quest.

My hair now.

All of this holds a very different meaning in today's post-internet culture. A person can be anti-social and still maintain a decent level of social existence by way of social networks. Someone who is as passionate about something –– the way I was about the 1960's for such a significant portion of my life –– will find that any person can access something (that had taken them genuine time and energy to gather and develop over the course of many years) with only a few easy clicks of a search engine. It's instant gratification. The general public can be exposed to what would've taken a great amount of digging, pre-Internet. In a sense, someone like me can feel connected to other like-minded individuals and feel like there is a community for those with similar passions. I refer to it as passion because obsession is much too manic a word for something incorporated so intricately into daily life. A passion that's harmless yet significant enough to be a part of each day is more like a hobby.

In any case, one must indeed have appreciation for how the internet has augmented accessibility to any subject in this universe (and beyond) to anyone and everyone. But to those of us who worked to build a world –– or a cozy, private and fulfilling escape –– that required a lot of commitment, time and effort, all while spending a less than healthy amount time in the company of actual human beings... Well, it can certainly feel a bit like having the roof of your fort lifted right off and your space exposed. Maybe I shouldn't have been hiding in that fort all day long, anyhow. Perhaps I should have just played with everyone in real time. But it was great fun for a cat like me. Of course, the internet allows for finding more 'material' today, with greater ease (wonderful, rare images for example) than when I had searched around in my hard copy days of yore. I appreciate that as much as anyone else. Yet the real gratification is gone to some extent. It is TOO instant. But who has time to go into a library and search old magazines for fun? I've grown up, and technology has changed how things work. I can move on while maintaining the 'happy place' I'd built over the years. (I really have moved on, despite my Francoise Hardy hair.)

Personally, I don't think this is a matter that should concern me –– or anyone, really. Everything has changed so dramatically in the past decade in terms of what people do, and how they do it. So much of what we did a decade ago is now obsolete. People have had to rethink almost everything about how they live their lives. In comparison, my adjustments have been minor. I've always led a fairly simple life and it translates easily to where we are now. I think of this experience as another aspect of that change as we continue to transition into a fully computerized existence.

In fact, at least we're getting somewhat closer to the space-age fantasies of the future that were imagined back in the 60's! 

I'm all for that. And I do still escape to that other great decade of change whenever I need a quick fix.


  1. Beautiful - so many photos I've never seen before, especially Britt, Francoise, and Peggy Moffitt :)

    I really like your site too :)
    xxo, DRG

  2. Thank you DRG, Love!

    And it's fab bloggers like yourself I'm referring to in the post! xo


  3. Wow, perfect. I've done the same thing in a lot of ways, spending time as a teenager going through old magazines & used books from the late '60s/'70s and can relate. This retro aspect of our new technological lives is something I've always been into. Great post.

  4. Amazing Photos! Also: Great site you have here! Happy i found it.

  5. Thanks, Ty, glad you managed to find it too :)

  6. Oh my god finally I have found someone like me! I dont feel like such a strange girl stuck in another time! Im obsessed with everything and guess how it stsrted. The beatles! I sit their religiously reading books trying to find everything and search for hours in retro shops for minskirts and anything that could be passed off as mary quant inspired, and i have the same haircut ! Its amazing to find someone else that felt the same way!

  7. I'm happy you enjoyed it and share a connection with this experience, 'Anonymous'... cheers! :)

  8. Oh wow it was so exciting to accidently stumble across your blog!!! I was born in the mid 80s and grew up listening to heaps and heaps of sixties music thanks to my parents born in the late 40s and early 50s, and it really is so cool to hear about others with such an intense interest in the period. I collect pretty much anything from the sixties and have somewhat of a sever obsession with watching old promo clips and performances on youtube. I guess that's the good thing about the internet but I also do feel that sense of things not being as "special" as they perhaps once were.

    I really enjoyed looking at the great photos you posted up as well, thanks!

  9. Hi @Tash, I'm so glad you stumbled across my post – you're welcome! I agree, that era just seems so 'special'. That's why you & I continue to felt its impact to this day.