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Monday, January 09, 2006
A strange thing happened this morning: I got off the shuttle and it was the 90s. There was flannel, there was a Beastie Boys patch on a ratted-up backpack, there was a general air of the Pacific Northwest as the stylistic golden mean, which consequently implies that this quality was hard to nail down. Nevertheless, it was quite clearly and quite suddenly sometime around November 1992, or possibly April 1994.

And my first thought was not to use my knowledge of the future to somehow win an immense amount of money through betting etc. or to prevent bad things from happening, but to see if I could ride the wave of the coming musical trends to come in some productive or interesting way. Specifically, I thought about the prospect of becoming a key player in the whole teenpop boom of the late 90s. (Apparently I am only able to think in the long term by projecting myself back into the past. Ah well.) More specifically, I was thinking about the prospect of becoming one of the major producers by hijacking the sounds that would come to be so popular, although there was also some consideration given to simply stealing songs wholesale. (It would still be 2006 in my apartment, so I could always take the shuttle back and listen to old Backstreet Boys albums for reference.)

Almost immediately, though, flaws appeared in my brilliant plan. Even if I did make a note-for-note recreation of "Hit Me Baby One More Time" a year or two before it was slated to be released for real, how would I get it to anyone who'd want to hear it? I would still be some nothing kid in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn was only hot in the 90s in terms of hip-hop. Plus, while I've gotten OK at using FruityLoops to make my own weird variations on pop sounds, I don't really know how you'd create those huge Max Martin soundwalls. The best option seemed to be to travel to Finland or wherever all those folks were and just work myself in as an apprentice, which was at least plausible since back then I wouldn't have any credit card debt, although I would also not really have much credit. Still, it all hardly seemed worth staying in the past for. I mean, we can pine for the 90s, but faced with the prospect of actually living them all over again, we would remember that an in-depth knowledge of the K Records catalog is not that desirable a trait.

The past is a funny thing, and knowledge of the future would turn out to be less a windfall or a tragic obligation as it's traditionally presented but more of a moot point. For foreknowledge to really make a difference there either need to be a whole hell of a lot of coincidences ("Holy guacamole, here I am in 1955 and it just happens to be the moment my mom and dad met!") or that knowledge needs to be very specific, certainly not the kind of knowledge you'd gain from simply living through a particular historical moment more than once. The same practical problems would still exist, because causing a large-scale change is always hard, no matter how much information you have. It seems like the really tragic problem of the past isn't being a Cassandra, it's being a human, and that tragedy would only set itself in motion if we tried to fight against it. In the context of this, what duty could we actually have? What difference could we expect to make? And, consquently, how is this any different from the present? Once the tragedy of the past is activated, we're faced with the same choices as we would have been if we stayed in our own time and waited to see how things would play out: the simultaneous illusion of being able to change anything and the reality of being able to do anything. And who'd care if I wrote "Bye Bye Bye," anyway?

ADDENDUM: Turns out it wasn't the 90s, it was just some sort of regional weather-based fashion variation. Everything's fine.