Hacker News new | more | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Our culture has two types of forgetting (nautil.us)
90 points by dnetesn 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

> We forget Elvis because the Beatles came up [..]

This is how everyone perceives it, but is it true? The Beatles were active from 1960 until their break-up in 1970 while Elvis worked from 1953 until his death in 1977. His international hit "In the Ghetto" was released in 1969, a time when the Beatles were already divided and their break-up was imminent. In reality the Beatles and Elvis were very much contemporaries.

And as an aside: It always amused me that Tarentino got that right in the "Beatles people vs Elvis people" scene. Beatles and Stones are compared all the time because they are perceived to be from the same generation. Except for the Tarentino scene I have never heard a comparison like that between the Beatles and Elvis - it is always just Elvis before, Beatles after.

In case you were wondering, this is from a deleted scene in Pulp Fiction:

> Mia Wallace: "There are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are."

But even today, the field of "Elvis impersonators" is a thing, many of them people who weren't even alive when Elvis died. People may respect the Beatles more as artists, and I know some of the Elvis craze is meant ironically, but Elvis-fandom basically created cosplay before cosplay.

there's a wider range of elvis impersonators, and people can love dressing up like him for whatever reason. it's easier to do that when it's a single person.

there are beatle groups - some just focus on music, some do the theatrical angle (suits/accents/etc). there's not as many partially because it's hard to be just a 'ringo' on your own - you need the group (I guess that goes just as well for real life, not just the imitators!)

Another Elvis contemporary that blew my mind was Johnny Cash, mainly because my main interest in Johnny Cash to that point was his cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt". That's a bit of a leap of musical generations.

The Beatles absolutely replaced Elvis as "The Biggest Thing in America" in the early 60s. Yes he had successes and large shows after that, but there is also something that he lost while he was making all those stupid movies.

Elvis lost relevance with youth culture, gained weight and became a parody of himself. He was a one-trick pony (a white artist making the style of black music acceptable for a primarily white audience in a segregationist culture,) but inevitably rock as a genre and American culture as a whole evolved beyond his capabilities.

The Beatles, meanwhile, were constantly evolving and their style changed with the times, so they were able to stick around a bit longer.

I think Lennon summed it up with "Elvis died the day he went in to the army" (when asked about Elvis' death).

Col Parker was a shady character, and I think he really hosed up Elvis' career in a lot of ways, and Elvis wasn't capable of pushing back.

It's not that the Beatles didn't make stupid movies at that time.

I'm impressed by the numerous times the person being interviewed says "I don't know." Refreshing and reflects and intellectual humility that allows folks like him to uncover unique perspectives.

A few years back, there was an interesting Chuck Klosterman article about cultural memory: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/magazine/which-rock-star-...

> I imagine a college classroom in 300 years, in which a hip instructor is leading a tutorial filled with students. These students relate to rock music with no more fluency than they do the music of Mesopotamia: It’s a style they’ve learned to recognize, but just barely (and only because they’ve taken this specific class). Nobody in the room can name more than two rock songs, except the professor. He explains the sonic structure of rock, its origins, the way it served as cultural currency and how it shaped and defined three generations of a global superpower. He shows the class a photo, or perhaps a hologram, of an artist who has been intentionally selected to epitomize the entire concept. For these future students, that singular image defines what rock was.

> So what’s the image?

>I don’t think we’re amusing ourselves to death. I’m not like that much of a pessimist. I do think life is also about enjoying the ride, not just about doing important things.

>And new mediums like TikTok, a kind of Twitter for videos, are great for creative expression. People are doing amazing little performance skits on TikTok.

Tiktok I see is just another trend, like Vines, Yikyak, possibly even Snapchat in the near future.

There are already plenty of platforms for creative expression, the problem is that young people cannot afford to express themselves, whether it's the digital paper trail that comes back to haunt them, being buried beneath other 'shock' and clickbait content, and the real-life pressures and expectations.

You don't see any social or political commentary on these platforms unless it's the latest "beef" between internet personalities. This is all for our amusement and docile nature.


Funny, I had completely forgotten about it until you mentioned it even though it was popular at my university.

In relation to trends, TikTok itself only became popular in the West when it merged with musical.ly, a very similar app.

Those annoying YouTube ads for TikTok you might see replaced musical.ly ads. I remember wondering if they were the same product rebranded.

I know this is a shallow remark and the song was only used as an example but the forgetting of Imagine can not happen fast enough, in my opinion. It cheered me to know that there are people unfamiliar with it. Which I guess speaks to the benefits of forgetting.

While I believe in free expression, I also believe the internet should show a human-like characteristic to forget i.e. old items, news, etc., non-scientific news and such should slowly decay in relevance and drift downward in indexing, so that that idiotic tweet and that drunken spouting off by Jill ten years ago doesn’t haunt her as if she did it just yesterday.

People make mistakes, we are fallible. Unless it’s a felony, these things should not haunt people who have learned and matured enough to have not made the mistakes recently (and thus recorded/indexed and available)

> People make mistakes, we are fallible. Unless it's a felony, these things should not haunt people who have learned and matured enough to have not made the mistakes recently.

Do you have a personal philosophical justification for stating that a felony should continue to haunt people who have learned and matured enough not to do them again? If so, why? (or is this more of a practical "well we don't have a chance in Hell of getting the Justice system on board to forget felonies" type of exclusion)

I am more thinking of this from the minor social offenses first PoV. These things should not follow people indefinitely. It’s easier to make this case. Felonies often (but not always) involve serious crime, so I can see the PoV of not allowing these to decay; however, yes, for non-violent felonies, I can see advocating for that too.

Also, things you say and do at 14, 15, 16, should not follow you and often, in the justice system, they don’t (depending on severity) but on the internet immature age makes no difference.

There is no getting past rape, murder, or kidnapping. Those crimes change who you are. There should be a social stigma attached to being a rapist, a murderer, or a kidnapper, even if the felon feels bad about it afterwards.

In other words, the defining characteristic of a felony is that it's the kind of crime that's so serious that it can't just be forgotten and moved past. Sadly our legislatures are rather daft sometimes, so many lesser crimes are legally classified as felonies.

> the defining characteristic of a felony

I thought the defining characteristic was the extent to which it is pursued and punished by the law. Off the top of my head I can think of one or two felonious charges that at least "arguably" don't satisfy your definition.

Law often follows morality but one should be wary of mistaking them for the same thing.

EDIT sorry I read through your comment again and realised you pretty much end up in agreement, though we perhaps start at different points.


It's widely considered to be lyrically facile, musically boring and one of the prime examples of John Lennon's late-career hippy excesses

Widely considered by who? I've never heard of this consensus before

The fact that Hidalgo's student mistook Imagine for a Coldplay song is pretty damning evidence.


I mean, some people like it and some people even love it, but lots of people also think it's bloody awful, and awful on many different levels too.

I like it OK as a song. It's not spectacular, but it's adequate, and "adequate" is a modestly high bar from me. It wouldn't stand up to being elaborated on much more than it is, but there's a place for such simplicity.

However, philosophically, the lyrics of the song boils down to "What if we could all just get along?", which is an even weaker message than "Why can't we all just get along?", which is already a sentiment so childish that I never deploy it as anything other than an example of something so hopelessly naive that it can't be taken seriously by any adult.

It's not that simplistic. More like, if we realized that god is a fantasy and there's no afterlife or other mystical values to strive for, and the life we have on earth right now is all there is, the world would actually be a better place.

"Imagine there's no countries", said every armchair revolutionary ever, before going back to getting high and thinking of other things to say to appear deep and radical to impress girls

I wonder how much of this 'consensus' is driven by the military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex' desire to write John Lennon out of history for all his talk of peace being within our grasp, and of war not being necessary, and that we should stop being led around by war-mongers whose only real desire is profit from the death and destruction wrought by it all.

I mean, a lot of todays Western culture is derived from ideals promoted and promulgated by said military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex. A lot of peoples livelihoods depend on the export of death and destruction to the world. It follows that Lennon would be being written out of history by such culture ... and that there would be an effort to replace his ideals with those more aligned with the very real social goals of the military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex running the West...

ON the contrary, John Lennon was a useful relieve of peaceful expression that never had a single chance of actually bringing about any change in the world. He was a useful idiot, allowing the masses to feel that there was a real movement for peace and that their desire for peace was being reflected back at them, but he never even came close (or indeed even really tried to come close) to doing anything about the military-industrial complex.

He is fading because his late music wasn't very good and the generation that loved him is dying. The deep state, powers-that-be are the ones who will mourn him, because as an impotent fantasist, he was no threat to them at all while playing the perfect appearance of one.

Amen Brother

My first encounter with the song was A Perfect Circle's version in a minor key: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rakape74oNY

I still prefer it to the original, but do you think it's as boring or facile as the original?

IMO, APC's sinister-sounding cover was the perfect response to the original. Because however one would go about trying to implement that dream, it would be far worse than anything we have now. If you doubt it, just think about how a human-run government would enforce those ideals, particularly on people who felt differently.

If “Imagine” and other caltural icons are decaying, then “Forrest Gump” should display exponential decay.

Enjoy if you still “get it”. It’s a “classic”: https://youtu.be/rLDy4Glw9cY

Looking at that clip, it's remarkable that Forest Gump isn't just a nostalgia flick but a special effects tour de force... there's very definitely some showboating going on at the start with Lennon ducking in and around Forest. Perhaps the trained eye can discern subtle lighting glitches that give the game away but in the 90s this was mind-blowing.

the video was great - still seems to hold up ok, maybe because it was showing something which already looked dated at the time. the voicework got me - even just a few words in a wrong accent bugs me with beatles stuff :)

Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies.

I'm from Germany, not the US and the first time I watched it as a teen I only got the obvious references. Each time I rewatched it, I found more and more references to US history, which just made the movie even better for me.

I will give it credit for the historical references, but it really is a circle jerk to baby boomers.

Thankfully they didn't film Forrest going to space that was in the book .

"Imagine" was performed at the 2012 Olympic closing ceremony, so at least 10% of people on Earth this decade have heard it, whether they remember or not.

I still think that Coldplay is going to be forgotten way faster than Lennon though.

> What happened is the people who collected Elvis memorabilia started to die. Their families were stuck with all of this Elvis stuff and trying to sell it. But all of the people who were buyers were also dying.

I see this happening with collector cars, too. The interest in Model T's has really dissipated, and the muscle cars are starting to fade, too.

The market price of classic muscle cars is everything but fading.

There's little interest in them with young people. It's all old people now.

The fast and furious franchise was all about old people, and mostly watched by old people I guess?

In the first one, the only muscle car appeared briefly and then was promptly destroyed. The cars used in it were much newer.

I didn't watch the later ones.

I call it the cultural event horizon.

This reminds me a lot of the following xkcd comic: https://xkcd.com/1262/

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact