The original idea for this came to me in 2002. At one work one afternoon, I was seized by the ethos of the rock visions of the 70s—specifically, Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire, although certainly it applies to Rush’s 2112, Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Genesis’s “Watcher of the Skies” and similar—and wrote the first version of this in a rush, sending it only to one friend who might understand. Recently I was reminded of that day, so I polished up UE70SSFRO and am posting it here.

I am not a composer, and have not the tiniest desire to make this work a reality. But I love the idea of it.

UE70SSFRO may be imagined as a double LP album covered in eye-popping art, the sort of art made to be painted on the sides of vans. The following text, a libretto, appears as liner notes in the album’s gatefold. The song titles are in parentheses, although I don’t think they represent a complete list of the opera’s tracks. There must always be songs left in potentia.

Side 1

In the early 22nd century, humanity stands on the brink of its final crisis, social, geopolitical, and ecological.(“Fever”) At the edge of the solar system, two giant alien space fleets, their ships very different in design, appear and head directly for Earth.

The fleets send messages as they approach. One, a flotilla of identical silvery ovoids, is of the Sereneium. The other, composed of junkyard juryrigs, each one different, holds the Zodiac Tribes.
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One of the hardest things to express of the beauty of the Unprecedented Era is its ephemerality. Every phase can happen because conditions are Just So, and those conditions will never be that way again. The Seventies, just to use one example, are a combination of economic (the end of the great wave of mid-20th century economic growth), cultural/demographic (the afterglow of the Sixties, the autumn of those who remembered World War II, the maturity-but-still-youngness of the postwar generation), technological (the introduction of personal computers) political (the fading, but not faded, of Mass Man) elements. A certain permutation, made in the instant, year by year, month by month, hour by hour, never to be seen again.

And the same can be said for every decade since the 18th century. They are all birds: you see one for a moment, try to pin a name on it, but it flutters and is gone. You can only reconstruct it from memory, but whatever memory will never equal that empirical instant.

[I’m not one for alternate histories. I think there are no ifs. But I’m not oblivious to the attractions of the genre, and, after recent thoughts on Jimmy Carter, visions of what might have been flitted through my mind.]

Election Day 1976: after a grueling primary and a difficult election, Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, sweeps to victory, bringing with him a cohort of new Republican congressmen. In his victory address, he promises to restore America’s power and moral standing. Read More

This week read Jimmy Carter, a short bio by Julian Zelizer. Some thoughts on the first president I can, if barely, remember:

–“In March 1953, the family moved to Schenectady, New York, where Jimmy took classes in nuclear physics at Union College and prepared to become the engineering officer for the USS Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine. All of these years as an engineer helped to shape Carter’s approach to tackling issues. He developed a technical and managerial, as well as a nonideological, mind-set to problem-solving that would inform him throughout his career.”

Which was entirely the problem. Carter was an engineer by temperament, but he was elected as a pious, humble, peanut farmer. He was a walking symbol, tossed up by Seventies nostalgia. When things got bad, he reverted back to his technocratic mindset and then couldn’t understand why people disliked it.

–Amy Carter was not the Carters’ only child. In fact, her oldest brother was 21 years her senior. He was a pure Boomer, she was pure GenX. Amy was actually a symbol for children of the Seventies. We were all compared to Amy circa 1977.

-Carter was a very appropriate president for the Seventies. He represented the flux of the decade. A Republican accused him of trying to combine two contradictory ideas, the Southern good ol’ boy and the post-Sixties liberal, but the promise of Jimmy Carter was maybe they weren’t contradictory, maybe there could be a synthesis. Maybe you could have an evangelical semi-liberal Democrat who invoked Bob Dylan. The lines hadn’t hardened yet.

-People forget that the first part of the Carter administration went pretty well. The economy bounced back from the ’73-’75 recession. Hedonism was in fashion. The Cold War was on low flame. He arranged the only real advance in Arab/Israel peace the world has ever seen. You could make a case that the years 1975 to 1978 were some of the best America has ever known, a reasonably golden period.

-But the reason folks forget is that after 1978 things went dramatically into the toilet. Iran fell, chopping global oil production off at the knees, which engendered a new energy crisis. That torpedoed the economy and brought back stagflation, inspiring Fed Chief Volcker to resolve to choke off inflation once and for all by raising interest rates past all previously considered ceilings. Khomeini came to power, the hostages got taken, their rescue failed. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan

And all of these events were completely outside Jimmy Carter’s control. If Jerry Ford had been re-elected, he’d have been in the exact same vise. Ronald Reagan should have thanked his lucky stars he didn’t get nominated/elected in ’76, because everything would have played out the same. Instead, he got to come in as a savior, and benefited from the natural cycle of change.

Welcome to my Christmas song
I’d like to thank you for the year

I somehow never heard Elton John’s “Step Into Christmas” before 2014. I don’t know how I missed it for forty Christmases. When I finally did, it came as this lovely discovery of middle age. It’s such a happy song, with a vision of the season, wry and sincere at the same time, relishing the past and looking forward to the future. When the ad nauseum Christmas music radio stations play it, I turn it up. I love that song.

What could this awesome song have been like in context? When was it was first released?

“Step Into Christmas” was released in the Christmas season of 1973.


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    The Bermuda Triangle

    Illuminati: Cosmic Trigger

    Man, Myth and Magic

Bryan placed his plate on top of the stack of books. Danielle had insisted they eat at the dining room table, but she wasn’t around any more.

He forgot his coke. He walked back out to the kitchen. The house echoed with his footsteps. The place was really too big for one person. Four floors including the basement. Bryan knew he should move, but since Danielle had moved out, he didn’t feel much like doing anything except reading, working and watching TV. Fuck her; he could afford it. The rent was dirt cheap. The neighborhood was all crumbling pre-World War I brick, and nobody wanted to live here.

He got his coke and went back out to the living room. Only the aquarium light of the television lit the room. He adjusted the rabbit ears on the Zenith and planted himself on the lawn chair next to the front window. Danielle had taken the real furniture with her, but he hadn’t let her claim the TV.

Out the open window he could hear children playing in the June twilight and police cars going to meet a call. He turned up the volume on the set.

      Trapped. Trapped in a maze of hallways, without beginning or ending, alone.

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The Thirties & Forties had to lead to the Fifties. The Fifties to the Sixties. The Sixties to the Seventies.

In the depths of each phase, the forces defining that phase seem permanent. But already has been stamped their expiration date, and the next cycle cued up to overtake.