Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Get 1918's Papers Today

Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and an all-around swell guy, was vehemently opposed to the passage of time. He wrote a very compelling essay entitled "What's New?" in which he opined that most people actually die from newness:

"Contrary to the accepted premise of staying young by keeping up on things, newness is a devastating, death-dealing state. The only way you can get old is by exposure to the new. If there is no present to involuntarily match the past against, the past remains the present. And you remain in the past present, or, like a vampire, the way you were in your prime."

As he grew older, LaVey began to employ emissaries and liaisons to go forth into the outside world for him, to obtain supplies and handle business duties. Not because he was feeble or infirm - far from it, he was as robust and energetic as ever in his final years. Rather, at that advanced age, he had endured about as much modernity as he could stomach.

He listened solely to antiquated cylinders and 78s by artists like Rudy Vallée, and books and magazines from the 20s and 30s were his preferred reading material. "Keep up on the news," he wrote, "The news, that is, of the time frame you exist within. Keep periodicals on hand to reinforce what's happening in the world. This may entail acquiring a collection of vintage newspapers and magazines."

Even before I was familiar with LaVey and his philosophy, I was already attuning myself to the same principle. I've always studied pre-1966 materials as a monk would study illuminated manuscripts in a monastery, and I increasingly spend a significant chunk of my time dwelling on other segments of the time track than the one in which you are living now.

There once was a time, in the late 1980s and early 90s, where I tried hard to keep only pre-1966 coins in my pocket. At whatever job I worked, I painstakingly parsed out the older coins from the register and swapped them out for the unworthy modern ones. Older coins turned up with far greater frequency back then, but unfortunately, for some unknown reason, they are rarely circulating in common currency these days.

I posit a conspiracy to keep us from maintaining contact with the past via the morphogenic residue of old money, and quantum connectedness with the old dead people who once handled them. The way they keep messing with the appearance of paper money in recent years is further evidence that my theory may not be altogether off-base.

One of the few good things about the internet is that it makes old newspapers and periodicals available to a degenerate past-huffer like myself.

When people come up to me and say "hey, have you seen the latest picks from the Oprah book club?" I can top them by replying "No, but have you been following Sophronia Currier's splendid new serialized novella in the latest issue of Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion?

When people tell me about some current political issue in the news today, I can respond "I'm more concerned about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, have you heard about that?"

No, they say, when did that happen?

"1911", I reply.

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