Just watched part of a DVD called Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. The Z Channel was a cable channel back in the late 1970s and early 1980s in L.A. I had never heard of Jerry Harvey before, but I feel like I knew lots of people like him, totally monomaniacal creatures who lived out their obsessions unfettered by the kinds of constraints on personal expression most of us take for granted today, when we feel like we have to watch what we say and have little censors sitting in a screening room in our head.

This documentary made me think of what moviegoing used to be like 30 years ago – a lot more interesting than today. Movies today are predictable, unadventurous, sticking to familiar themes and situations. Especially children’s movies, but all movies seem like they’re made for children now. Cars. Lethal Weapon. Over the Hedge. In the Barnyard. Robots. Focus-group tested. Stamped out of a template. Boring, boring, boring.

And scary. And I feel like there’s nothing I can do about it. The people who hate uniqueness and individuality seized power when Reagan won the 1980 presidential election, and by the time the rest of us figured out what he was up to, it was too late. They’d conquered too much ground for us to be able to push them back to where they came from. All we can do now is wait until they get tired, lose their sense of purpose and start turning on each other, which they have started to do. But there will never be the kind of environment there was back then – magical but unstable; fascinating, challenging and mind-expanding but too volatile to last.

Liberal revolutions begin quietly and end in violent flameouts. Conservative revolutions go the other way, starting in glorious, grandiose bursts of violent retribution and ending in pathetic shame and obscurity for those who once stood so tall. Liberal, intellectual and artistic revolutions begin gradually, with little pockets of activity building until the people in those pockets find each other and recognize their common values of wanting creative people to reach their full potential. Collaborations happen and wonderful, innovative creations appear, like little peeks at Heaven. But some people always go too far, some lose their minds, and the era crashes and burns tragically and violently.

Conservative, anti-intellectual and artless revolutions are born in those moments of violence, when the rage of the unimaginative conformists is at its hottest, when the excesses of the creative class have offended the conformists most deeply. The fires of rage gradually cool, the conformists and moralists lose their sense of direction and commit excesses of their own, often not all that much different from those of the creative class, except maybe in scale. Then one day, the musicians, writers, painters, filmmakers and dancers feel like it’s safe to come out again, but I see little chance of the creative chaos of the late 1970s repeating anytime soon. Long live the College Park Theatre, the Hoff, the Inner Circle, the Outer Circle, the KB Cerberus, the Biograph, the Ontario Theatre and all the other darkened auditoriums that held reality at bay for me for so long.

We are all going to die, people. I’m not advocating legalizing bestiality and murder, but let’s have fun until our time is up, okay?

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