“The New Dark Ages”

“The New Dark Ages”–a little something from my favorite punk band.

It’s nice to see both Dr. Greg and Mr. Brett’s names on songs again.

I still happily remember scoring backstage passes to a late 90s show and betting my friend that Graffin would say something to us before we tried to talk to him. I won. I thought I would because I was wearing my Powell’s Bookstore T-shirt. As I expected, Graffin looked up and called out, “Hey, I like your book store!” Unfortunately, I’m an even bigger intellectual stickler–twit, if you will–than he is, so I instantly said, “It’s hardly ‘my book store.'” Sigh.

He was nice to us anyway. My friend had hunted down and photocopied his 1992 Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology article “A New Locality of Fossiliferous Harding Sandstone: Evidence for Freshwater Ordovician Vertebrates” for him to sign. From the look on his face, I gathered this wasn’t the usual item he was asked to sign. It was fun.

So is this recent song. For me, it works on a couple of levels. With more and more people lamenting the decline of rationality and pointing out now visible cracks in industrial civilization, the common use of Dark Ages as a time of barbarous primitivism is certainly appropriate here.

However, the scholarly use of the term Dark Ages, which refers to the lack of a rich written record for the time period after the fall of Rome, applies too. In fact, it’s highly likely we are entering a New Dark Age considering the ephemeral nature of our current media storage devices. Librarians and scholars have been worried for decades about a loss of much of our paper information storage devices–books, magazines, newspapers–because almost all are printed on acid-based paper. Given a few decades, they start to become brittle and crumble. Librarians call it “slow fire.” Across the country, they are transferring their old newspaper collections to film or digital media when possible. That may stall out loss for a while, but even those fixes are temporary because film and electronic devices are vulnerable too.

If our acid paper started the New Dark Age, then, ironically, the Age of Information, of radio, television, and high-tech-everything, is quite likely to push us even further into the dark. For example, how many people can play 78 or 45 RPM vinyl records? Or how about 33 RPM? It’s been quite a while since I met anyone who even admitted to having an old 8-track tape player in the basement. Computers aren’t much better. Old punch card systems from the 70s are like dinosaurs now. Sony Betamax? Floppy disks? Even some once mighty word processing programs are all but irretrievable now.

And if the electricity goes out, well–

For now, I’m happy that Bad Religion can play acoustic too.

Now we needeth only perdurable papyrus and vellum onto which we may transcribeth their lyrics!


P.S. Does anyone else think the line “immaculate ejaculate in space” is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s 1972 short, short story “The Big Space Fuck”?


One Response to ““The New Dark Ages””

  1. Babz Says:

    It’s interesting that the District Ranger here requires us to maintain the entire library of forest service Manuals and Handbooks in hardcopy. Most districts just use the on-line version to do their research.

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