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Ed Driscoll

The Decline and Fall of the Boardwalk Empire

November 23rd, 2012 - 3:01 pm

Way back in 2003, James Lileks explored what the concluding scene of The Towering Inferno said about the infantile state of 1970s pop culture:

At the end of the movie comes a perfect 70s moment, a Deep & Profound comment from Paul Newman, the architect of the skyscraper. He’s sitting on the curb with Faye Dunaway, the smoking tower behind him, and he says: “Maybe we should just leave it there as a monument to all of the bullshit in the world.”

A burned-out, 138-story wreck left vacant as a “Monument to Bullshit.”

In the 70s, this was deep. This was profound. Maaaan, that’s so true. Tha’d be great, you’d be flying in to San Fran, and you’d see this big charred building, and it would be like yeah, that’s how it is, they didn’t update the sprinkler code to reflect new construction paradigms and so people died, man. Facile as it sounds – and facile as it is, granted – the times wanted a monument to those who identified bullshit as bullshit, not those who came up with something ennobling and true. <eyes rolling>

You need both. But the more you celebrate the former, the less likely you are to notice the latter. When a certain flavor of nihilistic cynicism starts to taint the debate, anything that smacks of optimism and cheer tastes saccharine and cloying.

Did I say the infantile state of 1970s culture? I meant the infantile state of 2012 culture, of course:

The roller coaster that was swept right-side up into the Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Sandy slammed the Jersey Shore may not be torn down, according to Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.

The picture of the ride, which looks more like a water slide these days, has become an iconic image of the damage Sandy  wreaked up and down the coast just over three weeks ago.

But Mayor Akers, in an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York, said he is working with the Coast Guard to see if it is stable enough to leave it alone.

If it is, Akers said it would make “a great tourist attraction.”

Perhaps it’s all just a matter of context.

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