The same, only different

One perfectly reasonable demand to make of a news organization today is that it should eschew all that smacks of the same-old. We of the “alternative” press, especially, have given this matter much thought. We try for consistency; we die by complacency. Thus, just when you’ve gathered up that deep breath to sigh so heavily and quip so derisively about our tired old liberal tendencies, do we present you with a long article on self-proclaimed tree-hugging Republicans. See, we don’t want our paper to be predictable either. We do want you to look twice. We believe in the art of provoking the double-take.

It’s not an easy standard to maintain for 52 straight weeks per year. Ours is, after all, an age of rampant cultural regurgitation. You’ll notice also, for instance, that the Arts&Culture section this week seems entirely preoccupied with revisiting and re-evaluating momentous cultural occasions from decades past. In these pages you’ll read of newly published work from a writer who came of age in the 1960s , a new-edition DVD of a 1979 movie, a new live local performance from a band that broke up in 1982 and new versions of popular video games from the mid ’90s. You’ll read of recent recitations by teenagers of poems written long ago, in prior centuries. Presumably these all are commodities of lasting influence. Who says we suffer from cultural amnesia? Would it be better described as cultural nostalgia?

It is strange how known quantities become unknown over time, how we grow out of and then back into them. A double-take happens when something is perceived at first as familiar, and then suddenly seems otherwise. This can be invigorating, as in the case of the tree huggers, or it can be unnerving, like the unforeseen experience that befell SN&R columnist Becca Costello at the Crest Theatre last week. The point is that real perception sometimes depends on looking twice. What “alternative” means to us is the opposite of predictable.