Rants & Essays

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By Joe Dolce

The other night I went to a '70s party. The invitation said to dress disco, so I forced myself into a long-collared, tight-fitting shirt in a terrifying shade of green made from some unnatural polyester blend.

One look in the mirror and I realized how much I hated the '70s. Yeah, I know - there was sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll with none of the consequences. But there was also the Doobie Brothers and blow-dried haircuts and shag carpeting. The only time things got interesting was when punk crashed the party and spit on the shag. Finally there was a clash of values. And the friction felt good.

You can feel some of that same friction today, and that's why I'm hopeful for the '90s. Call it male intuition, but I sense we're on the verge of something new. In politics, in music, and in the environment, battle lines are shifting, coalitions are re-forming, and a postmodern pragmatism seems to be taking hold.

This became clear when I read Sarah Ferguson's "Weed the World" (April '95 Details) which was reported from the Seventh Annual Cannabis Cup, the Oscars of the marijuana-growing industry. This year's Cup was distinguished by entrepreneurs hawking all sorts of hemp-derived products, from clothing to cheese. What really interested me was the subtext: Certain stoners are hoping that if they can legalize the growing of hemp - which contains virtually no psychoactive THC yet has been prohibited in the U.S. since 1937 - they might be able to do the same with pot. It seems that after thirty years of smoke-ins and tie-dye rallies, it's time for another tack. As one optimistic pot activist and budding hemp entrepreneur puts it: "Marching on the streets doesn't work. What works is free-market capitalism." And that works for me: Two previously unaligned parties coming together with a creative approach to an old problem.

Sometimes, however, certain dilemmas demand an old solution. Which is why a lot of people are looking to the past to guide them through the years ahead. Some take up religion; others pierce their bodies and call themselves modern primitives. It was in this spirit that we sent William Shaw on a twenty-seven-day trek through the Utah desert (April '95 Details). His goal was to live like a Stone Age man and fend for himself without any amenities - no matches, no toilet paper, no contact with the modern world. With every step, he marched backward in time, until he was able to shake off modern civilization and get in touch with his inner animal.

Which is, of course, what Trent Reznor does every time he hits the stage. Musically, Trent merges the nasty anger of '70s punk with the cool mechanics of '90s synth-thrash In person, he embodies the contrasts of today's man: He's a talented, tortured, small-town boy who writes scary songs, preaches nihilism, but drives a Porsche and loves his dog. I'm happy to report that as you read this, Trent is down in New Orleans shopping for a sink to install in his new house. Trent Reznor, the devil, decorating? Now there's a clash of values that you can feel good about.