- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2001

End of nostalgia

"The '80s are, like, totally back.

"Well, maybe not totally. While those waxing nostalgic haven't pulled out their leg warmers and parachute pants quite yet, across the country there are disturbing signs that pop chic from the 'Dynasty' decade is creeping into the clothing and listening habits of unsuspecting people everywhere.

"Consider a few trends: In New York, Members Only jackets are some of the hottest items at vintage-clothing shops, and teens are once again break dancing on the streets. In San Francisco, club goers … clamor for cover bands playing Flock of Seagulls tunes.

"On television, decade-of-greed pretty boys like Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe now find themselves with prime-time hits. And, as U2 wins a couple of Grammies, bands like Bon Jovi and Journey are again spreading their big-haired joy… .

"In fact, the very nature of pop culture during the rise of Madonna and 'Miami Vice' may prove the end of nostalgia as we know it… .

"Like a nonrenewable resource, sources of nostalgia can become depleted. 'It's harder and harder to do now when our entire pop-culture history is available on cable 24 hours a day,' says [Syracuse University professor Robert] Thompson."

Harry Bruinius, writing on "An '80s revival? But Madonna never left," in Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor

The Clinton legacy

"Thirteen-year-old Ashley Robinson [a pseudonym] began dating in fourth grade. At first, 'it was movies, malls and making out,' says the eighth-grader from Pleasantville, N.Y. These days, 'about half of the people in my class are sexually experienced. Some have lost their virginity, but most have oral sex. It's popular because you can't get pregnant… .

"Robinson and her friends are part of a horrifying trend. Increasingly, children barely past puberty are sexually active, says Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy… . By the time kids turn 15, according to research from the National Center for Health Statistics, one-third of girls have had sex (compared with less than 5 percent in 1970)… .

"But even those kids who remain virgins aren't necessarily innocent. In a recent survey by Seventeen magazine, 55 percent of teens, aged 13 to 19, admitted engaging in oral sex. Half of them felt it wasn't as big a deal as intercourse a view Sarah Brown often hears from kids. 'It didn't help that we had a president who said oral sex isn't sex,' she says."

Lisa Collier Cool, writing on "Secret sex lives of kids," in the March issue of Ladies Home Journal

Art as religion

"Contemporary artists speak more comfortably about spirituality than about organized religion… . They are the sojourners who wander in the hills rather than the settlers who live easily in the valley… . Whereas religion connotes the teachings of preachers and priests who may have never seriously questioned the tenets of their faith … artists are the outsiders still capable of raising questions silenced by civilization… .

"Many Americans are now turning to artists for spiritual guidance. Public opinion polls give little indication of this turning, suggesting that people find inspiration only in popular television preachers or the pope or that they hold their local clergy as exemplars of the spiritual life.

"Yet in personal interviews, people speak more candidly. They mention Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison as writers who inspire them to think more deeply about spirituality. When their lives become difficult, they turn more often to the music of Aretha Franklin or Jessye Norman than they do to the theologians. Their spirits are uplifted as much by the concert on Saturday night as by the sermon on Sunday morning."

Robert Wuthnow, writing on "Creative Spirituality" in the March/April issue of Books & Culture

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