Modern Matters Object Culture Network

publish date: March 25|2002   



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Mainstream Modern

This article takes a look at the growing influence of modern design on popular culture as relayed through a series of individual remembrances.

Like many kids in the late 1960s I remember so clearly what a big deal the World Trade Towers where as they were being built. We followed their construction in our Weekly Reader's and were wowed by that endless gleaming height. Growing up in Texas we were used to things being big, but nothing could compare to the 'Twins'. In the fall of 1969 when we moved to New York, I still remember catching that first glimpse of them from my backseat window. Welcome to the Big Apple, kid. Later that year I saw Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001, for the first of many times and I'll always recall feeling a strange connection between those towers and that monolith. Those steely box-like structures were just so huge and mysteriously unnatural that the connection just came automatically. These past few weeks I've had a recurring vision of that brutal opening sequence when one ape kills another with a leg bone and then throws it in a panic high overhead where it tumbles and arcs to become the monolith. That image of the dawn of man and the first act of evil has always been a difficult one to forget. And I'm sure I wasn't the only adolescent who pored through Tolkien's trilogy in the early 70s and made a similarly unconscious connection after reading "The Two Towers." I was surprised I could still remember Gandalf's words, "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."

These are just things I remember, like wondering what the world would be like in 2001. And now, of course, we know. The towers are gone, punched out violently like the two front teeth of lower Manhattan's crescent smile. Thousands of our fellow citizens are no longer with us and it seems impossible at this moment to think about anything other than the senseless violence and protecting the nation against further attacks. And yet, the strength of our civilization has always been its ability to maintain our values despite all odds. And the things we value most are living freely and sharing beauty and our ideas with one another. I suppose, in a sense, the best tribute we can offer is to continue our own lives with respect for this tradition.

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