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Pop Past – It’s ‘Past’, But It’s Never ‘Over’
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There was a time, late 19th/early 20th century or thereabouts, when people, many of them the fashionable French, ventured out to public establishments to imbibe in, among other things, an herbal/licorice/mind-bending brew distilled from the essence of the inelegantly named ‘wormwood’ plant, which resulted in the poetically named ‘absinthe’ cocktail. Deep within absinthe’s perplexing, complex concoction the “Green Fairy” resided. She is named the “Green Fairy” due to her glowing color and the muse-like inspirations she cast upon some suggestible minds (many quite famous minds, at that). Indeed, absinthe was a fashionable drink among the Parisian artist and intellectual class. You know; those Bohemian-types that so raise the ire of the uptight, fuddy duddy social conservatives and prohibitionists that exist in all societies throughout the world, throughout all time.
A presumably less toxic, less Van Gogh-hysteria-inspiring form of absinthe has regained a toehold in some fancier bars in parts of Europe and America these days, and that’s the link between the present and the past in this story. But what’s past in popular culture needn’t have a modern-day counterpart. Our “Green Fairies”, whatever form they take, are the muses that inspire all range of expressions in human behavior otherwise known as the Arts. The behaviors may change (so too, the ‘ingredients’ which inspire them), but they’re all human behaviors, and elevated to the level of Art (or lowered to that level, as the case may be) we can all relate. Even if we haven’t imbibed thus.
Pop Past is an ongoing column at PopMatters that welcomes writers to imbibe. We’re looking for cultural historians that take delight in looking at human behaviors and expressions past and the Art such musings generate, and then write about such things in irresistibly engaging fashion. Such writers know that they, too, occupy but a temporary spot on the historical timeline, and their point of view is not gleaned from the center, or most elevated point of observation. But it is awfully fun, from wherever they stand, to look back at from whence some members of their species came. The past is a vast, swirling landscape of liquor, literature, art, music, film, fashion...! It’s a world rich with passions of so many persuasions.
Such writers pen their pop history essays with a style that is grounded in a deep respect for and knowledge of history; and they lure and entrance curious readers of all stripes to their subject matter just as seductively as that swirling emerald green concoction did its delighted followers, years past.
Note: An element of a writer’s life may serve as a thread running through such an essay, thereby lending the piece a personal perspective, but the writer's experience should not be the central focus of a Pop Past essay. Personal pieces tend toward sentimentalism, which can be confused with historical understanding. I am wary of pitches wherein the writer's life takes center stage.
Lure me with your pitch on an interesting aspect of pop culture history at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put PopMatters / Pop Past: (Topic) in your email subject line, or your email may be lost amid the hundreds I receive daily. Your accepted essay will be a minimum of 1,000 words. If it’s longer, it may publish across multiple pages, and may even publish over multiple installments of the Pop Past column. The subject matter and your approach will determine that.