Pop Past – It's 'Past', But It's Never 'Over'

The Absinthe Drinker (partial) by Viktor Oliva

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.

Pitch Deadline: None. This is a standing call.

Contact: Karen Zarker

Email: zarker at popmatters dot com

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 zarker at popmatters dot com. 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.

With delighted anticipation,





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.