Because one day, they'll all be dead.
last updated 07.29.04
WHO'S A BOOMER?: PART FIVE
Here's RM's response to Hal's response to Kathy's response to Hal's initial e-mail:
Kathy and Hal,
Here's a little essay on how living in the shadow of the boomers has actually become part of my own little political "journey" (to use a favorite, self-glorifying boomer phrase).
I don't think there's a neat demographic system for answering the question "Am I a boomer?". I, like Kathy, was born in 1964, in the last year technically considered "boom". But I'm actually the child of a boomer - a teenager born in the prime, post-war years that define boomerness.
Moreover, I have no memory of the economic portion of the "boom". My adoptive parents were adults in the Depression, and passed on their memories of hard times, which turned out to be revisited when my father died when I was four, leaving my mother to raise me on a pension while my (boomer) sister and brother caught the fortuitous economic train that - to me - defines a boomer: a period of "socially significant" rebellion and experimentation in college, a few years of "finding yourself", then the serendipitous slide into a job or career that allows you to buy a home, raise a family, and even save money.
I remember Vietnam, Kent State, Watergate - all from the evening news. But I really felt the economic downturn of the 70s, the awful, clammy, creepy, oversexualized atmosphere of the "me decade" that seemed to poison my childhood too quickly for my liking, and which introduced an insistent obligation to "grow up" into primary school social dynamics. Innocence was unhip, and even in a Catholic school, God and religion were somehow suspect and under attack (the hair-shirt years of the church, post-Vatican II.) Nine-year-old boys used words like "macho", and pre-teen girls were taught the doctrinaire feminist mistrust of men before their first period.
I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't tell you what. Hey - I was only a child! Why did I have to confront all of this, so soon, so unprepared?
Culturally, everything seemed like a hand-me-down from my older siblings - the music, the clothes, the way you defined yourself. People talk about rebellion having become "ironic", and thus almost impossible in a true sense of the word anymore, having been quantified and packaged for decades. Well, I think we can thank the boomers for that, the generation that made alienation mainstream, that turned cultivated neuroses into a growth industry.
Even punk, my first cultural "moment", was the work of boomer misfits who never caught the love train. I loved it, and then I became one of the "kids" who "ruined it" by turning it into thrash and hardcore, refining the scream of rage out of the art and artifice. It was "my music", and it was a nasty, cheap, cottage-industry thing until the echo kids, the studiously disaffected children of the boomers, came along and swept it into the mainstream: Ramones to Husker Du to Sum 41 in twenty years - that's the basic story.
In the meantime, I worked minimum wage jobs and buffed up my political and social paranoia, built out of bits and pieces of leftover 60s radical rhetoric. Reagan was evil; Thatcher was a witch; the CIA pulled the strings; the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their counterparts at the Kremlin were glaring at each other over some future battlefield, wracked with nervous ticks and drenched with booze-soaked flopsweat, and one day they'd go too far and blow us all to kingdom come. There was no good or evil, or it was all evil, or we all had the potential for good. I don't know, it changed all the time, depending on what I was reading.
Then the 80s boom ended and the Wall fell and I finally got tired of being afraid and confused. More to the point, I got tired of letting fear and ignorance dictate how I saw the world, so I started reading books, some of which I didn't agree with at first. I stopped reading music magazines and started reading about economics, if only to find out just why all of the magazines I'd worked for as a freelance writer and photographer came and went in such regular cycles.
I was "empowering myself". Sure. Basically I was trying to peek my head up over the surging boomer crest ahead of me before the building echo wave behind me swept me down again. There had to be more to be seen or heard than the surging spectacle of sex, drugs and rock and roll that had been the backdrop for my whole life. If it looked like I'd never afford a house or a family, at least I wanted to know why I didn't die in a nuclear holocaust, or live in the Orwellian "security state" of total surveillance and mind control that so many of my peers seemed to think was inevitable - indeed, already here, if you listened to many of them.
Why, if it was all about gender and race and sexual orientation, did it seem like class - who had the money and political pull, who didn't, and how they recognized each other - was still the real issue at hand. And why, as a white, working-class kid born too late for the boom, did it seem like I was always just on the outside of it all?
Well, I'm still trying to answer that question, so don't expect any revelations from me just yet. Everything I've been writing these days - on various websites, as a freelancer, in e-mails like this - is a furtive, jabbing attempt to scare an answer or two out of the world. And thus, Boomer Deathwatch, an attempt by Kathy and myself to get a few feet up off the ground and shout something like, "Hey! Over here! Would someone tell me just what the hell happened, and why I can't shake the feeling that it's not going to get better?"
And why almost no one born between 1945 and 1959 can give me a half-decent answer.
Anyway, that's all. I've said my bit. Let me know what you think.
Well there you go. My life story. Does it explain anything about boomers or Gen Xers or this blog? I don't know. And once again - discuss amonst yourselves.
posted by RM | 07.29.04
WHO'S A BOOMER?: PART FOUR
Here's Hal's response to Kathy's response to Hal's initial e-mail:
On Thu, 2004-01-08 at 14:49, KS wrote:
The thing is, I don't think Rick or I accept the demographic demarcation, as I was born in 1964 myself. The theorists don't take into account the profound differences between those born in the fifties and those in the sixties, which wasn't clearly articulated until Douglas Coupland's Generation X.
Now, Coupland is a couple of years older than I am. When I read his book, I was flabbergasted. How did he know so much about what I think and feel? Like Coupland, I know the boomers/hippies are very different than my friends and I. So I consider myself Gen X rather than Boomer, and will no matter what the 'experts' say.
Indeed, but I feel very little connection to the other end of what is called Generation X as either. I have just as much in common with somebody born in 1982 as I do with somebody born in 1946. We experienced a completely different world.
I think a more useful classification of generations would be to classify somebody roughly by the decade in which they came of age. I'd guess the Eighties was the most influential decade on me, as that's when I left high school, gave college the "old college try" and married.
When I see a commentary about Boomers, it typically tends to end up referring to a person that came of age in the Sixties. When I see a commentary about GenXers, it typically ends up referring to a person that came of age in the Nineties.
To me calling somebody a boomer, and trying to understand anything about them makes as much sense a classifying somebody by the century they are born in. It's not that I disagree with the Baby Boomer being set at 1946-1964 and think it should be say, 1944-1962, but that the entire concept is a bit off, and the ranges are too large by an order of two. Eight to ten years makes much more sense to me than 18 to 20 years for generations. I don't know how many people share that view though.
So we could have called our blog We Hate People Born In The Fifties, but that wouldn't have had the same ring to it.
I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that I "hate people born in the Fifties" either, as I married (1959) one.
I think you mean "We hate people born from 1946-1955" anyway, but that is an even worse title.
Aren't demographics fun?
Isn't demographics fun?
I don't even know which is correct. Oh, well.
It occurred to me while reading these e-mails over that a really obscure - but accurate - alternate title for this blog would have been Waiting For Opie To Kick. Once again, I think we made the right choice. And once again - discuss amonst yourselves.
posted by RM | 07.26.04
WHO'S A BOOMER?: PART THREE
Here's KS' response to Hal Duston's e-mail reflection on his boomer/non-boomer status:
The thing is, I don't think Rick or I accept the demographic demarcation, as
I was born in 1964 myself. The theorists don't take into account the profound differences between those born in the fifties and those in the sixties, which wasn't clearly articulated until Douglas Coupland's Generation X.
Now, Coupland is a couple of years older than I am. When I read his book, I was flabbergasted. How did he know so much about what I think and feel? Like Coupland, I know the boomers/hippies are very different than my friends and I. So I consider myself Gen X rather than Boomer, and will no matter what the 'experts' say.
So we could have called our blog We hate people born in the Fifties, but that wouldn't have had the same ring to it.
Kathy pretty much speaks for me when she says that we don't "accept the demographic demarcation". I've also never felt like a part of the boomer demographic, having never shared its zeitgeist, cultural touchstones, or economic benefits. Who's a boomer? Well, my siblings, twelve and eighteen years older than I am, definitely are. Clinton. Kerry. Bush. Steven Harper. Hey, practically everyone currently in the centre of the the political limelight just at the moment. But that's a topic for another day.
And We Hate People Born In The Fifties would probably have been a more accurate name for this blog, but it just doesn't reach out and grab you, does it? Anyway, once again - discuss amongst yourselves.
posted by RM | 07.25.04
AND DEATH SHALL NOT CLAIM THEM...
Reader Andrew Zur sent us a link to this Spiked piece, "Growing Old Ungracefully", written by James Harkin, the co-author of a Demos study on trends in aging. (Demos, by the way, is the UK think tank made famous by its connection to the rise of Tony Blair and New Labour, that most boomer of political phenomena.)
The article doesn't say anything new to regular readers here, but it's interesting how what just seemed anecdotal observation is now being codified by research:
"As co-author of a new report entitled Eternal Youths, I interviewed a number of baby boomers, who showed a peculiar reluctance to engage with the realities of being older. To those that we interviewed, the idea of being old suggested uselessness and decrepitude as well as the guilt of being a burden. Some were keen to voice their frustration at hysterical media and political coverage of the so-called 'demographic time-bomb'. Others feared that they might end up marginalised and thrown on the scrapheap in state-enforced retirement.
"But there was also another, more troubling reason why our baby boomers feared old age. Many were simply terrified by the irreversible physiological changes that accompany old age. It is already widely accepted that many baby boomers are prepared to pay through the nose to delay the visible signs of ageing, and that pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturers stand to prosper as a result. Cosmetic surgery, for example, is now on the brink of social acceptability in Britain.
"But cosmetic surgery is only the most visible sign that baby boomers are determined not to adapt to old age. Many younger baby boomers are refusing to pass on the baton of youth culture to their children, believing that since they invented youth culture it remains rightfully theirs. In the course of the past decade, youth culture and popular culture have expanded their boundaries - and now increasingly encompass people in their forties. In return, the content of much popular culture - the slew of nostalgia programming and nostalgia advertising, for example - is beginning to reflect the interests of the middle-aged."
KS and I have joked about programming mini film festivals on subjects like the counterculture, the Seventies, and the fantasy life of the boomer. The latter would have to include The Big Chill, of course, but I've always thought that Logan's Run would have to make up the double bill, and Harkin's report seems to have justified my opinion:
"The baby boomers that we interviewed were not really interested in recipes for longevity. What counted for them was not increased life expectancy but quality of life. As soon as their quality of life diminished, most would be more than happy to pull the plug."
What's really interesting is that, for boomers, the simple process of aging has been inflated into such an implacable horror that, on the verge of old age, they've become congenitally incapable of facing what was, for almost any other generation in history, no more than a fact of life:
"The problem is that old age is still an inevitable physiological process, which cannot be postponed indefinitely. If baby boomers are to be at ease with themselves as they enter their third age, they need to fortify themselves with a story about the benefits of ageing. It is a troubling paradox of our ageing society that many of us seem so obsessed with the Sisyphean task of warding off the omens of old age. In France, the horror of ageing among baby boomers is such that French gerontologists from the highly respected Fondation Nationale de Gerontologie have opted to skip a generation and work with children to change society's bleak perception of the ageing process."
posted by RM | 07.25.04
WHO'S A BOOMER?: PART TWO
In response to a comments thread way, way back, reader Hal Duston, KS and myself got into an e-mail exchange on what exactly makes a boomer. Here's Hal's first e-mail, printed in full, on his own place in the generational, demographic lottery:
Am I a Boomer?
The time frame commonly used to demarcate a Boomer says that I (being born in 1964) am. I am not sure I identify closely with many of the issues commonly associated with boomers though. First let me respond to some of the questions in Paul Begala's April 2000 article:
"If you grew your hair and burned your draft card on campus during the Sixties;" No, I wasn't even born until nearly halfway through the Sixties. Nor were any of my erstwhile boomer friends. I was 6 years old when the Sixties ended, so my political power was of a rather nonexistent nature.
"if you toked, screwed, and boogied your way through the Seventies;" No, by this time I was in elementary and secondary school and was neither a drug user, sexually active, nor did I boogie.
"if you voted for Reagan and believed 'Greed is good' in the Eighties;" OK, guilty as charged here (well the second election anyway). And I would do it again and still believe it.
"and if you're trying to make up for it now by nesting as you cluck about the collapse of 'family values,' you're it." I don't think I have a lot to "make up for", but *cluck* *cluck* *cluck*.
"If not, even if demographers call you a Boomer, you probably hate our generation's elite as much as I do." Mostly true, yes.
"the civil-rights movement was led by pre-Boomers ... and continued without strong support from the Boomers on college campuses." Of course I never set foot on a college campus until the Eighties.
"And so the Boomers careened into the Seventies" Yes, I hated them the first time through. I sure don't watch them on television. Of course I don't watch "That Nineties Show" a.k.a Friends either.
"Disco." I thought it was horrid then. I haven't changed my mind.v
The biggest problem with talking about Boomers, is that it is not a terribly specific category. I don't really think I have a similar life experience as someone who is eighteen or even ten years my senior. Much of the world changed in quite dramatic ways over that duration. Of course I don't think I have a similar life experience as somebody eighteen or even ten years my junior either. The world continues to change in even more dramatic ways, and I think even more rapidly than ever before. Perhaps the demarcations for generations will have to be reduced in the future. Certainly I feel a great deal more kinship with my childhood friend of these last 25 years of my life even though he is two years younger than I and therefore most definitely not a Boomer.
I just checked. I am but one year older than Mr. McGinnis. I daresay that my life experience is rather more similar to Mr. McGinnis's than to that of anybody that Paul Begala's article applies to.
The boldface, as usual, was added by me. And as far as I can tell, Hal and I are almost exactly the same age. Okay, then: Discuss amongst yourselves.
posted by RM | 07.24.04
WHO'S A BOOMER?: PART ONE
Reveries magazine recently posted this item on the parsing of boomer demographics, a plug for Jim DeRogatis' book Kill Your Idols that raises some interesting questions, and coins a new term: Baby Boomer Gap:
"Everyone born between 1946 and 1964 is considered a 'baby boomer,' but anyone who thinks that those born within that 18-year span share the same 'values, habits and product preferences,' ought to think again, reports Jeffrey Zaslow in The Wall Street Journal. 'I share very little culturally with a 58-year-old,' says John Dieffenbach, 40. He is too young to remember when Kennedy was shot or when the Beatles arrived. Unlike older boomers, he didn't enjoy the benefits of 'affordable housing, easier acceptance into colleges and better job markets.' And John's just a little ticked that 'people his age might not receive full Social Security benefits when they retire, because the oldest boomers may strain the system.'"
Why does this reverberate with me (RM) so? Well, I'm the same age as DeRogatis and Dieffenbach - in fact, I turned 40 on the day that Reveries editor Tim Manners posted the piece. Moreover, I'm one of those crusty old ex-punk types who'd recognize the title of DeRogatis' book (which you're welcome to buy me as a belated birthday present, by the way) as a Sonic Youth reference, the title of a song also known by the more prolix title of "I Killed Christgau With My Big Fucking Dick", a jab at arch-boomer Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau.
Now, Kim and Thurston and the other nice folks in Sonic Youth are older than I am, but they're icons of the younger Gen-X "baby bust" demographic subset. Which makes it all so very confusing, especially if you've taken the marketing world's somewhat inflexible lead on generational mapping. Manners does a nice job of pulling that Lego block fort apart:
"The quirk in the baby-boomer generation, then, is that its long run tramples over how most people view their generations: 'Research by the late Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson showed that people tend to view as part of their generation those born about six years before and after them. By this measure, only boomers born between 1952 and 1958 have both feet in the baby boom. Early and late boomers - especially the 1946s and 1964s - are mixed breeds.' It is, in fact, a generation that was defined by demographers counting babies; when the count fell below four million, as it did in 1965, the demographers called it a generation (hey, the count was only 3.8 million that year!). In any case, says David Wolfe, a marketing consultant, those who put all boomers in the same boat are 'marketing to an apparition.'"
A few months ago, KS and I got into an e-mail exchange with reader Hal Duston. I'd like to kick-start this blog from its moribund status by re-printing those e-mail exchanges over the course of the next week or so, having gotten permission from Hal and KS way back when. I hope it sparks some interesting debate on the whole loaded question of "Who you callin' a boomer?"
posted by RM & KS | 07.10.04
UPDATE: The WSJ story is here.
DAVE DELLINGER (1915-2004)
The BDW Chicago Eight dead pool is down to five members, with the passing this week of Dave Dellinger, the oldest of the defendants arrested after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. His obituary in the San Francisco Gate sums up his fame simply:
"Dellinger was a pacifist who devoted much of his life to protesting. A member of the Old Left whose first arrest came in the 1930s during a union-organizing protest at Yale, he was a generation older than his Yippie co-defendants in the Chicago Seven case."
Dellinger died in a Vermont nursing home, conveniently close to the 2001 protests against the WTO in which he participated, leaving his nursing home bed at two in the morning to hitch a ride to Quebec City. Dellinger, the Gate article states, "contended capitalism led to imperialism and violence."
"A conscientious objector during World War II, Dellinger spoke out against the practice of putting black soldiers in the back of trains ahead of defeated Germans. During a three-year prison term - one of several stints behind bars - Dellinger refused to sit in the all-white dining area."
Unlike his younger peers in Chicago, Dellinger presented us with a moral worldview harder to disparage. Nothing in the above paragraph is really worth censure: conscientious objectors were proof of the essentially rightness of the Allied cause in WW2 - it would be hard to imagine any of the Axis powers tolerating the whole concept of conscientious objectors, and while it was a shame that he couldn't see his country on the side of right against such an obvious enemy to his freedom to object, there's no logical case, then or now, to denying him that freedom.
Dignifying German POWs at the expense of black soldiers was deeply shameful, and he was right to speak against it. And no one, today, can defend segregation despite whatever fallout or abuses might have come from civil rights legislation (forced busing, quotas, legislated reverse discrimination). Dellinger was, in the phrase he probably used a thousand times, fighting "the good fight", so how was he to know when his struggle crossed the line from righteous to overwrought? It might have been at the Chicago Seven trial, when he made the following speech over the objections of the presiding judge:
"You want us to be like good Germans, supporting the evils of our decade, and then when we refused to be good Germans and came to Chicago and demonstrated, now you want us to be like good Jews, going quietly and politely to the concentration camps while you and this court suppress freedom and the truth," Dellinger told the judge. "And the fact is, I am not prepared to do that."
The left turned on itself - and on the spirit of the country it was trying to "save" - when it began imagining itself as victims in the same class as Jews perishing in the Holocaust, or later as dissidents in danger of being silenced or "disappeared", or as the Winston Smith-like proles of Orwell's 1984. For whatever excesses or mistakes might have come from the authorities that Dellinger, Hoffman, Hayden, et. al. strove to offend, there was still no comparison between the kind of life or civil freedoms available in the United States, next to, say, communist Vietnam.
Dellinger was no Boomer, that much is obvious, but he did a lot to instruct that generation in the sort of rhetorical self-righteousness and distorted perspective that's come to typify politics in the boomer era. The boomers have, in turn, done their best to teach their children that, despite whatever advantages and freedoms they enjoy, despite the privileges and prosperity they might come to take for granted, they have to view the country and even the civilization that gave them all of these as more fundamentally evil than the worst kleptocratic, repressive, economically stunted regime, anywhere in the world.
It's a delusional worldview, and it's frightening sometimes to see how we're still caught in its teeth. Thank you, Dave Dellinger, for bequeathing it to us. May your soul find the peace you valued so highly, but I hope the afterlife provides you with a glimpse of the havoc you worked so hard to nurture. Millions died for your right to denigrate their sacrifice. I hope something, somewhere, will help you appreciate that.
posted by RM (thanks to Anne Butzen) | 05.28.04
COLOUR HER GREENA
Ellen Warren of the Chicago Tribune writes that boomers are intent on re-making their roles as grandparents with the same revisionist fervor that they brought to every other role in their lives:
"Baby Boomers entering the grandparent years are launching a small semantic revolution to avoid the traditional label of senior citizen status. These youth cult Boomers are demanding that their beloved ankle biters - the children of their own sons and daughters -- call them names with a younger sound than the traditional 'grandma' and 'grandpa.'"
The story, archived on the namenerds.com website, tells of how namenerds founder Norah Burch has helped catalogue the many new words boomers have come up with to avoid the terrible fate of becoming just another granny or gramps:
"How about Zsa Zsa, Pitty-Pat, Marnie, Muna, Minnow, Muffer, Murmur, Mima, FaFa, LaLa, Chippy, Cappy, Greena, Graga, Gigi, Gankie, Ging-ging, Dappy, Butchy, Boo-Boo, Blah Blah, Bubba, Boowa, Happy, Duke, Honey, Koko and, unfortunately, Grumpy, Poo Poo, Dodo and Rubber Ducky? These are just some of the examples Burch has turned up in response to a question about grandparent names on the Web site, which gets 10 or 12 new examples every day."
In their quest to escape even the most innocuous trappings of aging, they'll even turn to cornball sci-fi for inspiration:
"Burch's own mother, Laura, decided that her grandchildren would call her 'Moogie,' the term for 'mother' from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
It's a trend that apparently cuts across all demographic boundaries, as one namenerds correspondent writes that her mother - "your typical white middle-class suburban Southern Baptist Bible-thumpin' Dubya-supportin' Texan" - has decided that she's too young at 41 to be a grandma:
"She wants her grandkids to call her 'Peaches'. 'She's even thinking of having a peach tattooed on her toe.'"
posted by RM | 03.29.04
ELECTORATE SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO...
This entry on "late boomer" Captain Ed's Captain's Quarters blog looks at the rightward shift of young people (which began almost imperceptibly, as far as my own experience showed, with the ideologically depressed denizens of Gen. X). It's a phenomenon that seems to confound the ideologues of the Democratic party this year, especially those in Howard Dean's campaign who expected tidal wave of support from the young that ... uh ... never came. (Cue sad, wilting 'understatement of the year' music.)
"This relentless focus on their own youth as a mythical Golden Age, combined with their greedy, ever-increasing grasp on public resources in the form of expanding retirement entitlements must strike the younger generation as ridiculous and tiresome. Even younger boomers such as myself wonder when my ge-ge-ge-generation will finally realize that they are not the center of the universe. In this environment, the Beatles and Tipper Gore are irrelevant, except as reminders of how narcissistic boomers remain."
Even more remarkable are posts in the comments section, like this from "a white, female, libertarian college student":
"People my age are more and more aware of the economic disaster that awaits us in adulthood, and it's difficult to feel optimistic about the future. The war against terror will be long and expensive, and Boomers haven’t finished voting themselves benefits. How can the left expect us to want to add to our own burden?"
And this, from a boomer who points out that McGovern only beat Nixon by one percentage point in the "youth demographic" back in '72:
"Haven't you learned to take bloviating from second-rate journalists and professors with a grain of salt yet? There was an extremely wide spectrum of beliefs in those days. I remember going with a group of friends, all of whom thought we were pretty hip, to an anti-war demo, and hearing some girl talk about chopping sugar cane in Cuba and how that was a free country and the US wasn't. She got booed!"
We all know that this year's U.S. election is going to be interesting. What hasn't been discussed is how much more interesting the elections of '12, '16 and '20 are going to be.
posted by RM | 03.06.04 (thanks to Xavier Basora)
GOD SAVE (US FROM) THE QUEEN
The Rowe Center, a "befuddled Unitarian New Age place" according to one of our readers, is offering a workshop this spring on "The Queen: Women Stepping into Sovereignity":
"Throngs of female Baby Boomers are entering mid life, unique in history for freedom, education, longevity and wealth. Poised on the brink of a new, exciting stage of life, we hold positions of responsibility and stature. Pumped and primed for personal sovereignty, we’re no longer Maidens. Motherhood is behind us, but we’re not yet Crones. Make way for the Woman in Charge – the Queen!"
I guess it's obvious that all that talk of "empowerment" always had an element of megalomania to it. Right on schedule, menopause is a regal process, the final transformation of the boomer female into the arch materfamilias, a kind of mix of Hillary Clinton and Catherine the Great (without the horse, I assume, but who knows?)
"Turn Your Mid-Life Crisis Into a Crowning Achievement. Join your spirit with other incredible, mature, accomplished women. Meet and celebrate the Queen in Your Self as we share a spirited mythological and, philosophical experience. In a ceremonial counsel of encouragement and support, we will summon, name, and claim the wealth of our experience, our resources, and our best intentions. We will drum up the passions to fuel our potent midlife transition and chant for the persistence to maintain it. Our gathering will culminate with a Crowning Ceremony wherein we proclaim and celebrate our power. We Queens have visions to create, projects to develop, communities to organize, a country to run, and a planet to protect. Long Live the Queens!"
We honestly couldn't add anything to this. Incredible.
posted by RM & KS | 03.06.04 (thanks to Janet Kingan)
WHY CAN'T JOHNNY READ?
Elise Vogler, a California high school teacher, writes this guest commentary on Dr. Mark Shapiro's The Irascible Professor webzine: Stop Teaching My Kid. Vogler's frightening tale revolves around the fact that the biggest obstacle she's encountered in fifteen years of teaching isn't shrinking school budgets, but the aggressively protectionist attitude of parents, who frequently demand that she put their normal but lazy kids into remedial classes, or stop assigning homework, or let their flaccid-minded spawn cheat on tests:
"It's not just the existence of homework that raises the ire of these parents; it's anything that provides an academic challenge to their children. It's as if the self-esteem movement has found full realization in the generation that is now parenting. All these parents want is that which is safe and comfortable for their children. This includes a curriculum where there are no real expectations of the students."
The generation with children old enough to be in high school right now would probably have had their children at some point in their late 20s, which would put them in their mid-40s: Late boomers, in other words, born just before the Beatles, and just in time to live through the "revolution" in public education that got rid of rigid testing, Dickens on reading lists and the last traces of the classics along with the strap.
It's no surprise that a generation raised to value youth more than experience, to obsess over their adolescent traumas and fetishize rebellion, even in its most commodified form, should try to re-engineer the school system to coddle, not challenge, their kids.
"If a student's grade is low, it's because the content is too hard (funny, nobody has ever said that the content was reasonable but that I wasn't skilled at teaching it). If the student can't be bothered to do any homework, I'm told that all learning and practice should happen during school hours. If the student cheats, it's because I made it so hard that they had to. Two parents have even claimed that I told the students to cheat, and then punished them for it (i.e., they claimed entrapment)."
Back when these kids were in day care, coming up with fantastic tales of satanic sexual harassment in graveyards accessed through tunnels or by flying carpet, I seem to recall a battle cry in a similar spirit: "Believe the children!"
It's no surprise that Vogler sums up the problem with one simple sentence: "The common denominator in almost all of my parent contacts is this: whatever the issue is, they blame the school and the teacher." Teachers are authority figures, and these parents have been taught to fear and mistrust any authority that doesn't come off as obsequious or equivocating. And it's an authority that they feel obliged to confront with the same peevish, demanding howl that worked so well against their own parents, against college administrators, against waiters and sales clerks and parking lot attendants, the cry of a generation that was promised it would get everything it deserved:
"The problem that needs to be addressed is the student's choice not to study. This isn't a problem that can be solved by attacking me. But attack is the preferred mode for parents conferring with me. Most parent contacts I've had can be reduced to a simple request: Stop teaching my kid. Sometimes it's a demand. Sometimes it's screamed. Sometimes the school board gets to hear it, too."
I try to avoid generalizations, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that kids are getting dumber, just as my generation was probably dumber than the one that had to learn strict grammar and a bit of Latin, who were dumber than the ones that had to memorize multiplication tables and periodic tables and lists of dates and read Carlyle and Wordsworth and Gibbon. God help us all.
posted by RM | 03.05.04
REAL ESTATE: THE LAST BOOMER ART?
Boomers are generally considered to have had their major effect in the cultural realm. Certainly, their effect on music has been profound: Rock and Roll would have begun with Elvis and ended with skiffle if not for millions of eager rebels and their allowances. They wrecked jazz, turned the blues into a museum artifact, and wrenched folk music from the backwoods onto the campus and hopeless irrelevance.
That job done, they've moved on to politics, which is as we speak being recast by the Democratic party as a way to project self-satisfied virtue and a narrow vision of guilty "tolerance" onto the world. They managed to make sex omnipresent and oppressive, family an implicit realm of psychodrama, and added a cheerily hopeless new genre to literature: self-help.
But it's probably real estate, the concrete business of acquiring land and dwelling, that's been moulded most indelibly in their image. From the suburbs and Levittowns of their childhood, through their dorm rooms, shared houses, crash pads, communes, "back to the land" shacks in the woods, to downtown apartments, lofts, lovingly restored Victorian townhomes, suburban "monster" tract homes with multiple car garages to the latest - the empty nest condo loft - they've defined real estate into an overwhelming world, patrolled by legions of real estate agents who talk like therapists and sociologists, and imagined by yet another new publishing phenomenon: the shelter mag.
And they've overseen the inflation of real estate prices on a nightmarish scale, turning inner-city neighbourhoods into "destinations", inflating the price of a two-bedroom worker's row house past what a colonial in a good suburban neighbourhood once cost.
And now, according to this article in the Detroit Free Press, they're evolving the form of their next-to-last chrysalis dwellings, the late-stage boomer palace:
"About 39 million Americans will reach age 55 in the next five years. And Americans over 50 control 75 percent of the country's wealth, Johnson said.
"'These consumers have money and want well-designed homes to accommodate their active lifestyles,' he said.
"Boomer buyers usually want smaller, amenity-packed houses and fewer chores.
"'They are not looking at this stage in life to mow the lawn and rake the leaves,' said Pam Vaughn, whose New Jersey planning company has interviewed boomer buyers in several cities.
"'Cookie cutter neighborhoods where all the homes look alike turn them off,' she said. 'They don't see themselves as old now or ever getting old. Living in an active adult community carries a stigma.'
"And just because a home is smaller doesn't mean it will have fewer frills, said Maryland designer Georganne Derick.
"'They want two dishwashers in the kitchen, and often two refrigerators,' Derick said. 'They have two home offices, his and hers.'
"'Empty nesters have lived the frazzled life,' she said. 'Both of them had careers; that's why they can afford two of everything.'
posted by RM | 02.05.04 (thanks to Brent Taylor)
LIFE BEGINS AT 50. NO REALLY, IT DOES. DAMMIT, STOP LAUGHING!
Anything coming from the Bay Area Mercury News can be assumed to be a communique from the boomer heartland, so this article about the wonder of menopause is just too perfect. The cue, of course, is the sudden revamping of Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give as a hot flash sex symbol. (And to be honest, she did look pretty great in the film.)
And so the generation that made youth a weapon, that celebrated the revolutionary power of sex without reproduction, who rebuilt parenthood as an expression of parental aspiration, have decided that the end of the reproductive cycle is really the beginning of life:
"The reality is that for most, menopause is just another passage. In fact, studies show women enjoy life more after menopause.
"Indeed, the boomer generation's never-grow-old mentality values `mature' women's brains and sexuality, too. Think Pam Grier, Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton. And with more than 19 million women in America between 45 and 55 years old - the time when the reproductive machinery starts shutting down - you can bet there are a lot of, well, hot chicks embracing the change."
Needless to say, boomer megalomania sees the post-menopausal phase as yet another "empowering", one more chance to stalk life, wrestle it down and suck it dry, with the same predatory prerogative that they've brought to everything from toilet training to male impotence. Didn't Germaine Greer write a whole book on the mystique and power of "the change"? Just listen to the article's final word, from Leslie Leonetti, a 52-year old human resources sales consultant from Los Gatos, CA:
"'I feel more confident, sexier, more powerful as a human being. Less reticent to try new things,' she says. 'This is the power of menopause. Regrouping. Renewal. Figuring out what I want to do next and realizing that all of it is available.'"
God help us all.
posted by KS & RM | 02.05.04
YOUR FATHER'S WAR
No blog is complete these days without a James Lileks quote, so let's get it out of the way, and link to his screed today, on the Kerry campaign for the Democratic leadership:
"Heard a John Kerry speech today: ended with 'Purple Haze,' I think. As a Hendrix tune for the campaign, it’s better than 'Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,' which would be the most inapt Kerry tune imaginable. He has no fire. He wouldn’t catch fire if you doused him in kerosene and shot Roman Candle balls at him. He’s a sopping-wet asbestos poncho. But it was the 60s music that made me shudder. It appears that in the middle of the new war we’re going to revisit the most important war ever, Vietnam."
I don't think the campaign of 2004 is the first boomer election the U.S. has seen - I think we had that with Clinton in 1992 - but it's the first where boomer "issues", and boomer "politics", have come to the forefront in a context boomers understand, if only in a nostalgic sense: an "anti-war" movement against a president considered to be morally and spiritually antithetical to what are considered boomer "ideals".
Moreover, it's the last best chance for the boomer left to pass on the torch, so to speak, to a younger generation, to give them the thrilling sensation of manning the barricades, of "speaking truth to power" and other expressions of grand, heroic dissent. ("It's '68 all over again, man!") It goes a long way toward explaining the wildly bellicose, even apocalyptic rhetoric coming from the Dean and Clark camps, for instance, and the horrible sentiment, expressed with reticence at first, then with real fervor, that American troops should start coming home in bodybags, by the hundreds, even thousands, in order to turn the public tide. Lileks, a late boomer/early Xer (like the authors of this blog), is having none of it:
"God no. Please no. I think I speak for millions when I say that I am deathly sick of the counterculture sixties. The music, the war, the protests, all the hagiography - it's not a reflection of the era’s importance but the self-importance of the generation who hung on the bus as it trundled along down the same old rutted road of history.. I’m tired of hearing about the boomers’ days of whine and neuroses; I’m weary of ritual genuflection to their musical icons; I’m utterly disinterested in most of the pop-cult trivia they hold so dear. We’ll probably be better off when that demographic pig has been excreted from the python so we can see the era clearly without choking on the smoke."
There are, no doubt, some folks who are hoping for some kind of riot at the Democratic convention, who wish it were being held in Chicago, who can't see how little now has in common with then. But then, history has, for the boomers, always been a moment beginning and ending with them.
posted by RM | 02.05.04
This Elizabeth Nickson op-ed/rant in the National Post is only online for another couple of days before slipping behind the Post's wall of subscription limbo, so read it now. It's ostensibly an attack on the intellecual insipidity of Canada, but one paragraph penetrates to the heart of our national malaise, and suggests the horrible truth behind Canada's political, intellectual and social torpor: We are Boomer Nation:
"What do we have here? Crony capitalism, and every 50-year-old with a graduate degree still left in the country, running around under the big Ottawa money tree, hands grasping at a nice six-figure gov'mnt job with travel allowance, car, driver, and big entertainment budget. The highest form of Canadian accomplishment: to spend your 60s living high off waitresses in Kamloops, discussing impenetrable and useless things. Just as long as they are so boring that no one notices.
Sing it, sister.
posted by RM | 01.23.04
DREAMING OF HOME
Here's Barb Nicolosi in her Church of the Masses blog, speculating on the explosion of home makeover shows (Trading Spaces, Clean Sweep, While You Were Out, etc.) and their appeal in particular for gen-x types:
"I think it might be the fact that - for my generation, which has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to get educated - home ownership has become the American Dream again. (For our boomer parents, who got to go to college for cheap, and who mostly inherited property from their Greatest Generation parents, the American Dream seems to have been something about doing whatever they felt like without ever getting stuck or pregnant...) Anyway, most of my twenty and thirty something friends can only dream about owning their own home -- a place defined by the fact that you can paint and tear down walls if you want.
"I think some of this is also driven by the Gen X and Y attraction toward authentic community. The idea of remaking a home in which to live with one's family - oooh, what a rush - the stuff of Gen X fantasy?"
posted by RM | 01.17.04 (thanks to Xavier Basora)
TENURED RADICALS: THERE AT THE BIRTH
In FrontPage Magazine, University of Oregon professor Frances B. Cogan writes a reminiscence of college life in the 60s that doesn't sound like The Strawberry Statement:
"My mind drifted back to 1968, 1969, 1970. I remembered radical students barring the doors of buildings to keep students from going to class during a “shut down.” I also recall an altercation in the Student Union involving a cadre of Black Power students, some with guns, and all standing aggressively in a phalanx in front of the door into the rest of the Union, their black berets cocked and arms folded ... The anti-war activists were not easy to ignore. In one of my classes (a big one of two or three hundred students) the activists burst in carrying a wooden coffin painted black, protesting the war and then throwing bags of animal blood over seats, students and the floor."
In at least one respect, these onetime activists, some of whom are now Cogan's colleagues on faculty, have left a tactical legacy that the antiwar, antiglobalist, anticorporate movement still embraces today:
"I hated the way the activists made their points and the America-hate that went with it. They shouted slogans in people’s faces, as if the volume of noise made them more virtuous and correct than “apathetic” people like me; they shouted down if one dared to disagree; they name-called and slandered if one kept on objecting. They threatened violence."
And the damage done to universities - and students - remains profound:
"Has the university changed? Yes and no. It is less morally honest than it used to be; it is less self-critical; it is more professionally intolerant of other views, and more accommodating of intellectual nonsense; it also continues relentlessly to teach its students self-loathing. In this, I guess, it unfortunately reflects the terrible trends in the rest of the country."
posted by KS | 01.17.04
BOOMERS V. GEN-X: A FIGHT TO THE DEATH
Inspired by this an MSNBusiness article about "managing" the generation gap between boomers and gen-x, Victor Lam writes this fervent little rant in his blog, et cetera:
"(T)he real reason Gen X and Boomers can't get along is that the Boomer generation was the first generation to really selfishly turn on the next generation (my generation) and try to wipe it out through the holocaust of abortion and contraception. The boomers looked/do-look at the very existence of the Gen Xers as a threat to their youth ("Who are these youngsters? I'm the kid! I get the sex and the toys!") and when exterminating us failed (completely failed, I mean - the Boomers have succeeded in severly crippling the welfare and future of this country by not having children), they robbed us of our innocence by, among other things, over-sexing us in our schools and media and tried to turn us into adults as quickly as they could. There's a cold logic at work here: if we, the Gen Xers, are the adults, then we have to support the Boomers as they get older and live out the rest of their pathetic, childish existence."
Maybe the cause-and-effect wasn't so conspiratorially intentional (I assume Victor is playing up his outrage), but anyone who waded as a child through the vast river of oversexed sleaze that was the 70s will sag at the memory. More on this later...
posted by RM | 01.17.04 (thanks to Xavier Basora)
THAT OLD TIME RELIGION, PART TWO
Father Andrew Greeley writes in the latest Atlantic about the "generation gap" within the priesthood:
"My most recent analysis, based on survey data that I and others have gathered periodically since Vatican II, reveals a striking trend: a generation of conservative young priests is on the rise in the U.S. Church. These are newly ordained men who seem in many ways intent on restoring the pre-Vatican II Church, and who, reversing the classic generational roles, define themselves in direct opposition to the liberal priests who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s."
On the surface, the divide is clear and predictable, if you follow Greeley's "young fogeys" conception of the split:
"Stark differences exist between older and younger priests on many major areas of concern within the Church. The 2002 Los Angeles Times study reveals that priests of the Vatican II generation overwhelmingly support the idea that priests should be allowed to marry. In the study 80 percent of priests aged forty-six to sixty-five were in favor, as were 74 percent of those aged sixty-six to seventy-five. Only about half the priests under thirty-five, however, supported the idea. The study revealed a clear divide, too, on the ordination of women. Sixty percent of priests aged fifty-six to sixty-five, and at least half of those aged forty-six to seventy-five, supported the idea, but only 36 percent of priests under forty-six did."
But things get muddier on the question of sexual matters:
"According to the same Los Angeles Times study, about half of all priests reject premarital sex and homosexual sex as always wrong. But only about 40 percent of the younger generation believe that birth control is always wrong — a revealing failure of the Restoration efforts of the past thirty years, which have been fundamentally opposed to birth control. And younger priests seem to have a higher general regard for women than older priests do — an attitude demonstrated most clearly in the 1994 Los Angeles Times study, in responses to questions about support for official condemnation of sexism and for better ministry to women, and concern for the situation of nuns. This attitude, which is in line with the views of the laity, explains some of the clergy's resistance to the Church's teachings on sexuality."
This comes as no surprise to me. Boomer men in general, despite decades of talk about equality, have always put this into practice as encouraging women to work and do the lion's share of housework and child care. Even back on the communes and in the shared houses and "revolutionary cells", supposedly enlightened hippie men saw women's liberation as a great way to score commitment-free sex for the price of a few righteous platitudes.
In the priesthood, this often translated into encouraging nuns to do more diocesan and ecumenical outreach and social work, for precious little credit or benefit, while funding sisterly orders as poorly as ever. If there's one thing I've learned about the post-boom generation of men, it's that we absorbed the message of feminism from mother's milk, as it were, and still implicitly believe in practical equality for women, even when we've suffered personally from the social excesses of mainstream feminism. It's no surprise that young priests, while more apparently conservative, have a better grasp of a more equitable position for women, inside and outside the church.
But this is just my take on things - Greeley's article lunges at netting some rising trend - "young fogey" conservative priests - but brings up a whole bunch of contradictions that he's forced to mention, but unable to digest neatly into his analysis. I'd be curious to hear what readers - specifically "Jesuit Scholastic", who posted a comment in our previous religion thread - have to say about this...
posted by RM | 01.16.04
HILLARY D. RODHAM, WELLESLEY COLLEGE, CLASS OF '69
Courtesy reader Christopher Barr, here's an invaluble document in the history of the boomers: the 1969 Wellesley College commencement address of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York). Christopher notes: "If you can read Hillary Clinton’s 1969 Wellesley Commencement Address without experiencing a severe case of projectile vomiting, then you are a Boomer." I'm still reeling from the thing.
Young Hillary begins her speech with the sort of grandiloquent speechifying peculiar to young people and politicians. The unkind might suggest that the older Hillary has managed to become both, with few of the virtues inherent to either:
"We've had lots of empathy; we've had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible. What does it mean to hear that 13.3% of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That's a percentage. We're not interested in social reconstruction; it's human reconstruction. How can we talk about percentages and trends? The complexities are not lost in our analyses, but perhaps they're just put into what we consider a more human and eventually a more progressive perspective. The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago."
In a rhetorical flourish peculiar to youth, young Hillary labours mightily, wrestling her language to the metaphorical mat, in an attempt to make articulate the unremarkable:
"Words have a funny way of trapping our minds on the way to our tongues but there are necessary means even in this multi-media age for attempting to come to grasps with some of the inarticulate maybe even inarticulable things that we're feeling. We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty."
But this airy blast is merely the prelude to what we journalists call the "nut graf" of her speech, the idealistic Rosetta Stone of Hillary Rodham's whole generation:
"But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We're searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue."
As we'd later see, the boomers would question practically everything they saw into a state of crisis, without quite finding the will to reject wholesale the "acquisitive, and competitive corporate life" they found so repulsive. In fact, I'd say they found a way to re-invent acquisition, not to mention the corporate life, quite to their liking, thank you very much.
But in case you were missing more of that flatulent rhetoric, that flailing lunge past the profound and onto the analyst's couch, there is more:
"Within the context of a society that we perceive -- now we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk about reality sometime, authentic reality, inauthentic reality, and what we have to accept of what we see -- but our perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men's needs."
There's a rather rude joke there, but I'm too much of a gentleman to say it out loud.
Finally, there's the rolling summation, where young Hillary talks about the grand themes of her generation, "dissent" and "human liberation" and, of course...
"And then respect. There's that mutuality of respect between people where you don't see people as percentage points. Where you don't manipulate people. Where you're not interested in social engineering for people. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. And the word "consequences" of course catapults us into the future. One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday, a beautiful day, was that I was talking to woman who said that she wouldn't want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn't want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she's afraid. Fear is always with us but we just don't have time for it. Not now."
If I were suddenly sucked into a wormhole in time, to find myself on the lawn at Wellesley College some fine May morning in 1969, knowing what I know lies ahead, I'd be afraid. Very afraid.
But it's not over. Young Hillary ends with a poem, a plodding piece of doggerel that ends with these prophetic lines:
"Earth could be fair. And you and I must be free
Not to save the world in a glorious crusade
Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain
But to practice with all the skill of our being
The art of making possible."
Read it and weep, people.
posted by RM | 01.15.04
JUST THIRTY YEARS TILL THE BIG SLEEP!
From reader Brent Taylor comes this little tidbit, from the Associated Press, with the amusing - and true, thank God - subject line: "soon, they'll be sleeping for a very long time". Cheers to that, Brent:
"Boomers have always looked for ways to improve their lives, seeking out natural products, organic foods and holistic remedies; that might be part of the fascination with ever-more-luxurious bedding, said Mario Almonte, 43, an account manager in New York. Almonte's first major purchase as an adult was a waterbed, which he hated, and he's never stopped searching for the perfect mattress.
The funeral industry is already preparing for the demand for Kustom Koffins from the "Generation That Couldn't Say 'No'".
posted by RM | 01.14.04
TENURED RADICALS: THE SAGA CONTINUES
From Roger L. Simon's blog comes this Boston Globe account of a Modern Language Association meeting, where one speaker after another took the podium to sneeringly refer to "'so-called terrorism,' 'the so-called homeland,' 'the so-called election of George Bush,' and so forth." Simon muses on the reason why:
"The University Class is one of the most rigid in America in its thinking. The interesting question is why. One of the answers is obvious. The Boomers who have inherited the universities, and are cocooned in a sinecure not dissimilar to civil service, have hardly any outside pressure to reconsider or even question their values (except for today's students, many of whom, apparently, are getting sick of them)."
Which prompts this response in Simon's comments thread:
"My daughter will attend college in 15 or 16 years, and I'll wager that some of the intellectual rigor mortis will have relaxed by then. Today's college students are already far less lefty-doctrinaire than their profs - remember all those articles about professors' dismay when they realized they were way more jazzed about the daily anti-war demos than the students were? It's largely a matter of waiting for the boomer profs to retire and/or die off.
And that, as we say at Boomer Deathwatch, is the spirit!
posted by KS | 01.14.04
OLD ENOUGH TO BE YOUR GRANDFATHER
Newsweek has a piece on the generation that never grew up, apparently finding itself suffering for the decisions it decided to defer, since it was never, after all, going to grow old...
"Though he has grown children from his two previous marriages, Larry Hutchison, 54, a carpenter from Dallas, was surprised to find himself paying $600 a month to send 5-year-old Katie to private pre-school. Now he's moving to the suburbs and has enrolled in night school to become a physician's assistant. In two years, four years shy of his 60th birthday, Hutchison will embark on a new career, one that he hopes will generate a heftier and steadier paycheck. 'I have to provide for the necessities she needs now,' he says."
I was raised by two people who were almost 60 when I was born. Needless to say, the worst-case scenario came true, and my adoptive father died when I was four years old. So I can't help but find it poignant when one 78-year-old "late Dad" reflects that "I would like the pleasure of seeing her (his 11-year-old daughter) graduate from high school."
I'm not saying that having a kid late in life is wrong - imprudent, perhaps - but since boomer demographics tend to inflate even the smallest social trend, we're going to be dealing with a lot of these "elderparents" and their offspring in the future.
posted by RM | 01.14.04 (thanks to Marc Weisblott)
GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION
From journalist Domenico Bettinelli Jr.'s blog, Bettnet.com, comes this story that won't come as much of a surprise to many Catholics:
A friend told me a story last night that I want to share. It seems he and his wife were asked to give a talk to a group of elderly, retired Jesuits. These are all highly educated men of the Greatest Generation. And while they are solidly orthodox, they have been put on the shelf by those of the following generation - mostly Boomers - who are, shall we say, less orthodox ... They had been led to believe by their confreres in the Society that their brand of faith was passe, that their time had passed.
It should come as no surprise that the recent sexual abuse scandals in the Church have implicated Jesuits, and Jesuit seminaries, quite notably. The Society of Jesus, historically one of the most powerful orders in the Catholic church, has undergone a "quiet revolution" of sorts in the last thirty years, with many of its once-youthful members under the apparent influence of the Berrigan brothers. Liberation theology, for instance, still has quite a following among some Jesuits, as well as a covert movement among the order that favors clerical marriage, and tolerates openly gay priests.
I remember reading that these Jesuits - not a majority of the order, but a considerable and influential minority - had turned their considerable theological training to the problem of justifying their obvious disobedience to the current Pope. They were, they insisted, loyal to the pontiff, but added that their loyalty was to some future, apparently far more liberal Bishop of Rome, more to their dogmatic tastes.
Everywhere you go, in every walk of life, boomers have wrenched the world seismically off base, it seems. How long will it take to repair the damage?
posted by RM | 01.12.04 (thanks to Xavier Basora)
THE BEAST THAT WOULDN'T DIE
A little factoid stat chart from Time magazine, on the illusion of immortality that afflicts the average boomer, features the following frightening numbers:
See no serious limits on activity until they are 70+
Plan to be active and going strong beyond 80
Expect treatment for the ills of aging to improve
Expect to see a worldwide movement demanding government-funded assisted suicide when science can't keep up with the bum joints, arthritis and hearing loss. That Logan's Run thing I was talking about wasn't just a joke, you know...
posted by RM | 01.09.04 (thanks to Brent Taylor)
MORE DEPRESSING NUMBERS
Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post adds yet another voice to the drumbeat of fiscal catastrophe on the looming deficit shadowing the retirement of the "worst generation":
"The federal budget is drifting into a future of unprecedented tax increases, huge deficits or both. This is no secret, because the great driving force of change is the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers and their heavy claims on federal retirement programs. But in Washington, the CBO's irrefutable conclusion won't produce any noticeable reaction, because there's already a clear bipartisan policy concerning the future: Forget about it."
Samuelson sketches out the scenarios that might have prepared us for the fiscal apocalypse, but notes that they would have required both foresight and will on the part of legislators and the public, neither of whom had the stomach for touch choices, preferring to postpone the final reckoning. His conclusion is leavened with a remarkably spiteful sentiment, considering the fact that Samuelson himself is a member of the demographic in question:
"The longer choices are postponed, the harder they become -- and they've already been delayed so long that they can't be easy. Prospective baby boom retirees may assume that their children will always pay the costs of federal retirement programs. This may be an illusion. As Heller notes, one possible response to a future budget crisis would be for government to 'abandon or suddenly scale back on' commitments to retirees. Abrupt benefit cuts would be arbitrary and unfair. But given baby boomers' role in sanctioning today's indifference and denial, they would be richly deserved."
posted by RM | 01.07.04
OLD AND IN THE WAY
Gayle Milliken is a 57-year old school librarian who, like most of her generation, is deathly scared of aging. (Yes, that was meant to be ironic.) Here she is in a Vancouver Sun article (reprinted in the Montreal Gazette), describing her health regimen:
"Nevertheless, in the perspective of the anti-aging movement, it is never too early to start turning back the clock. Milliken now takes at least 14 supplements in pill or cream form a day, including calcium, salmon oil, beta carotene, selenium, co-enzyme Q10, progesterone, melatonin and, most controversially, the hormones DHEA to stimulate the immune system and testosterone to develop, she hopes, more lean body mass and vigour.
"In the three months since she began the program, Milliken says she has more energy, sleeps far better and believes she has less loose skin on her arms.
"'I have also learned a lot about the need to eat more protein, about the need to consume high-quality fats and the role of anti-oxidants to counteract (cell damaging) free radical molecules.'"
As we've noted before on this blog, boomers are turning out to be a cash cow for the pharmaceutical industry - and its less reputable cousins in the "snake oil" trade, selling "herbal supplements" and "treatments", mesmerizing them with incantations about "anti-oxidants" and "free radicals". (Hey, isn't that what you'd call the Weathermen who didn't blow themselves up?) After a few more paragraphs that describe how school librarians are spending almost four grand on six months of "anti-aging" treatments, and the various warnings about women taking testosterone, prescribed for them by overeager doctors in "hormone replacement" programs, the Sun piece ends on this somber note:
"Last year, some of the most respected scientists in the field of longevity published a warning in Scientific American. They said that anyone purporting to offer an anti-aging product is either 'mistaken or lying.'"
posted by RM | 01.07.04 (thanks to Xavier Basora)
HELLO MUDDAH. HELLO FADDUH.
Steve Peri is the executive editor of College Parent, a magazine for boomers putting kids through post-secondary education who aren't just going to sit there and, you know, let their offspring get on with the business of cramming, beer bongs, consensual nudity and recreational drug use.
"'Baby boomers are not just the go-along, get-along kind of people,' Peri says. 'When we were college students we questioned the administration. Now we're getting a second chance.'"
Poor kids. And for the first time in my life, I feel sorry for college administrators. There's more:
"The Greatest Generation may have practiced a hands-off approach to parenting, but their baby boomer offspring are often overly involved in every detail of their kids' lives. This is partly because of the revolution in communications, which lets parents stay in close contact through cell phones and email. Some parents go so far as editing drafts of their children's papers and protesting low grades, Peri says. 'Parents should be party to this transaction, because in most cases they are financially responsible,' he says. 'Sometimes children need an advocate, and that is most naturally their parent.' The editorial challenge of College Parent will be to strike the right balance between getting parents involved in college life and helping them teach their kids to be independent and empowered."
The buried implication being that if the Greatest Generation, after suffering through the Depression and a World War and the Cold War, had been just a little bit more pro-active with their kids college experience, things might have turned out differently. An interesting theory, but sometimes it seems like it would be nice if we had one less spoiled, empowered generation of eternal children on our hands.
Here's one more sly little quote from the Folio magazine piece on College Parent, which suggests that writer Rachel Lehmann-Haupt tried to inject a bit of irony into things:
"The launch issue of College Parent helps parents navigate the application process and how to pay for college, and soothes their anxieties about binge drinking and Empty Nest Syndrome. It even offers a tongue-in-cheek piece defining slang words that kids will probably bring home from school. (Like 'tight,' widely used to convey that things are OK.) About the only thing CP won't offer is a way for parents to move back into the dorm."
posted by RM | 01.07.04 (thanks - again - to Marc Weisblott)
RETIREMENT? WHAT RETIREMENT?
Meanwhile in Canada, more than half of Gen-Xers in a TD Waterhouse study say they have no confidence in the Canadian Pension Plan's ability to provide for them when they're 64:
"'It's no surprise that Gen Xers are more pessimistic about their retirement prospects,' says Patricia Lovett-Reid, Senior Vice President, TD Waterhouse Canada Inc. 'They grew up and entered the job market under the long shadow of the largest population cohort in Canada's history. They've seen the e-business/tech stock bubble burst and investor optimism turn to investor despair. They've read about our aging population and the strain that rising
health care costs will place on our economy. All in all, it's a pragmatic look at the future.'"
In the meantime, Xers are the slowest to do something about it, lagging on personal initiatives like RSPs. Time's running out people - unless we finally get on that whole Logan's Run thing we were talking about...
posted by RM | 01.07.04 (thanks to Marc Weisblott)
ATTENTION GEN-X: IT'S WORSE THAN YOU THINK
This piece in the New York Observer - "Generation-X: Born Under A Bad Economic Sign" - is pretty much a greatest hits of economic catastrophe for the luckless lot born between the Beatles arrival at JFK and the break-up of the Sex Pistols:
"A combination of factors have been responsible for Gen-Xers’ trying past and bleak future. For starters, they were the first generation to graduate from college with enormous credit-card and student-loan debt—just as entry-level wages were dramatically dropping. And when the bubble burst in 2000, Gen-X, compared with other age groups, had the largest percentage of their assets invested in the stock market. Furthermore, as this generation now enters what are supposed to be prime earning years, a jobless recovery has set in and mid-level white-collar jobs are increasingly moving overseas. To top it all off, long-term deficits will balloon out of control as baby boomers sap the life out of Medicare and Social Security, increasing the need to raise taxes.
"Downward pressure on wages in the late 80’s and early 90’s hit recent college graduates hard. That would be the post-matriculation years for the oldest Gen-Xers, the supposed slackers who were so apathetic they adopted "grunge" as a fashion statement—or maybe that was just defensive posturing. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the wage offers of newly hired college grads began to slide in 1985, dropped precipitously in the early 90’s and hit a low in 1994. (And these figures don’t even include all the people who were forced to take 'McJobs.') Entry-level wages didn’t rebound to their pre-1985 levels until as late as 1999."
Granted, it's hard to feel sorry for the imprudence of certain Xers interviewed for the piece, even if their financial recklessness is supposed to be the result of fiscal neurosis brought on by a life of economic roller-coaster rides:
"'I lost between $60,000 and $70,000,' says one Gen-X investor, who got swept up in the irrational exuberance of the time, even doing a four-month stint as a day trader. 'We thought … we had discovered a money tree,' said the Manhattan resident, who asked that his name not be used. 'I should have been smarter and more conservative, like my parents’ generation, and not doubled-down on every bet. If I had, not only would I not be in debt now, but I’d have a surplus. I quit my job in 1999 to do consulting, and I haven’t had a steady paycheck since.'"
But the bottom line, according to Lisa Chamberlain of the Observer, is that Gen-X never had a chance, the pitiable mule of an economic losing streak.
"Whether or not Gen-Xers are spoiled brats living beyond their means or just trying to get through a roller-coaster economy is a specious argument when it comes to the overall health of the economy. The only thing that kept the past recession from getting even worse was increased consumer spending due to easy credit and historically low interest rates. But with personal and national debt spiraling out of control, eventually the bill comes due, and it’s increasingly looking like Generation X will be at the table when the check is delivered.
Read it and weep, losers.
posted by RM | 12.31.03
NOT TO BE UNCHARITABLE, BUT...
The Sidney Morning Herald published this piece a few weeks ago, with a rather unsurprising conclusion about the charitability of the generation that was going to "save the world":
"Baby boomers are flush with property investment portfolios and inheritances but their largesse does not extend to charities, a report reveals.
"The Giving Trends annual bulletin, produced by marketing company O'Keefe & Partners, stopped short of calling the original 'Me Generation' tight-fisted.
"But managing partner Julie Clements said the boomers could reach into their pockets more than they are.
"'The question is, are the baby boomers good givers?' she said. 'Nowhere near as good as their parents. They tend to live by the philosophy of looking after themselves and then their children.'"
Not that the generation morosely trailing the boomers deserves any applause, though:
"The report did not spare Generation X either, calling them 'less generous, with a weaker sense of social responsibility'.
"Ms. Clements said that when the boomers (39 to 57 years old) and Xers (21 to 38) do give, they were more likely to restrict themselves to two or three charities, rather than spread it thinly among several.
"They favoured environmental, animal welfare and youth causes, unlike the over-65s with their traditional welfare and religious-based groups."
Which raises the spectre of charity as self-interest - giving to salve some abstract sense of geopolitical or economic guilt (Amnesty International, Greenpeace), peculiar sentimental ethic (PETA, Greenpeace), or simply to preserve your favorite vacation spot (Sierra Club, Greenpeace) or adjacent greenbelt (any local anti-development cause). It's altruism as therapy, and it has the regrettable effect of valuing political principal, cute furry animals or stands of trees more than other human beings. And don't get me started about "youth causes".
It's a charitable cynicism that cuts across political lines, from lefties who don't want to give to religious or missionary groups, to conservatives you won't touch anything UN-affiliated, or who abjure third world charities muttering about "thieving bureaucracies eating up your whole dime". In either case, it's just rationalization, and it's a sin, plain and simple.
posted by RM | 12.31.03
GETTING RELIGION. NOW THAT'S FUNNY.
This quote, from an American Prospect article on Social Security, is positively fecund with irony:
"Says Tom Hayden, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society and now a grizzled member of the California legislature: ''60s people were tempted, under [Bill] Clinton, to buy into the conservative warnings that Social Security might go bankrupt, and that maybe it should be privatized. But with the recent Enron scandals, I think perhaps they're getting religion regarding Social Security. I think that generation will be inclined now to fight to preserve it. At 63, I'm probably one of the oldest of the '60s generation, and I'm certainly starting to think about my Social Security retirement benefits.'"
Oh ho. Oh ho ho. Oh hee hee ha ha.
posted by RM | 12.30.03
I BET YOU THINK THIS SONG/FILM/BOOK IS ABOUT YOU
USA Today on the success of Something's Gotta Give with boomers:
"Just as The Big Chill (1983) voiced older boomers' worries over ticking biological clocks and waning idealism in their 30s, Something's Gotta Give reflects new concerns as the generation heads toward 60. 'They've defined themselves by their youthful attitudes, so what are they going to do now?' Thompson says.
"The answer, the film suggests, is not to age stoically, as their parents did, but with a dash of defiance. 'They're saying, 'You can't make us invisible just because we're getting older,' ' Thompson says. ' 'No way, we're still going to party!' '"
According to Robert Thompson, a "pop-culture researcher at Syracuse University", this isn't nearly the end of a wholesale renovation of aging characters in movies. Imagine that.
"This is hardly the last filmgoers will hear from boomer 'revisionists,' Thompson predicts. 'We'll see different images of the 'old-old,' ' he says. 'They're going to make us follow them right into the grave, inevitably, though they'll make it clear they're not actually consenting to go into it.'"
posted by RM | 12.30.03
KEEP THE BOOMERS CHAINED TO THE GRINDSTONE!
This piece, from the Calgary Herald, starts its argument on this frightening economic fact, already known to boomer-watchers everywhere:
"The Canada Pension Plan is about a quarter funded. Reforms in 1998 led to premium increases and a move from low-yield government bonds into marketable securities, but that could never be enough: In 1999, the Certified General Accountants Association of Alberta calculated that the CPP had unfunded liabilities of $600 billion, and that would grow at $50 billion a year.
"Basically, this is the cost of the boomer generation turning 65, and their pensions will have to be topped up from current revenue."
Proceeding to the assumption that over-65s who keep working live longer (a leap of faith based on a University of Maryland study), it makes simple economic sense to scrap mandatory retirement just so that boomers can keep contributing to the economy, and not looting it by drawing on savings and the CPP until their (medically delayed) demise:
"Mandatory retirement has to go. Boomers tend to be well-educated. In the workforce, they're productive, and with Canada's demographics, losing skilled labour is going to hurt in about 10 years. Finally, it would be doing the next generation a favour. As well as educated, boomers tend to be healthy and will live a long time. Out of the workforce, they'll be expensive to keep."
One problem though. Many of us poor Xers have been waiting our whole lives for the boomers to retire, so that we can get a shot at the jobs they've been hogging their whole lives, if only for a few years until we retire, bitter and spent from years of nursing our grudges. Calling for an end to mandatory retirement is what will separate the true believers in conservative economic practice ("the economy is paramount; all else follows") from those who are willing to suffer the decade of "losing skilled labour" for a kick at the can. For those people, "doing the next generation a favour" has little appeal - they're the boomers' kids, and they've been squeezing us from the other side for almost as long. So screw 'em.
I hope, at the very least, that this leads to an interesting thread in the comments section.
posted by RM | 12.30.03 (Thanks to Xavier Basora)
THE OFFICIAL FILM OF BOOMER DEATHWATCH
The plot synopsis of Beyond The Doors, also known as Down On Us, from the Bad Movie Planet website:
"We jump to hotel room in Amsterdam where a nude woman watches a TV that reports about the escalating war in Vietnam. A prostate Jim Morrison (Bryan Wolf) is rousted out of bed by the rest of The Doors for a gig. He mumbles something about dying for rice paddies and napalm and then leaves."
posted by KS | 12.30.03
...MOM AND DAD WERE ROLLING ON THE COUCH...
Dallas Observer music critic Sarah Hepola sits down with her boomer parents to rate this year's singles:
Dad: This sounds like something out of the '60s to me, like the Beatles.
"Mom: Yeah, my first reaction was that I could hear the Beatles' influence. I liked the little xylophone they played. There's a classical musician named Anton Bruckner, and he writes things that start great and you think they're going somewhere, but then they never deliver. I felt like these guys didn't really go anywhere.
"Dallas Observer: I'm noticing a trend. You keep saying these songs are repetitive, but pop songs are repetitive by nature. I worry that you might be imposing a classical standard.
"Mom: I don't want them to be classical. In my day, the songs repeated. There was verse one, two and three. I'm just looking for something to hold onto.
"Dad: I'm just looking for anything to say."
posted by RM | 12.30.03 (thanks to Marc Weisblott)
I AM A TARGET MARKET, THEREFORE I AM
"Every seven seconds marks one more American's 50th birthday," begins this CBS Marketwatch article, "but boomers say they're being ignored in large part by corporate America." Okay, once you've let that fantastic proposition sink in, let's review the point of Andrea Coombes' piece on the marketing Catch-22 that defines the boomers as they begin to feel the velocity increase on the slide down from the midpoint of their lives.
Boomers apparently feel that they're caught in a neglected nether region between two demographics - the conventionally desirable 18 to 34 "youth market" and seniors, whose ranks boomers emphatically deny they're joining. In fact, for the purposes of The Boomer Project, the ad industry research project that inspired Coombes' piece, there are only two groups: 18 to 49, and everyone else over 50. The first group is so fantastically diverse as to be indefinable, while the latter collects boomers, their parents, and even their grandparents, the far edge of the demographic landscape that's ignored as a matter of principal by the advertising industry.
If you go by the boundaries defined by the study, it's no wonder the boomers feel neglected. To which most gen-xers would probably mutter something about joining the club, having been defined out of existence for most of our demographic lives. Even the language is familiar for anyone born in the population trough between LBJ and Watergate:
"'They're in this never-never land,' said Matt Thornhill, founder of The Boomer Project and chief marketing officer at Boisseau Partners. 'They don't relate to the lifestyle of a senior senior, and they're not young anymore.'"
Boomers spend "$2 trillion a year on consumer goods and services", but they feel they're being misunderstood by the advertising industry. Cadillac's Led Zeppelin-scored ad campaign, and a Pepsi campaign that lampoons boomers at a rock concert, are fingered as two notable culprits in this industry-wide slight. Even the language used in market surveys - suggesting that boomers might be "set in their ways" - is noted with some indignation.
Even more confusing is the fact that boomers are notoriously resistant to defining themselves by their age:
"Boomers who are 54 years old consider themselves 41 and, for those earning $75,000 or more a year, that psychological age dives to 39."
For the first time in their lives, boomers seem to feel they're not being flattered sufficiently, aren't being recognized for their unique status, and have come to resent being invoked with shorthand like Led Zeppelin, "a peace sign, a Woodstock image or the idea of boomers as a selfish lot." More laughably, they've begun to percieve themselves as a persecuted group. This quote from Brent Green, "a marketing consultant and author of Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers", positively throbs with the hurt and anguish of real victimhood:
"'Generational prejudice is the last area where we can openly be prejudicial and stereotypical and comfortably get away with it in mixed social situations,' he said."
There's something fantastic, perhaps even a little obscene, about a member of a demography that's reaped a lifelong social and economic cornucopia deciding late in life that they're being discriminated against, purely because they aren't being marketed to as sympathetically or as assiduously as they think they deserve. Be assured, though, that it won't last - their voice is loud, their gravitational pull immense, and in some office somewhere a harried group of young men and women are wracking their brains figuring out how to make adult incontinence sexy and dignified.
posted by RM | 12.22.03
DO YOUR OWN THING UNTO OTHERS
"Celebrating 35 Years Of Baby Boomer Tyranny"
- Peter Bagge in Reason magazine.
posted by RM | 12.21.03
THEIR HEART BELONGED TO DADDY
"I've often remarked to my generation that Reagan was a godsend to the boomers, who relived their childhood for a second time. On the one hand, Reagan and Thatcher prepared the society to undergo one of the most prosperous periods since the trente glorieuses (1945-75 post-war period). On the other, Reagan, in particular, embodied the Man and the Establishment. So the boomers could protest against Reagan's policies just like when they were teens, become fabuously rich too and enjoy the prosperity of their youth! A unique historical confluence that must be taken advantage of. And advantage they took."
- Xavier Basora, from his blog Buscaraons, 12.18.03
posted by RM | 12.19.03
Looking for material to post in this blog, I've uncovered gems of horror that I'd missed. This, from last year's Daily Telegraph, invokes twelve different kinds of dread:
"The generations that instigated, enjoyed and watched the first sexual revolution in the 1960s are on the move again. They're on the cusp of changing the focus of society from the young to the old."
You don't say. Even more forboding is the dubbing of these trendsetters "radical boomers", a "rule-breaking generation that have redefined the paramaters of every life-stage through which they have passed and loudly made their social and political concerns into the most pressing of the time," according to Crawford Hollingworth, author of the British study, called "Engage".
Now in their fifties, with children out of the house and at least another decade of income and seniority to enjoy, it seems these demographic shock troops are set to revisit the political and moral standards they set in the 60s and 70s, before retrenching briefly to raise families. It's with a heavy heart that we read that, according to the Engage study, these feisty seniors "will refuse to stay in 'dead-end' relationships". According to "a spokesman for the charity Help The Aged:
"'Just because someone gets older doesn't mean they stop being radical nor has age stopped them from enjoying sex. If older people are to enjoy their older years, we will need to clear away the years of accumulated dross of age discrimination that is rife in British society.'"
Let's forget for a minute the pregnant concept of boomers fighting the good fight against "age discrimination", in the same scorched-earth manner they took on racism and sexism. Imagine the awkward scenes when parents who've managed to avoid divorce have to explain to their children just why grandma and grandpa aren't living together any more, and just what to call grandpa's new girlfriend. Even more depressing is the prospect of seniors lobbying to get their therapists and "wellness" program treatments covered under social security. Viagra paid for by drug plans? As the man once sang, it's just a shot away.
posted by RM | 12.19.03
PIGGIES AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH
This bit of info, from the Australian Age, isn't so surprising:
"University of Queensland researcher Dr. Malcolm Johnson has found the cognitive age of many baby-boomers was 10 years below their actual age.
"'It is quite common for a 50-year-old to think, act and feel like a 40-year-old,' Dr. Johnson said.
"'This denial of aging may subconsciously postpone the recognition of a need to plan for retirement, resulting in insufficient income at a time when they really want to explore new lifestyle options.'"
And we all know how much boomers love to "explore new lifestyle options", don't
we? Well, here's a Washington Post piece, printed in the Seattle Times, that makes the looming disaster more explicit:
"In the aggregate, retirees in this country will be at least $45 billion short of the income they need to cover basic living expenses plus expenses associated with nursing-home or even home health care.
"From 2020 to 2030, the aggregate deficit will be at least $400 billion, according to the study done by the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, in collaboration with the Millbank Memorial Fund, a New York foundation."
And from the look of things, the boomers can't rely on any nest egg their parents
were supposed to leave them, according to this Dallas Morning News piece:
"Boomers aren't going to be inheriting as much as they think, said Laurence J. Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University, who co-authored a study in 2000 on boomers' inheritance prospects.
"...For one thing, boomers can expect to receive 15 to 20 percent less in their inheritance than they would have gotten three years ago because of the stock market meltdown, he said. Boomers also face thinner bequests because their parents are living longer and will spend more of their money in retirement.
"'They're going to have to spend more of their wealth on themselves because of big cuts in Social Security benefits, and I anticipate major tax hikes,' he said. 'Wealth is so unevenly distributed in the country that it would be just as unrealistic for more than a very, very small minority to think they're going to get a lot of money.'"
But hey - the AARP will be millions strong by that point, the single largest lobby group ever to hit government, so guess where they're going to make up the shortfall, babies?That's right - off of the rest of us. From where I'm sitting, the future sure looks rosy.
posted by RM | 12.17.03
THE GERIATRIC BOOMER: NOT A PRETTY SIGHT, PAL
"People born during the 10 years after the Second World War constitute the largest demographic bulge in the population. The metaphor used to describe our progress toward old age is a python swallowing a pig.
"The porcine description is apt. Strangers to war or deprivation, we have sailed painlessly through life, getting what we wanted when we wanted it, from 45 rpm adaptors to DVD players, Mustangs to SUVs, the Summer of Love to the long autumn of Viagra.
"Heeding the advice of that other Dylan, we will not go gently into that good night. And coping with that much rage against the dying of the light is going to require either superhuman caregivers or 57 varieties of primo drugs."
- Mike Boone in the Montreal Gazette, 12.17.03 (thanks to reader Xavier Basora)
posted by RM | 12.17.03
STUDIES PROVE IT: BOOMERS SCREWED US BIG TIME
"Not only did the Boomers benefit from free education, full employment and cheap housing in their early adulthood, they now own most of the community's assets and occupy most positions of power.
"In return for this easy run, the Boomers have ensured that the generations following them will have to pay for their own education and have invested so heavily in housing that prices have jumped to the least affordable level they have ever been."
- from Property Review.com (Australia), 12.09.03
posted by RM | 12.16.03
HOPE I DIE BEFORE...OH, FORGET IT
"So how old is too old to rock? In his review of the Beatles songbook, Revolution in the Head, the late critic Ian MacDonald noted in passing that the quality of rock music declines precipitously after its creators turn 30. I thought this too harsh a judgment, until I crosschecked the rockers with their birthdates in the All Music Guide.
"Mick and Keith turned 30 in 1973, the year, not coincidentally, of Goat's Head Soup, the Stones last good album. Paul McCartney turned 30 in 1972, one year before his last decent album, Band on the Run. John Lennon turned 30 in 1970; last decent album, Plastic Ono Band, 1970. Bob Dylan, born 1941, last decent, New Morning, 1970. Lou Reed: born 1942, last good, Transformer, 1972. Rod Stewart, born 1945, last decent, A Night on the Town, 1976. Pete Townshend, born 1945, last good, Quadrophenia, 1973. Iggy Pop, born 1947, last good, Lust For Life, 1977. Elvis Costello, born 1955, last good, Blood & Chocolate, 1986. Prince, born 1958, last good, Sign 'O' The Times, 1987. Bono (U2), born 1960, last decent, Achtung Baby, 1991. Michael Stipe (REM), born 1960, last good, Automatic For the People, 1992."
- Kevin Michael Grace in the American Spectator, 12.16.03
posted by KS | 12.16.03
OLD SPOILED BRATS CONTINUE TO WHINE
Not content to have gotten everything else they've ever wanted, baby boomers
have petitioned Merriam-Webster to change to definition of "baby boomer". Aided by the marketing department at Kia Motors America, a boomer couple travelled across the country to present a petition to the dictionary publisher requesting that boomers "no longer want to be defined as old". If time can't be stopped, at least they can change the meaning of time, right?
"'Our recent survey shows us that boomers don't want to be defined by their age, rather by a state of mind,' says Kia Motors America President and CEO, Peter M. Butterfield. 'We designed our new Kia Amanti for this group who want a car that offers style, safety and comfort and appreciates getting a lot of value for their money. Baby boomers are active at an age where they want to reward themselves and will always be young at heart.'"
Black is white, peace is war, old is young. Orwell never imagined this.
Yahoo Biz, 12.08.03
posted by KS & RM | 12.15.03
MEET THE GREEDY GRANDPARENTS
"Boomers have gotten our way since we arrived in this world,
and the onset of gray hair, bifocals, and arthritis is not going to moderate
our unswerving self-indulgence. We are the same people, after all, who forced
the lowering of the drinking age when we were young, so we could drink, and
forced it back up when we got older, so our kids couldn't. On top of that,
we're used to the best of everything, and plenty of it. We weren't dubbed
the Me Generation because we neglect our own needs, Junior. If politicians
think the current geezers are greedy, they ain't seen nothin' yet."
- Steve Chapman in Slate, 12.10.03
posted by RM | 12.14.03
A GENERATION ON DRUGS
"With Americans ingesting more vitamins and minerals as they
age, sellers of these and other products in the broadly defined industry
are poised to prosper as graying baby boomers strive to fend off everything
from osteoporosis to memory loss.
"'Hopefully, they'll live to be 85,' Harvey Kamil, president
of NBTY Inc., a manufacturer and retailer of nutritional supplements, said
of his most important customer base.
"Kamil and other industry officials credit boomers with energizing
the industry during the 1990s, when the oldest members of the generation
born between 1946 and 1964 began reaching their 50s.
"'Their desire to live longer, healthier lives and to prolong
their youth colors their decisions,' said Al Haberstroh, whose firm,
Montgomery Advertising, handles marketing for The Vitamin Shoppe chain. 'All
of this works together to create a sort of mindset and market.'"
- from Pantagraph.com, 12.14.03
posted by RM | 12.14.03
BOOMERS VS. GEN-X
"For daring to think this way, we were labelled 'job snobs' by baby boomer politicians. This drove many gen Xers, myself included, to near apoplexy. The smugness of it was astounding. Here was a generation for whom getting a half-decent job involved asking for one, and they were telling us to be happy and content with our McJobs. To knuckle down and smile broadly as we asked: 'Do you want fries with that?'"
- Simon Castles in the
Australian Age, 12.05.03
posted by RM | 12.14.03
Welcome to the beta version of Boomer Deathwatch. The authors of this blog would like to welcome you to what should, as demographics dictate, be a thirty year project. A lot is going to change around here, beginning with the URL, which should change to "www.boomerdeathwatch.com" some time in the next month. In the meantime, we're just finding our legs here, and the site will fill out over the holidays.
If you have any links to send us, e-mail them to either
KS or RM and we'll get them online. And if you have any advice about comments hosting services, pass that along to RM, the "webmaster" of this whole thing.
And if you're in any way offended by the content or message of Boomer Deathwatch, sorry, but we really don't care. Seriously. We'll probably just post your pissy e-mail and make fun of it, so don't bother.