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Monday, August 31, 2009

Cultural Generations of the Last 100 Years

Every generation stamps its distinct signature on the world. Each cultural group reflects its own ideas, behaviors, expectations, work ethics and values. Over the decades sociologists, media and historians have studied, defined and labeled these significant cultural and generational demographics. Sociologists sometimes disagree over the precise timeline dates and every trend does not fit every person. Every so often a new category slips into the mix.  While many folks in the Greatest Generation are no longer alive, there are still six unique generations that live and work together in the world today.

Note: The list below depicts the dates each generation was born, and a sampling of similar experiences, events and pop culture shared by each group as their lives progress.

Which generation are you?

The Greatest Generation: born during 1900-1920: Fought in World War I and WWII, Great Depression, Stock market collapse of 1929; bread lines

The Silent Generation:  born between 1920 and 1945; fought in World War II, Victory gardens, quiet, hard-working traditionalists, Rosie the Riveter, parents of early baby boomers

Baby Boomer:  born between 1945-1964; Howdy Doody, radical 1960s counterculture; civil rights, equality for women, rock and roll, Woodstock, the Beatles, Elvis, Vietnam, first man on the moon, JFK

Generation Jones: born between 1954-1965; term coined by Jonathan Pontell to define group in between baby boomers and Gen Xers; early computer pioneers like Bill Gates, conspicuous consumption, first Yuppies, Pong, Jiffy Pop, Forest Gump

Generation X: born between 1965-1977; fall of Berlin Wall; children of baby boomers; self reliant, individualistic, cynical outsiders, latch key kids, remote control, hate rules, dislike authority, MTV, home computer, video games, hip hop, Desert Storm, grunge music, cable TV, slackers

Generation Y (Millennials):
born between 1978-1995; Technology Revolution, Transformers, Tickle Me Elmo, cell phones, Google, IPods, Iraq War, 9-11 Attack, Gay rights, Spice Girls, Eminem, sunny confident, optimistic, team players, overindulged by parents, rule followers, close to their parents

Generation Z (Internet Generation): born between 1995-2010; Hurricane Katrina, Jonas Brothers, grew up on Internet, expected to be individualistic, self directed, excell at rapid information processing, place less priority on work, multitaskers, green environmentalists Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

High School Musical

Have you ever been to your own high school reunion? Even though my post high school existence has been blissful and blessed, I freely admit that memories of high school reignite those ugly, old inferiority complex issues. The traumatic psychosis of grinding my way through the tribulations and mortifications of adolescentville remain submerged as embarassing pock marks in the subconscious firmament of my brain.

Thankfully, high school was not a total washout. There were scads of wild and crazy and hilarious moments during those formative years. I was fortunate to hang with a raucous bunch of gregarious, creative, smart and always amusing teenage sidekicks. And what I remember best is that they always laughed at my jokes.

Recently, I reconnected online with an old high school chum whom I have not seen in 40 years. She emailed me a photo taken in 2008 of the last high school reunion. (I was not present because I lived too far away. That and I didn't get an invitation---I'm assuming because they didn't know how to contact me.) 

There on my computer monitor, staring at me in bold, cheerful color appeared a reunited assemby of my former classmates. My first thought was: Who are all these old, gray haired people? It looked like a recruitment poster for AARP. Oh my gosh! I quickly realized, I could be looking at myself. They are me. I am them. Intellectually, I understand that we've all aged over the years but in my selective memory I still pictured everyone looking as they did when we were 17 years old.

Our high school senior class consisted of 200 students. I know this because I just unpacked my old high school yearbook and I counted every one of those grainy black and white photos. Lordy, get a load of those goofy poofy hairstyles on the girls. All the guys sported neckties and suit jackets. Little did we know how much our world was about to change with Vietnam and the ensuing radical Sixties. I think we may have been the last of the innocents back then.

In the recent reunion photo, there were 39 smiling faces seated on bleachers in our old high school gymnasium. I carefully scrutinized each face. I did not recognize a soul. Fortunately an identification list accompanied the picture. As I matched each face with their respective photo, their personalities emerged like youthful ghosts from a long forgotten past. The well dressed boomers staring at me off the page, suddenly morphed into those fresh, bright, enthusiastic, conquer-the-world faces of classmates I had known so many years ago.

As memories flood over me, I wonder about their lives....their loves, their losses, their good fortune, their struggles, their careers, their health, their families. I hope they are happy. I also think about the others who are not in the photo. I'm sure many are deceased. Sadly, a couple of my favorite, wacky old pals are rumored to be no longer with us. What happened to the rest of the class? Nobody became super famous. But I've heard many have led very accomplished lives. I'm hoping each of them is a winner in their own right. Whatever happened to my very best friend? I heard she's a successful businesswoman and lives in Chicago. I'd love to hear from her. But I wonder if she'd feel the same. (I'm still haunted by those nagging teenage insecurities.)

In the photo, I noticed 3 fellows who escorted me to a school dance at one time or another. Back then, pity the girl who didn't have a date for the prom. I don't think it's like that today. The photo revealed that several in the group had lost copious amounts of weight. Many had let their hair gray naturally. Some of the women sported chic blonde coifs. There were a couple knockout redheads while others preserved their lustrous dark locks. A few guys were gently balding but no shaved heads. The men were nattily attired in suits and the ladies glowed with glam. Overall this crew looked marvelous. And upon further evaluation, I have to admit that they don't look that old afterall.

Back in the day, high school was nothing like today's over-the-top, Disney produced cultural phenomenon, High School Musical. Yet we had an exuberant bounce in our step. We shared cool times and high drama. We sang, we danced, we sobbed, we laughed. We harbored gargantuan vulnerabilities and Midwest values. We respected authority. We polished our shoes. We wore plaid. We were polite. Boys kept their hair short. We didn't do drugs...yet. We gulped root beer at the A&W. Girls donned pearls for our senior pictures for god sake. We had hopes and dreams and passion. We created our very own memories. Fondest regards and a sentimental salute to the "Home of the Pie" gang. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 21, 2009


It was a gloomy, stormy Saturday morning. Pelting rain, savage lightning and ferocious winds pounded our area. The skies were so dark that we had to turn on the lights inside. Weather reports said it would be bad the entire weekend. So my husband and I decided we'd hunker down at home for the day. We figured there were lots of things we could do indoors to pass the time: microwave some popcorn and watch a good movie on TV or DVD, enjoy a nice, long phone chat with some old friends, finish some laundry, spend some quality time on the treadmill, listen to music, catch up on emails, do some mindless Googling, read a good book, maybe even bake up a batch of cookies and top it all off with a tasty, home-cooked spaghetti dinner. We had the whole day planned out. If we had to be cooped up inside, there were plenty of ways we could amuse ourselves.

Then it happened. A deafening crash of lightning. The lights flickered and died. The TV screen dissolved to black. The electric clocks stopped. The power surge on the computer started crazily beeping and suddenly we were immersed in nearly total darkness. The power was out. Totally and unequivocally out. Zapped. Dead. And it was only 9:30 in the morning.

First thing we did was try to call the local power company on our cordless phone. Oops. Phone was dead. Next we used the cell phone and were informed that lightning had hit a huge generator station and it might be 2 days before power was reinstalled. Two days! Suddenly we started to panic. What on earth would we do with ourselves for 2 solid days? Our cozy, stormy weather plans were no longer viable. No microwave popcorn. No TV movies. Couldn't do laundry unless I wanted to wash clothes outside by hand in the pouring rain. No internet surfing. No oven baked cookies and forget that delicious spaghetti dinner. The only good thing was we had a great excuse for not using the treadmill. Without electric lamps, it was even too dark inside to read.

OK, now some of you may be slyly smirking and wondering why we didn't think of doing something romantic: a long, leisurely, amorous interlude. Get real, bub. Next brilliant idea? Cards? Monopoly? Trivial Pursuit? Nah. Too dark to read the cards. Finally, we had a brainstorm. Conversation? As in talking to each other? By golly, we're both two mature, somewhat reasonable adults. We are literate and moderately articulate. We've been married for over 30 years and we still like each other. Surely we met the criteria for being capable of sharing a cordial, spontaneous conversation with one other. And so it was that we snuggled up in two comfy chairs across from each other in the living room. My husband started a fire in the hearth. I placed a few lit candles around the room. Amidst the soft glow of candlelight and the soothing warmth from the fire, we gently smiled at each other and began to talk.......Unexpectedly, the power roared back on. Everything was back to normal. Dodged a bullet that day. Sphere: Related Content

The Wonders of Facebook

Do you FB? If you're in the loop, you know that means: Do you use Facebook? Recent Facebook statistics report that the popular social networking site has seen a phenomenal increase of older users. Generally we assume internet social media like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter appeal to a very young techie audience. However, from January to July 2009, Facebook has seen a 513% growth of users age 55 and over. An increase of less than 5% was reported for users ages 18-25 for the same time period.

So it seems that baby boomers represent a significant demographic on Facebook. Frequently, boomers discover FB via their children or grandchildren who hook them up to the site. For some of us, there's a brief learning curve to master the FB tools. But after a stint of shy mingling among the Facebook blockparty, we soon discover that there's a whole new world open to us. Facebook is a cool way to keep in touch with people. Granted, some of it involves boring babble, ridiculous games and social nitwits but so does real life. The beauty of Facebook is you don't have to respond and you can easily blow off the annoying idiots and arrogant jerks. Negative stuff aside, for the most part, Facebook is a fun communications tool. You can link up with long lost friends, former classmates, ex boyfriends/girlfriends, a host of extended family members and even form new acquaintances. Best of all, it provides a fascinating diversion for those of us who have nothing else going on in our wearisome lives.

My guess is that baby boomers are swelling the ranks of Facebook mainly because we are just downright curious about people from our past lives. What have our long lost college and high school pals been up to over the last 40 years? And for me, therein lies the dilemma. Do I really want to learn that most of my old buddies have led extraordinary and scintillating lives that put my tedious, humdrum existence to shame? Do I really want to compare my abject past with overachievers who put the E in Excitement; the S in Success, the MM in Megamillionaire?

Pitifully, the answer is YES. I am a glutton for ridicule and humiliation. And so it is that I've clicked on become friends with several old high school and college classmates, former neighbors and an oddball assortment of people I've known in a former life. As I peruse their Facebook Walls, their Info pages their Photos and their Comments, I am able to glean tidbits of their thrilling lives. Just as I suspected, I am a dithering old dud compared to most of them. One gal was a rocket scientist. Others are or were acclaimed surgeons, financial barons, shrewd entrepreneurs, erudite professors, dedicated environmentalists, renown authors and overall selfless human beings. Although many of my old pals are retired, that doesn't stop them from pursuing new and exotic adventures. One gal just returned from exploring Machu Picchu. Many old mates have hiked down into the Grand Canyon and back up again. A number of them have scaled icy mountains, sky dived out of tiny airplanes, paddled down the Amazon, zip-lined across rainforests, sailed oceans. I can't tell you how many friends of mine---in their late 50s and 60s have run and completed marathons. It's become an epidemic. A couple of folks have even raced in wheelchairs.

Frankly, I find all this overachieving extremely admirable. I laud my old pals for their brilliance, courage and endurance. What truly galls me, however, is that they all still look really, really good....attractive, youthful; vibrant. Dare I say sexy? Physically fit, nary an ounce of fat protrudes from their treadmill trim bodies. Lean, mean and oozing with energy, my old pals still look marvelous. Their photos don't lie. Or do they?

I'm happy to discover my old friends have lived exemplary and edifying lives. But I probably would feel out of their league if we ever reconnected again in person. So for what it's worth, I wish them well and wonder if it's time yet for Dancing With the Stars? Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Return of the Woodstock Generation

I almost have to chuckle at the left wing criticism hurled at those marauding mobs voicing their freedom of speech at these recent town hall/health reform gatherings. Have Democrats never been to a condominium association meeting? If so, they'd quickly realize that these town hall trouble makers are like docile lambs in comparison to some agitated condo owners who can whip a peaceful condo meeting into frenzied pandemonium faster than you can say "bylaws change".

From what I've seen on news reports, many of the town hall audiences are comprised of people over 55. It seems to me that generally the folks caught on camera complaining the loudest appear to be people of my generation: aka babyboomers. Ah hah! Hasn't anybody else figured it out yet? It's the return of The Woodstock Generation! And we're worried as hell.

Finally, after a relative calm of nearly 40 years, we realize it's time to come out of the closet. I don't mean the gay closet. I mean the gray closet. Gone are the long locks growing down to our knees, the hippie duds, the bell bottoms and leather vests, the flowers in our hair, love beads, pot parties and psychedelic posters. (Well for most of us---that's all over.) We've traded those things in for silver hair, hearing devices, knee replacements. We're downsizing, moving to condos and drooling over grandchildren. Some of us are just plain drooling. And yes we're still doing drugs but this time it's prescription stuff. Granted, we weren't all Vietnam protesters. We weren't all bra burners or flower children or free love fanatics. A lot of us even missed the Woodstock festival. Amazingly, some of us never did drugs. Even so, right now we're all sharing the same basic life experience: Aging. We are getting older. We're living longer but we're getting tired. We're having health problems. And we're worried about how we can afford to survive the upcoming years in good health. It's a very legitimate concern---not just for us but for all Americans.

During the Woodstock era, I held a respectable job during the week and was a hippie on the weekends. Back then, I was liberal leaning but I married a man who served in Vietnam. I tremendously respect his service to our country and the service of the millions of other men and women who fought and died in Vietnam.

So when I hear somebody like Nancy Pelosi and others like her, complain that townhall protesters are Nazi's and anti-American, it makes my blood boil. I firmly believe it was the shed blood of our young patriotic military men and women in Vietnam and the rebellion of our patriotic boomer generation, the marching in the streets, the protests and dissention that ultimately ended the Vietnam War. I believe we have a right to question the authority of the government on something that affects us as personally as health care.

So I say: Rise up boomers. (Or at least sit up straight.) Question those arrogant politicians. Be kind but be firm. Be aggressive. Be scrappy. Be informed. Be organized. Years ago, we used to think that we could never trust the government. Honestly, do you really think Washington is anymore trustworthy today? Now we hear they've got an enemies list and a snitch-on-your-neighbor program. Let's face it, Congress seldom has our best interests at heart. I don't know the answers. I don't even know all the right questions. But I do know that we are not anti-American, malcontent mobs, fiendish extremists or terrorist thugs. (You'll find those sorts at condo meetings.) I don't even like Rush Limbaugh and at my age, I couldn't thug anybody even if I wanted to. We're seniors for God's sake. We've got arthritis. Yet as evidenced by the town hall crowds, we've still got spirit and spunk. The Woodstock nation is still hanging in there---as long as they don't start euthenizing grandma. Right on, brother, right on. Pass it on. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Remembering Woodstock and the 1960s.

It was 40 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. Apologies to the Beatles. Actually it was 40 years ago that one of the most memorable moments in recent music history took place. On August 15-18th, 1969, The Woodstock Music Festival was celebrated on a rural dairy farm in upstate New York in a little village called Bethel; 40 miles southwest of Woodstock, NY. With over half a million drug-induced concert goers in attendance, amidst rain and mud and constant traffic snarls on narrow country roads---the event was a recipe for disaster. Yet the patience, peace and love demonstrated by the crowd and the brilliance of the amazing musicians overcame all the glitches. The spirit of Woodstock has never been surpassed and the event is recorded in the annals of popular music history as one of the most sensational rock and roll extravaganzas ever.

I was not there. I think I would have liked to have been. What about you? Woodstock happened at the grand finale of the 1960s during the same year that Neal Armstrong walked on the moon. It was an era of incredible political, sexual and cultural turbulence. Kennedy was asassinated. So was his brother Bobby. And Martin Luther King. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Beatles. Elvis. The VW Beetle. Go-go boots. Nehru jackets. Mini dresses. Vietnam. Where were you in the 1960s? Click on this link to see an amazing musical tribute to the Sixties: The Sixties Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wonders of the World

Pull on your hiking boots and let's get going. There's a great big world out there to see before we kick the bucket. Since the dawn of humanity, mankind has always enjoyed traveling, exploring new places and writing about it. As far back as 456 BC, the ancient Greeks compiled a list of what might have been called The top 7 places to see before you die---otherwise known as the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, only one of those exotic places still exists: The Great Pyramid at Giza. Milleniums later, another Wonders list came along that named the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World. Stonehenge and the Leaning Tower of Pisa were among the structures listed.

Not to be outdone, 21st century travelers now have their own Wonders list. A few years ago, a Swiss group known as the New 7 Wonders Foundation held a global internet contest to determine the New 7 Manmade Wonders of the World. Millions of people from all over the world responded with suggestions. In 2007, the New 7 Manmade Wonders of the World winners were announced. How many of these amazing manmade achievements have you seen?
1. Great Wall of China
2. Petra in Jordan
3. Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
4. Machu Picchu in Peru
5. Roman Colosseum, Italy
6. Taj Mahal, India
7. Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico

But wait---there's more. If you didn't get a chance to vote for the 7 Manmade wonders, you've still got a chance to cast your ballot for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The same Swiss group is in the final stages of yet another poll to choose the 7 greatest natural wonders of the world. In the running are the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Dead Sea. To see all 28 finalists and to cast your vote, go to: New7Wonders of Nature site.

Whether you participate in the voting or not, isn't it time to get off your keester, leave your comfort zone and go exploring? You may never be a jet setter, but what about rediscovering new sights and sounds in your own city, your own state? Hop in the car, drive for 2 hours and see where you end up. Wherever it may be, make the most of it. Be flexible. Have fun. Then create your own 7 wonders list. Machu Picchu, here I come! Sphere: Related Content

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Amazing Power of Beer

Here, Here!
Hurray for beer.
Beer is the answer to all our troubles
Pass the suds and make mine doubles.

It's amazing the power of beer
Makes all our problems disappear
Misunderstandings? Racial tension?
Time for a six pack intervention.

If you're from Harvard or the hood
A pint of beer makes us all feel good
The Prez proved he's a Bud lite guy
Teachable moment: Here's mud in your eye.

Now we know that it's perfectly clear
We can solve disputes over a glass of beer.
So let's get Congress to share in the fun
Ply them with brewskies and maybe they'd get something done.

A mug of beer, a stein of stout
Fix health care, get it all worked out.
If Congress set up a beer concession
They could lower taxes and end the recession.

Shake a leg
Open a keg
Pour a draft for everyone
Beer is how we get things done.

Step up to the bar
Grab a cigar
Anyone can be a tabloid star
I wanna be the new Beer Czar. Sphere: Related Content
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