At some point and quite probably at a lot of points and also assuming it hasn’t already happened, old people like myself are going to say something along these lines (or, very likely, exactly these lines) to you: "Well, you’re still young and idealistic."
It’s going to sound sort of dismissive, and that’s primarily because it is. What this old person is really trying to say without being even more ostensibly rude than they’ve already been is this: "You’re naive."
But hear me, young people. Idealism and naiveté are not the same thing.
Do whatever it takes to recalibrate your internal receiver, so that when this old person says these words to you — or words like them — you do not hear "You’re naive," but rather this:
"You remind me of myself, or at least a little spark of myself that once flickered many moons ago, before I put my faith in the sober wisdom of another old person, lost myself in the day-to-day grind, and let it turn me into a cog, an empty, soulless husk of my former self, a sad pawn who is incapable of believing in magic and who says things like, ‘It is what it is,’ as if they’re rich in existential truth. I’m bitter beyond measure about this unbelievably quick and irretrievable transformation, which is why I stuff it all down inside me like gunpowder into a musket and hope it doesn’t explode. But because I can’t be honest with myself, I can’t dare be honest with you, either. Therefore, well-meaning young person, I’m left with no choice but to bestow unto you the very same damage that has been wrought upon me. To do otherwise, to reverse the tide, would require more of me than I can bear: chiefly, to admit that I was wrong, that I have failed, and that I have wasted my brief little life in pursuit of the trivial and the ephemeral and the mundane. Instead, it’s easier for all of us if you just follow my lead, like your parents did before you and like all your friends are today. After all, my generation is older, wiser and more experienced. We’ve been around this block a million times. Obviously you can trust us."
Seriously, young people. Fuck old people¹. Trust me.
¹ Not literally².
² Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
My hotel in Beijing is located in what seems to be a shopping district, just a few-minute stroll from the intersection of two wide avenues lined with high-end shops offering mostly Western luxury brands. From my window, I can only see a couple: Chanel and something called BlancPain, which is French for WhiteBread. Little wonder the latter hasn’t caught on in the States, nor that it has in China, where even the most generic cultural detritus of “Western individualism” is processed, packaged, commoditized and sold at low margins to a huge-and-getting-huger middle class starved for identity.
My combined travel time today was over 20 hours, of which I slept only two, but I decided to venture out into the city for dinner, anyway. A few blocks down the road, I stumbled into the Dong’anmen Night Food Market, where for a small handful of yuan one can feast on such delicacies as fried scorpion, silkworm cocoons and sheep’s penis. Having sampled a variety of insects and animal parts on my last trip to China (and having lived to regret it), I kept moving until I found essentially the opposite end of the gustatory spectrum: a vegetarian restaurant.
Fuhuiciyuan is tucked away inside a deceptively large, multipurpose Buddhist compound, which itself is hidden down the sort of dark alley where the red lights above its door might be mistaken for something more salacious. Virtually no English is spoken, and while the menu — which gives off the impression of a catalog — is printed in both Mandarin and English, the descriptions largely eschew ingredients in favor of dubiously specific health benefits. I ordered the hypertension relief.
To be more honest, I have no idea what I ordered. I merely pointed to a nice looking picture and then the nice girl who had waited patiently next to my table while I thumbed through the entire 30-or-so-page menu smiled and typed something into a weird, yellow device that looked exactly like how you’d imagine a PlaySkool cell phone. Not half a minute later, another nice girl brought the menu back and handed it to me again.
Had they run out of the thing in the picture I’d pointed at? There seemed to be no way to know. “Order again?” I tried. She made a hand gesture that I can only assume was intended to be helpful. After a moment, she said, “You … noodles?”
Me … noodles. Hmm.
"Yes?" I answered.
And five minutes later I had noodles — a whole mess of them, Sichuan-style in a spicy pepper sauce that made my nose run and still makes my mouth water thinking about it now. But that’s not all. I also had the first dish I’d pointed to, a colorful medley of … well, of largely unidentifiable vegetables. I spotted some lotus root in there, and surely one of those other things was a mushroom. To be sure, they were all delicious, but they were no match for the noodles.
Me noodles. Me definitely noodles.
After I paid (47 RMB, or roughly $8 for two large servings of delicious and probably healthy if not hypertension-fighting food) and got one of the nice girls to show me how to operate the exit (‘twas neither push nor pull), I headed back for the hotel, still tired from the day’s travel and now from the full belly.
Making my way past Dong’anmen, I was stopped by a homeless woman, probably a migrant farmer from the country living illegally in the city, one of millions willing to give up PRC government entitlements for a chance at Western-style free-market opportunity — which probably tells us as much about communism as it does about the human spirit.
"I’m very hungry," she said in surprisingly good English. But it was too late. Before I’d even processed the words that came out of her mouth, I’d responded purely out of habit ("Sorry") and continued pushing through the crowd. See, I come from San Francisco, where dodging the homeless is practically a sport. But in retrospect, I’m honestly not sure which is more shocking: the fact that a woman begged me to buy her a sheep’s penis, or the fact that I turned her down.
I yawned, stuffed my hands in my pockets and charged across the street before the light changed, hurrying past WhiteBread on the way back to my room.
Killing time at a coffee shop the other day after missing my bus, I overheard a pair of fellow patrons bickering over the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action.
"You’re blinded by your white liberal guilt," he said, wiping whipped cream and caramel drizzle from his freshly shaved upper lip.
"You’re blind if you actually believe it’s a level playing field," she shot back, slumping in resignation. "You conservatives are all the same."
They saw the issue — like we see seemingly everything these days — as black and white. No pun intended.
We’re obsessed with choosing sides. Pepsi or Coke? Dogs or cats? Beatles or Stones? Ginger or Maryann? Ketchup or mustard? If you’re like most Americans, you probably have your favorites.
In college, I actually had a roommate who got furious with me when I proclaimed to have no preference between creamy and chunky peanut butter. “They’re both good,” I said. “Bullshit!” he yelled, and proceeded to turn the matter into an ideological debate culminating with the old saw, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
All these years later, I’ll admit I have fallen for peanut butter — hard. I still love it. Both kinds. Why does that make some people so uncomfortable?
Nowhere is this implicit “choose a side” directive more palpable than in American politics. When I ended my journalism career after 18 years, many of my friends (and even former colleagues) said, “Well, at least now you can be open about your politics.” They assumed that I had claimed to be independent all along simply for professional credibility. So when I said I was still an independent, my liberal friends decided I must be secretly conservative and my conservative friends decided I must be secretly liberal. Because it has to be one or the other, right?
The same college roommate who accused me of prevaricating over peanut butter also relentlessly gave me a hard time about my youthful idealism. “You think peace, love and understanding is all we need to make the world go around,” he chided me regularly. And, while he had a point (I was a rather naïve young person), it’s difficult to see in retrospect how his viewpoint was any more firmly grounded. If he said that to me today, my response might be, “Yes, and you believe in efficient markets, Jesus and Horatio Alger. Who’s more naïve?”
I’m not saying you’re a fool to pick a side. If you find value in doing so, great. All I’m saying is let’s be honest about what it means.
These are merely top-of-mind examples from the past few weeks. Research is hardly necessary. One needs only to browse the day’s headlines to find examples of rampant hypocrisy.
At the end of day, aligning yourself with a political party in America is not unlike having a favorite color of M&M. They might seem different on the surface, but as any White House aide can tell you, when you close your eyes they all taste the same.
She’s in bed, sleeping. Dog, too. It was a long week for all of us.
I’m up, reading a book. Something about the economy. It’s surprisingly quiet here, perched atop a hill in the middle of the city, save for the occasional trolley bell and the fairly incessant woodwind hum of a nearby hotel doorman’s taxi whistle. It’s Friday night, after all.
When we moved here nine months ago, I had this idea that by now I’d know each cable car operator’s distinctive staccato, and that when they rang the bell as they hauled past our apartment window I’d say, “Oh, there goes Ken!” or “Sounds like Leo today!”
But I don’t. I don’t know those guys or anyone else here. The city can be impenetrable, especially if you have an underdeveloped social instinct. It’s crammed full of people, and you rarely see the same face twice. If you want to make friends, you have to make an impression, and that’s not easy when your natural inclination is to sit in the corner like a potted plant and just observe.
On the other hand, at least there’s plenty to watch.
I watch it mostly with her. And the dog. Not sure I need much else, really.
Certainly not after a long week.
So I’m just sitting here, reading my book. Sipping a cocktail. And, yet, somehow — probably because it’s Friday night — I feel oddly like there’s something wrong with me that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I wouldn’t, though. For the first time in 43 restless, ridiculous years, I can honestly say I wouldn’t.
It was about six months ago that I quit my job. The work was fine, the people were nice and the pay was adequate, but my decision to walk away had nothing to do with all that. At some point, at least in my head, the benefits of sticking around were overshadowed by the opportunity costs.
"I have more to offer the world than this," I thought. "I can do better." This was my mantra. It was my inspiration. It may also have been my hubris.
I’ve applied for roughly four dozen jobs since then. The net result? One interview and two rejection letters, which leaves about 45 who couldn’t even be bothered to say, “Fuck you.”
I’m not alone, of course. Unemployment the last few years has been at its highest point since the Reagan era. In the human capital market, supply is up and demand is down. That means even if I find work, it won’t likely be rewarding, either personally or financially. But I try, anyway.
How could I not? I grew up in a country that glorifies work. Only in recent decades, the Puritan work ethic has given way to a new value system, where work is judged on the basis of whether or not it’s paid. In today’s America, if you’re, say, a mortgage underwriter who’s systematically flirting with economic ruin, you’re a productive citizen. But if you’re a mother who busts her ass all day keeping a household running, you’re just an entitled deadbeat.
Trouble is, the more signals people get that they’re useless wastes, the harder it gets for them to ignore it. Being sequestered on the margins of society and having your repeated attempts to reconnect ignored feels a lot like not getting invited to the cool kid’s party in high school. Only this party — the labor force — is supposed to be a meritocracy, not a popularity contest. So if you’re not invited, what’s the logical conclusion?
Save your sympathy; I’m not depressed. No, I’m pissed off. Not because I think I’m entitled to a job or even to an interview, but because of the not-so-faint whiff of self-importance I’m getting off the job creators. Every single job description I read is rife with smug asides about how goddamn special the company is, and (often explicit) warnings for potential applicants that if they even think about sending something as pedestrian as a resume and a cover letter outlining why they’re a good fit, the company will devote all of its resources to developing time-travel technology for the sole purpose of going back to the very moment your parents first met and punching them both in the face.
The good news is those threats are idle. The bad news is that what really happens is worse: Basically, you spend a whole day of your life (sometimes more) jumping through a ridiculous series of hoops to tailor your pitch and craft it just so, taking things like design, language, overall tone and choice of medium (or media) into consideration. In other words, you work.
And sometimes you’re not going to be right for the job. Or they’re going to find someone better. And that’s fair.
But you’re telling me they can’t even find time to e-mail a polite, “Fuck you”?
Because while you might think you’re part of the solution (creating jobs, innovating, smashing old-school inside-the-box conventions), you’re wrong. For every person you hire, you’re initiating or sustaining the shame spirals of dozens of others.
See, the more times I get ignored, the less I even bother to try. So let’s just cut to the chase. Here’s the cover letter you deserve, and may eventually get:
Dear obliviously undifferentiated company,
I’m writing about the job opening for an Assistant Deputy Manager for Mundane Activities. As you describe it, the work sounds dreadful, tedious, degrading and quite frankly beneath me. However, I have bills to pay. I’m sure you understand.
I’m a smart guy with a lot of experience in a variety of fields. While it’s difficult for me to translate the industry jargon you used to describe the role’s responsibilities into anything remotely meaningful, I’m confident that I can learn whatever routine tasks are involved and master whatever banal “strategy” you apply to them in order to make yourselves feel less hopelessly ordinary.
While the tone of this letter may seem brusque, I assure you I get along splendidly with people who are not assholes.
When you’re prepared to have an honest discussion about what you need and how I can help, you may contact me at the number below or through any of the zillion other Internet-based methods you’ve no doubt heard about from your socially maladjusted nephew.
An angry virtual mob of Batman fanboys took to their torches and pitchforks (or, at least, keyboards and mice) this week and unleashed their impotent rage on Film critic Marshall Fine, who had the audacity to not like the new movie about their favorite masked sociopath.
I was amused was disgusted experienced emotions when I heard about this incident not only because it reminded me of how surprisingly shitty it can be to be a professional critic, but also because it reminded me of how much more people used to appreciate their voice when they barely had one. I’m sure there’s an overly literal, no-duh psychological theory that captures this scarcity-creates-value phenomenon, but I can’t remember which dead guy it’s named after right now.
Internet comments are like graffiti. Every now and then you accidentally turn down an alley and stumble on a masterfulartwork, but mostly it’s just bored kids with destructive urges splattering the equivalent of neolithic grunts on whatever canvas is made available to them.
You know what technology has killed? Technology has killed the art of outrage. When I first started out in the newspaper biz, readers had to actually make an effort to have their voices heard. They had to sit down and write a letter to the editor. Most of them even had to do it with a pen and a piece of paper. Then they had to affix a stamp to an envelope, wait for the mail carrier and check the paper day after day on the off chance their missive was selected for publication. You see, not just any old rant was good enough for mass consumption. It had to be cogent, concise, perhaps even clever.
Hell, I actually miss the hate mail I used to get.
But now? Now all you need is a caps-lock key and a string of obscenities to reach the whole wide world in an instant. (And if you bothered to try any harder you’d probably just exceed most people’s attention spans, anyway.)
Anyway, I digress. Point is, I think I kind of like this Fine guy. I might even start checking his site on the rare occasion I actually give a shit about whatever value-added deliverable has most recently sputtered forth from the day-glo plastic asshole of Hollywood. I saw an endless litany of crap pictures during my years as an entertainment journalist, and just as the psychologists would predict, the more you see the harder you are to impress.
Which is why I think there’s a decent chance Fine is wrong about “The Dark Knight Rises.” Just in case, though, this fanboy is avoiding reviews and saving his impotent rage for Christopher Nolan. I imagine he probably appreciates good hate mail, too.
Looking up from his keyboard, he wondered to himself, “What’s another word for ‘improve’?” Sitting at a desk in a long row of identical desks, he was busy writing his umpteenth newspaper article about a local event, one he’d covered annually for nearly 10 years end-on-end. “Boost? Enhance? Augment?” He’d written this story a thousand times. Or nearly 10. Whatever. “Maybe ‘facelift’? No.” The only challenge left was to write it better. OK, differently.
And, of course, for fewer readers.
That’s when their thousand-yard stares met. Across the aisle, a colleague was similarly lost in thought. They’d begun their careers here within a few weeks of one another, when the future seemed as bright as the newsroom did electric. But today was as quiet and grey as the pages of their product, and as dull as their senses.
They shook their heads and laughed, sharing a thought without speaking. It didn’t need to be said, because it already had been — at least a thousand times. “We are wasting our lives.” So they didn’t say anything. He just nodded in resignation, and his counterpart responded in kind.
And with the unique sort of nonchalance and simpatico that only develops from 18 years of mutual suffering, his co-worker slowly closed his eyes, and softly affected his finest Morrissey falsetto:
Oh, mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head
He didn’t realize it then, but he would come to miss that.
Yesterday I posted a brief excerpt from a New Yorker magazine article about politics. At age 42, I’m plenty old enough to have known better. Unless you were born in the handful of seconds since I began typing this sentence, you’ve most likely become aware that people tend to have strong opinions on such matters. To paraphrase one of my buddy Geoff's more enduring and brilliantly reductive tweets, it seems that some folks believe this, whereas other folks believe that.
As is normally the case when I ignore my better judgment, repercussions ensued. It’s been forever since I gave up monitoring my follower count (and to you last few holdouts, I highly recommend it), but the qualitative fallout still stings. When someone you respect or consider a friend judges you harshly — or, indeed, at all — you find yourself suddenly taking cover in intellectual foxholes, digging in for the coming onslaught, and preparing to defend … well, what, exactly?
Curiously, as I discovered in the exchanges that followed, not one of the feathers I’d ruffled had bothered to click on the link and actually, you know, read the article. Again, a person of my vintage probably shouldn’t be surprised by this fact. But even so, it perfectly illustrates the point I apparently failed to make.
It’s a point that the article’s writer, Ezra Klein, made eloquently in writing about the work of a number of scientists and scholars: The human mind is biologically predisposed to promote its group’s interests in competition with other groups. In other words, we have evolved into exceptional “team players.” Critical thinking, as it turns out, is mostly just rationalization, mostly just a search for evidence to support the interests and goals we have already settled on. Psychologists call it “motivated reasoning.”
This seems counter-intuitive to anyone who assumes that rational, reasoned debate is firmly rooted in the cold, hard facts of objective reality. It seems less so to anyone who participated in debate club or whose thoughts ever brushed up (formally or otherwise) against the concept of epistemology. We process our objective environment through the filter of our own cognitive appraisal — which includes our beliefs, attitudes and other predispositions — to create our psychological environment, and then we judge the latter to be every bit as “real” as the former. It’s sort of like the rose-colored glasses theory, only not all of us see rose. (The hue my correspondents perceived yesterday was far closer to red.)
Or, as Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at New York University’s business school, succinctly summarized: “Reasoning can take you wherever you want to go.”
It’s perhaps unfortunate that the excerpt I chose to post focused on the propensity of Republicans, in particular, to change their position. I chose it, partly, because it offered the most concise — and given the events of the day, the most relevant — example of this phenomenon. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I also chose it partly because it seemed certain to stir debate. Having spent a few years in the 1990s writing headlines for a daily metropolitan newspaper, I am not entirely immune to the allure of editorial sensationalism, which wears a reporter’s gumshoe on one foot and a marketing executive’s shiny Italian leather slip-on on the other.
It was unfortunate for at least two reasons:
1) The quote may have implied, to some, that Republicans are alone in their use of “motivated reasoning,” when, in fact, both sides of our national political divide engage in what I like to think of as “confirmation bias on steroids.” Both sides, after all, are human — something they would do well to remember from time to time.
2) I was misunderstood, which, of course, is hardly a tragedy.
Then again, when you consider why, maybe it is. Those who made an effort to contact me (because, hey, it’s easier to judge than to be curious) fell into two camps: Offended Republicans and Offended Apoliticals. Both groups made some basic assumptions about me, none of which are true.
Republicans assumed I am a Democrat. I am not. Apoliticals assumed I am a proselyte. In fact, of my 1,386 (now 1,387) posts on Tumblr, this may have been the first related to politics. But of course self-delusion feels better than cognitive dissonance, so facts be damned.
In both cases, people see what they want to see, and quite logically consider it real-world evidence in support of their established beliefs. We promote our group in competition with other groups, real or perceived. We are good team players. As unsavory as it may be to acknowledge this self-evident truth, we are just like our politicians. We are human.
It’s something we would do well to remember from time to time.
The Republicans have made the individual mandate the element most likely to undo the President’s health-care law. The irony is that the Democrats adopted it in the first place because they thought that it would help them secure conservative support. It had, after all, been at the heart of Republican health-care reforms for two decades.
This shift — Democrats lining up behind the Republican-crafted mandate, and Republicans declaring it not just inappropriate policy but contrary to the wishes of the Founders — [is] not an isolated case. In 2007, both Newt Gingrich and John McCain wanted a cap-and-trade program in order to reduce carbon emissions. Today, neither they nor any other leading Republicans support cap-and-trade. In 2008, the Bush Administration proposed, pushed, and signed the Economic Stimulus Act, a deficit-financed tax cut designed to boost the flagging economy. Today, few Republicans admit that a deficit-financed stimulus can work. Indeed, with the exception of raising taxes on the rich, virtually every major policy currently associated with the Obama Administration was, within the past decade, a Republican idea in good standing.
Sometimes when I’m driving and another motorist comes speeding up behind me, I think to myself, “Say, that person must be in a real hurry,” and I take the earliest opportunity to move over to the right lane and let them pass.
I drive about six miles to get to work each day. It takes me roughly 15 minutes. Maybe five of those minutes are on an Interstate, the other 10 on city roads. During today’s commute, I saw six fellow motorists who had been pulled over by Florida State Troopers and one more who had been stopped by a local cop.
Fucking pigs, right? Yeah. It’s easy to blame the officers — and certainly at least a few of them are sanctimonious assholes who deserve our contempt — but deep down we know they’re just cogs in a complex government machine. A law enforcement career is anything but lucrative, and as taxpayers we get what we pay for. Let’s just say these folks didn’t end up in this line of work because the brain surgery center wasn’t hiring that day.
Even so, you have to wonder if those often paltry salaries are money well spent. In business, there’s a concept called “conformance costs.” The idea is that you spend a little bit of money up front to prevent problems rather than spending a lot of money after-the-fact to fix them. In other words, over the long run it costs less to do a little extra R&D and testing than it does to recall 500,000 cars to repair a faulty seat-belt latch. The latter would be called “failure costs.” And that’s what State Troopers’ salaries seem like.
We put so little effort into teaching people to be better drivers and so much into punishing them when they aren’t. (This would be less of a problem if we weren’t obsessed with only simple, objective and arguably irrelevant metrics like “speed.”) My stepfather was a driving instructor for many years, and he frequently lamented how far the standards had dropped and how difficult it was to get through to his students that driving is a privilege, not a right. They just wanted their license, sans the lesson on social responsibility — and they knew they could get it. You can be the most selfish, inconsiderate driver on the road, almost entirely oblivious to the world around you, but as long as you can execute a three-point turn and adequately navigate your way into a parallel parking space, you’ll pass the test.
Have you ever seen a State Trooper pull a driver over for moving too slowly in the left-hand lane? What about for failing to use a turn signal? Probably never, and it’s little wonder why. There’s no easily referenced yardstick for “self-absorbed asshole,” and they don’t get paid enough to use their judgment.
What about for driving under the minimum posted speed limit? Again, probably never. You might reason these drivers are usually just conforming to the flow of traffic, but isn’t that exactly what we’re normally doing when we “speed”?
Of course, even if the average cop knows better, s/he probably feels helpless to fix anything. “I’m just one GED holder, what can I do?” Look, I get it. Change is hard. I speak from experience. When I was a hopeless drunk, I was not only one of the worst drivers on the road, but I was spending a virtual fortune on “failure costs.” Each morning, I would wake up, check the driveway to see if my car was present and unscathed, then I’d make my rounds apologizing to the people I cared about for all the egregious things I’d done or said the night before.
Business analysts estimate that spending $0.08 on “conformance costs” up front can save you as much as $1 on the back end. Getting my shit together had a similar payoff. Exercising even the tiniest fraction of self-control the night before paid enormous dividends the next day. More prevention, less (self-)punishment.
It’s not easy, but you figure it out. You either figure it out or you perpetuate the endless cycle of making messes and cleaning them up, and where’s the point in that? Hey, I don’t have all the answers, but it starts with asking the right questions.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m here for you, cops. Let’s fix this thing together.
Right now I have to go register for traffic school, though.
I’m having brunch at my neighborhood coffee shop, which is owned by a guy I used to drink beers with at my neighborhood bar. At the table in front of me, a girl who used to be my neighbor is eating biscuits and gravy with a guy who used to play drums in one of my favorite bands and a girl who used to serve me sandwiches at the deli next to my old office. At the table behind me, the guy who built most of my friends’ websites is having a doughnut with the girl who makes a perfect iced latte at the coffee shop near my current office. At the counter, the girl who used to play drums in one of my other favorite bands is serving a tofu scramble to the guy who manages one of the concert venues where I used to hang out.
“Some companies make heavy use of debt (which causes high interest expense), whereas other companies incur little debt and have low interest expense.”—The spine of this Financial Accounting book lists some Stanford professor as the author, but I’m pretty sure it was written by @texburgher
Earlier generations have weathered recessions, of course; this stall we’re in has the look of something nastier. Social Security and Medicare are going to be diminished, at best. Hours worked are up even as hiring staggers along: Blood from a stone looks to be the normal order of things “going forward,” to borrow the business-speak. Economists are warning that even when the economy recuperates, full employment will be lower and growth will be slower—a sad little rhyme that adds up to something decidedly unpoetic. A majority of Americans say, for the first time ever, that this generation will not be better off than its parents.
The first generation to do worse than its parents? Please. Been there. Generation X was told that so many times that it can’t even read those words without hearing Winona Ryder’s voice in its heads. Or maybe it’s Ethan Hawke’s. Possibly Bridget Fonda’s. Generation X is getting older, and can’t remember those movies so well anymore. In retrospect, maybe they weren’t very good to begin with.
But Generation X is tired of your sense of entitlement. Generation X also graduated during a recession. It had even shittier jobs, and actually had to pay for its own music. (At least, when music mattered most to it.) Generation X is used to being fucked over. It lost its meager savings in the dot-com bust. Then came George Bush, and 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generation X bore the brunt of all that. And then came the housing crisis.
Generation X wasn’t surprised. Generation X kind of expected it.
Generation X is a journeyman. It didn’t invent hip hop, or punk rock, or even electronica (it’s pretty sure those dudes in Kraftwerk are boomers) but it perfected all of them, and made them its own. It didn’t invent the Web, but it largely built the damn thing. Generation X gave you Google and Twitter and blogging; Run DMC and Radiohead and Nirvana and Notorious B.I.G. Not that it gets any credit.
But that’s okay. Generation X is used to being ignored, stuffed between two much larger, much more vocal, demographics. But whatever! Generation X is self-sufficient. It was a latchkey child. Its parents were too busy fulfilling their own personal ambitions to notice any of its trophies—which were admittedly few and far between because they were only awarded for victories, not participation.
In fairness, Generation X could use a better spokesperson. Barack Obama is just a little too senior to count among its own, and it has debts older than Mark Zuckerberg. Generation X hasn’t had a real voice since Kurt Cobain blew his brains out, Tupac was murdered, Jeff Mangum went crazy, David Foster Wallace hung himself, Jeff Buckley drowned, River Phoenix overdosed, Elliott Smith stabbed himself (twice) in the heart, Axl got fat.
Generation X is beyond all that bullshit now. It quit smoking and doing coke a long time ago. It has blood pressure issues and is heavier than it would like to be. It might still take some ecstasy, if it knew where to get some. But probably not. Generation X has to be up really early tomorrow morning.
Generation X is tired.
It’s a parent now, and there’s always so damn much to do. Generation X wishes it had better health insurance and a deeper savings account. It wonders where its 30s went. It wonders if it still has time to catch up.
Right now, Generation X just wants a beer and to be left alone. It just wants to sit here quietly and think for a minute. Can you just do that, okay? It knows that you are so very special and so very numerous, but can you just leave it alone? Just for a little bit? Just long enough to sneak one last fucking cigarette? No?
Whatever. It’s cool.
Generation X is used to disappointments. Generation X knows you didn’t even read the whole thing. It doesn’t want or expect your reblogs; it picked the wrong platform.
Generation X should have posted this to LiveJournal.
Fans of other playoff baseball teams are making a case for you to support their colors, so I’ll make mine. It’s quite simple, really:
Total payroll of 2011 MLB playoff teams New York Yankees $202,689,028 Philadelphia Phillies $172,976,379 Detroit Tigers $105,700,231 St. Louis Cardinals $105,433,572 Texas Rangers $92,299,264 Milwaukee Brewers $85,497,333 Arizona Diamondbacks $53,639,833 Tampa Bay Rays $41,053,571
How many Tampa Bay Rays players can you name? Two? Three? No matter.
As my pal notfunnyfunny said last night, Joe Maddon is the MacGuyver of baseball. Give him any nine guys and he’ll figure out a way to make them competitive.
Dog’s sick. Woke me up four times in the night to go outside.
Actually, that’s not true. He only woke me up once. I never fell back asleep after the first one.
It’s maddening, and not just because I’d rather be sleeping. You wouldn’t believe how fickle the little bastard can be about when and where he’ll take a shit.
Not there. Not there. Not there. Not there. Maybe there. Hmm. No, not there, either.
Suddenly I’m Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets.” Don’t be like me, you little sumbitch. Don’t be like me!
"Do your business," I say helpfully, because that’s what we say. And he looks up at me with the canine equivalent of an eye roll, and I imagine him replying in John Hillerman’s droll voice, "My dear man, would you hang the Mona Lisa in a frame made of popsicle sticks?"
So we move on. Him with his tongue wagging and tail bobbing. Me with my hair sticking up and eyes at half-mast. He looks happy and healthy. I’m the one who looks sick.
Which, naturally, is when the neighbor rounds the corner with his dog.
I groan a knowing groan. The neighbor’s fine. The neighbor’s dog, too. I don’t care what I look like. I just realize what this means.
Any sighting of another dog, a human, a bird, a squirrel, a lizard, a butterfly, a particularly charming stick or, apparently, the occasional ghost means that our quest for the perfect poop-site has been completely derailed. We’ll be starting over from square one. Eventually.
The neighbor nods. I mumble, “Morning.” The dogs sniff one another’s assholes.
They disappear inside, and for the next two, maybe three minutes, my partner glances repeatedly in the direction of their last known whereabouts. Just in case they’re coming back. He’s poo-shy, y’see.
Who isn’t, really?
"Do your business," I say again helpfully. He shrugs it off.
Like every other social media lemming, I downloaded Foursquare in the summer of 2009 and started using it regularly that fall. Two years later, I still haven’t unlocked the Barista badge, which you get for visiting five different Starbucks locations.
Remember way back when someone finally convinced you to make the switch from Windows to Mac? Go ahead and throw away the Advil, they said. Headaches will be a thing of the past. Everything just works! It’s like magic! You just open the box and turn the thing on and away you go! Never again will you waste an entire day trying to get one device to talk to the other. Just put them in a room together and they’ll settle their own differences like reasonable adults. With the countless hours you used to spend deciphering entries in your INI files or scouring your registry settings, you’ll have more time to devote to the important things in life — your family, your unfinished novel, preparing wholesome meals, finally learning Spanish, digitizing all your VHS porn. Your whole life will be forever changed, because every single Apple product performs every imaginable function with such efficiency and intuition that even the most brain-dead simpleton couldn’t possibly help becoming an overachieving model of efficiency, creativity and productivity. I mean, look at Merlin Mann. For god’s sake, why would you buy another Windows machine?! You’re wasting your life! Don’t do it! Liberate yourself from the self-serving shackles of the troubleshooting industry! Luke! Come to the Light Side!
In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device.
In the event of a shallow water landing, your tray table may be used as a skimboard.
In the event of a school lunchroom landing, your bag of peanuts may be used in a food fight.
In the event of a Portland, Ore., landing, your seatbelt may be used as a fashion accessory.
In the event of a rich fantasy life, your blanket may be used as a superhero’s cape.
In the event a fellow passenger or member of your flight crew turns out to be a Cylon skinjob, the overhead bin may be used as a sweet-ass hiding place.
In the event your irrepressible “creative juices” and/or “zany little urges” bubble inevitably to the surface, your barf bag may be used to fashion the most adorable shabby-chic hand-puppets for your Etsy store.
In the event of a quenched thirst, your copy of SkyMall may be used to order a beverage holder shaped like an armadillo for just $19.95 plus shipping.
In the event of a routine flight and landing, your contact information may be used to relentlessly send you “deals” on upcoming flights we have severely under-booked to places nobody wants to go.