I recently bought Havoc and Bright Lights, Alanis Morissette’s new album. It focuses on motherhood, marriage, and womanhood. Since I write about these topics, this is of great interest to me, especially since I was among the many Gen Xers for whom Jagged Little Pill resonated. I have the new album on loop to analyze the lyrics and write a post about it.
While researching, I keep seeing an irksome comment. Many articles or reviews mention something like “don’t worry because Alanis hasn’t lost her angst.” It’s not just Alanis, either. P!nk has a motherhood- and marriage-inspired album coming in a few weeks as well. From Pop Crush’s review of her single “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”:
For fans who worried that the singer’s reunion with once-estranged hubby Carey Hart and subsequent birth of daughter Willow Sage had softened the heavily tattooed starlet, fear not. She’s still feisty, she’s still funny and you better believe she’s still vengeful, singing, “You’ll be calling a trick / ‘Cause you no longer sleep / I’ll dress nice / I’ll look good / I’ll go dancing alone / I will laugh / I’ll get drunk / I’ll take somebody home!”
Yeah, that’s what I worry about for a new mother, whether she’s still feisty, funny, and vengeful. We wouldn’t want marriage and motherhood to soften a heart and change some fave music. That’d be horrible.
Why is there such fear of change?
If you happened to read the first installment of this series when my “classic rock credentials” were established and chronicled, it was noted that in 1969 I received an album titled Led Zeppelin as a Christmas gift from my 9th grade boyfriend.
The boyfriend is long gone but his gift began what has been a life-long love affair with Led Zeppelin and its “Rock God” lead singer Robert Plant.
Now, 43 years later, I am a married 57-year-old church-going Republican woman and embarrassed to admit that I still crave the sounds of Led Zeppelin — and further embarrassed to admit that nothing satisfies that craving more than listening to the raw, primal grit of Led Zeppelin’s first self-titled album now known as “Led 1.”
So, PJ Lifestyle readers, when was the last time you actually sat down and listened to this groundbreaking 1969 debut album in its entirety? And how long was your hair at the time?
Listening from a fresh 2012 perspective it becomes apparent that every song on “Led 1” helped develop and define the phrase “classic rock.” Especially noteworthy is the number of “top tier” classics spawned from this one album. Songs like Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, and Dazed and Confused, to name a few.
From my friend Emily Esfahani Smith over at Acculturated, a new group blog that’s providing engaging cultural commentary week after week with one interesting piece after another, “Is the Hook-Up Culture “Empowering”?:
In 2010, Hanna Rosin wrote a pretty devastating feature article in The Atlantic titled The End of Men, which argued that women are outpacing and outperforming men in the postindustrial economy. That article has since been transformed into a book by Rosin that will be coming out next month.
Her most recent article in The Atlantic, Boys on the Side, is adapted from this forthcoming book. In the piece, she takes up what are, to her, the merits of the hook-up culture. That the hook-up culture is thriving on college campuses–thanks, in large part, to the women who drive it–is another sign that women are replacing men as the alphas of society. So Rosin’s argument goes.
But this analysis [Caitlin Flanagan's in Girl Land] downplays the unbelievable gains women have lately made, and, more important, it forgets how much those gains depend on sexual liberation. Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-school party—are for the first time in history more successful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.
Blake Lively has insisted that she will never strip for an acting role because she finds it “distracting” to the plot.
The actress also revealed that she finds on-screen nudity unnecessary.
“When I see nudity in movies, I am always distracted by it. I know that if I am watching a scene and someone has their boobs out, then that’s all I’m looking at – I can’t help it. I just don’t think that will ever be right for me,” Contactmusic quoted her as telling Style magazine.
Related on PJ Lifestyle:
Yes, I know:
She advocated for legal abortion and contraception.
She made the world safe for Sex and the City.
Worst of all, she insisted on wearing mini-skirts well after menopause.
I’ve always had a soft spot for “outsider” female writers of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. It’s hard to imagine two women more different than Grace Metalious and Jacqueline Susann, yet I inhaled both their biographies.
Helen Gurley Brown was part of the same cohort of fiercely ambitious, sometimes uncouth “literary” females of the era.
But while those novelists created vivid fictional worlds in which to play out their fantasies of beauty, romance, fame, and revenge, Helen Gurley Brown’s accomplishment was far more audacious:
She too imagined, in pointillistic detail, her ideal realm — then set about remaking an entire society to match her personal vision.
The old joke goes, “It’s Sinatra’s world — we just live in it,” but it would be more accurate to say we’re living in Helen Gurley Brown’s.
Not everyone is happy about that.
However, there ARE three things to love about the brash publishing icon.
Thanks to PJ Lifestyle readers and friends in general for all the positive comments received about this new series. Now I am really feeling the pressure to solidify the “brand,” so here goes.
But first, if you missed the inaugural post and are curious about my classic rock credentials, click here, but come back immediately or we will begin without you.
While we are waiting for the newcomers, here is the background regarding my second “forgotten” classic rock album recommendation.
It was the fall of 1972 and I was a wild-child 17 year old from Needham, Massachusetts, a close-in suburb of Boston. My senior year at Needham High had just begun when my college-bound girlfriends and I collectively declared ourselves “to cool” for the boys in our class.
This attitude led us to nearby Boston College, where on Saturday nights we would wander the dorms in search of on-going hall parties. (Harmless fun then, but I would strongly warn any school girls against doing this today.)
It was on one of those excursions I met Chuck from Ohio. Chuck was a musically hip freshman who invited me on a future date to see what he could only describe as a “new band from England.”
Little did I know I had accepted an offer to witness what I still consider to be the most profound concert experience of my entire life — David Bowie’s performance of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
The colors, lights, costumes, make-up and hair, combined with the most captivating music I had ever heard, from the wildest, most spell-binding performer I had ever seen, transported me from my seat in that small theater to an interplanetary excursion.
Over at PJ Media, Michael Walsh has this piece about Paul Ryan’s familiarity with the pro-freedom writings of Ayn Rand. But the unanswered questions is does Paul Ryan also like… Rush?
About my age (42ish): Check (Subdivisions!).
Reads Ayn Rand: Check.
Grew up within range of WMET-FM in Chicago in 1980s: Check
Libertarian tendencies: Check
And the most important thing, male: Check
Paul Ryan is 5 for 5 on the Rush probability index. Maybe his campaign can start playing some Rush now that the leftist bands he likes told him to stop playing them, like Rage Against the Machine.
Ed Driscoll and I had fun last week with my brainwave about the preposterously-named Adam Smith’s freakish drive-by harassment of a (preternaturally Zen) Chick-Fil-A employee.
I was struck by the incident’s similarity to the famous “diner” scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970), right down to the “chicken”:
Ed quoted a film critic who held up that scene “as the point where American movies began to celebrate gratuitous anger.”
Anyone who’s watched other drivers careen out of the parking lot after the latest Fast & Furious movie has to admit that films affect our behavior; that cinematic ideas and attitudes trickle into the cultural water table, and sometimes pollute it.
To take one trivial instance: I’ve written before about the influence all those 1970s “Satanic children” flicks had on my decision not to have kids.
Three other movie tropes from that era impacted audiences in ways that continue today.
(Language and content warning:)
Many commentators have suggested that the passing of Gore Vidal at age eighty-six on July 31 marks the end of a remarkable generation of postwar American novelists the likes of whom we shall never see again.
When people speak of that generation of novelists, they are usually referring to exactly three people: Norman Mailer (born in 1923), Truman Capote (1924), and Vidal (1925). All three made splashy literary debuts in the years shortly after the war. All three were not just writers but celebrities. Their arrival on the national scene was followed shortly by the advent of television and the TV talk show, on which all three excelled in their different ways at making an indelible impression.
Vidal was the pompous, formidable intellect and wit, serving up well-turned putdowns of those he considered his inferiors – which included pretty much everyone – in an authoritative upper-crust dialect. Capote was the flamboyant quipster and gossip with the pronounced Southern accent, more explicit on national TV about his sexual orientation than any other gay man in America would dare for another generation. And Mailer, in contradistinction to these two gay men, was the embodiment of post-Hemingway machismo – a Brooklyn Jewish kid by way of Harvard with a chip on his shoulder and a determination to prove that he, and no other, was the natural heir to Papa Hemingway.
Back then, big authors were big TV. These three loved doing the talk shows – and the talk-show hosts loved having them on. Both Vidal and Capote were regulars on Carson (Carson actually invited Vidal to be a guest host, and Capote died at the home of one of Carson’s ex-wives, who’d become a close chum); Vidal and Mailer appeared together on a legendary episode of The Dick Cavett Show (whose wife and Vidal became good friends) on which they all but got into a fistfight on the air.
Nowadays they’d all be lucky to get on C-SPAN.
Since jazz is my least favorite music genre and “cocktails” never touch my lips, the high command at PJ Lifestyle approved my suggestion of a “companion piece” to Stephen Green’s engaging series Jazz and Cocktails. Introducing: Forgotten Classic Rock and Cheap Wine.
So regardless of whether you were born in the age of BB (Before Beatles) or AB (After Beatles) if your music and adult beverage tastes lean more towards classic rock and wine than jazz and cocktails, this post is for you.
Before we begin, a few personal milestones must be shared in order for readers to understand the foundation upon which my life-long love of classic rock was built.
1955 – Born in Boston, MA and raised in the suburb of Needham, MA.
1964 – Watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.
1970 – Attended my first rock concert, Jimi Hendrix in Boston Garden.
(The concert was in June and Hendrix died in September.)
Now that I’ve revealed my early developmental reference points, it’s up to you to decide whether I am “rock worthy” enough to write this new series.
As for wine knowledge, my early high school years were spent ingesting excessive amounts of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine and to this day even the thought of sweet wine makes me choke. Later in high school, my friends and I progressed to what were then the cheap, popular wines of the early 70’s, Blue Nun and Mateus. (If you are my age you remember how the uniquely shaped Mateus bottles were then used for burning candles with the wax dripping down the sides and proudly displayed as coffee table centerpieces.)
Fortunately, like fine wine my grape tastes have matured with age. However, my musical preferences are still stuck in what is now commonly referred to as the “golden age of classic rock” which makes me feel very old because it was the sound track of my youth.
So without further ado let us begin.
Last month Dr. Helen blogged about the development of sex-robots.
Now Susannah Breslin — the most talented journalist writing about pornography today — has a fascinating report on an industry in transformation.
Fixx is the market research manager for the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, an online adult company that bills itself on its website as “THE #1 ADULT VIDEO ON DEMAND THEATER IN THE WORLD!” Among other properties, AEBN owns PornoTube, an X-rated YouTube, and xPeeps, an adult webcam site that encourages users to “xpose yourself.” It also produces the product Fixx is hawking.
I stick my finger into the rubbery, flesh-colored slit on the side of a plastic grey peanut the size of a very large loaf of bread. This is RealTouch, an “award-winning male masturbator” designed by a former NASA engineer that syncs with adult movies to simulate sex for the male with which it is interacting through your computer’s USB port. The device retails for $325, and the package includes 120 RealTouch VOD minutes, anti-bacterial cleaner, and a 90-day limited warranty.
More recently, the company has begun marketing the RealTouch JoyStick, the lingam to the RealTouch’s yoni, which is to say it looks like a dildo. Available only to adult webcam models at this time, the joystick serves as a remote control for the RealTouch device, enabling users in remote locations to have “True Internet Sex™!”
Per Fixx’s instruction, Savannah Steele, a busty blonde porn star in a lab coat, moves the joystick, and the mechanism tightens around my finger and increases speed.
“It feels like having sex with a robot,” I announce. I extract my finger and wipe it off with a wet wipe from the box on the table.
Earlier this year I reviewed Doug Rushkoff’s graphic novel A.D.D Adolescent Demo Division. The sci-fi vision of a near-future with hyper media-savvy youth. He predicted this development and also the response many Millennials will have:
Don’t let this post lead you to believe I care about Kristen Stewart. When I told a friend that my editor had asked me to write about Kristen Stewart, that otherwise well-spoken girl’s response was:
“what are you going to write about Kristen Stewart?! That she’s a dumb ho who inexplicably cheated on EDWARD CULLEN and is one of the biggest paparazzi magnets ever — how did she think she wouldn’t get caught in public with a MARRIED MAN? HO. And, she aint even that pretty. BURN.”
I do care what people think of Kristen Stewart. Because it’s funny as hell. And my absolutely scientific survey of the girls gathered at my friend’s house to watch the Olympics last night proves, beyond any possibility of a doubt, that even the most pop-culturally unplugged female has an opinion on Kristen Stewart’s infidelity. My boyfriend adds, “Even I heard about that. Don’t you go quotin’ me.”
And then there’s my fellow PJM blogger Leslie Loftis, who writes about Stewart’s infidelity as a sign of the times – yet another young woman persuaded by others that she shouldn’t settle down too young, even if she’s met the “perfect guy.”
I won’t pretend to know anything about Kristen or her relationship with these two men – I don’t know what life was like in private moments between her and Robert Pattinson, and whether he was the perfect guy he seemed in public; whether Kristen was feeling vulnerable when she cheated, or if she just recklessly did something selfish as so many people our age do. Who knows if he wanted her more than she wanted him and she didn’t know how to extricate herself without hurting him so she waited too long and then did something dumb; after all, it’s not an unusual story for people their age — they just happen to be celebrities so we pay attention.
As stated already, I don’t care. But other people’s opinions on the scandal fascinate me. Because that’s the sign of the times cultural commentators are seeking in the tea leaves of celebrites’ lives. So what’s there to find?
Today the Hollywood-gossip and 20-something-fan-girl sets are reeling over revelations that Kristen Stewart cheated on longtime boyfriend Robert Pattinson with the married director of her latest movie Snow White and the Huntsman. There are many snarky comments about how Stewart was so bold as to cheat on one of the most sought-after hunks in Hollywood. The fans and gossips are combing through old interviews and appearances looking for explanations. The whys won’t be found in such details — they’re in our society, in what we teach young women and men about love and commitment.
These days, we tell teens that their 20s are for living their life, doing their own thing, experimenting, experiencing. So if a girl meets Mr. Wonderful in her early 20s, when things turn to serious talks about marriage and children, she freaks out. Her friends, her sisters, sometimes her mother — they have told her it is too soon. If she goes so far as to get engaged, we women stage interventions. Granted, sometimes marriage is too soon. Other times the couple isn’t a good match. But we don’t typically weigh the relationships with a little discounting of the judgment of a younger woman. We take her youth as the decisive factor.
In so doing, we create the very immaturity we use as evidence of their immaturity.
CBS news has begun releasing names and information about the victims.
For Alex Matthew Sullivan, it was to be a weekend of fun: He planned to ring in his 27th birthday with friends at a special midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Another reason to celebrate: Sunday would have been his first wedding anniversary.
“He was a very, very good young man,” said Sullivan’s uncle, Joe Loewenguth.
“He always had a smile, always made you laugh. He had a little bit of comic in him. Witty, smart. He was loving, had a big heart.”
In a statement Alex’s family said it had lost “a cherished member.”
“Alex was smart, funny, and above all loved dearly by his friends and family.”
And here’s a man who sacrificed himself to save his girlfriend’s life:
Matt McQuinn was with his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, and her brother Nick at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” when a gunman burst into the theater, released canisters of pepper spray and opened fire.
CBS Affiliate WHIO reports that, according to Samantha’s grandmother, McQuinn and Nick Yowler tried to shield the young woman with their bodies.
She suffered a bullet wound to the leg; Nick escaped physically unharmed.
But McQuinn, 27, died.
He and Yowler had met in Ohio and moved last year to Denver, where they worked at a Target store.
“They’re really fun people,” said co-worker Melissa Downen.
I fear this story will only grow more disturbing and depressing as it progresses. As I write these words, Fox News is reporting live from James Holmes’s apartment. Police disarmed the booby traps but still worry that one of Holmes’s amateur explosives could go off by accident. This tragedy’s body count could still grow exponentially. (Fox just reported now that seven victims remain in critical condition.)
Recently, Kathy Shaidle posted about whether women talk too much and kill relationships. She concluded that it isn’t that women talk too much or are too smart, but that they are often too critical. True enough, but that isn’t what caught my attention.
- You’re a Bitch: How defensiveness and anger can hide behind a tough, take-charge exterior, and why being nice is never a sign of weakness.
- You’re a Liar: How to stop lying to men—and get honest with yourself—about the kind of relationship you really want. It’s the only way.
- You’re Shallow: Being a woman who insists on a tall guy is no different from being a man who demands big boobs. Learn why you should let go of trying to get what you think you should have and focus on getting what you need.
- You’re Selfish: The big secret about marriage: It’s about giving something, not getting it. The other big secret: You will have to go first.
Shaidle compares McMillian’s book to other advice books of the past, one of which I devoured in my 20‘s, Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress. I am struck by the differences in the advice. The old advice focused on how to be a good woman. The new advice, however, focuses on how not to be a bad person.
The really short summary of Advice to a Young Wife: have a life and don’t nag. More eloquently, Advice to a Young Wife maintains, “One is born female, but being a woman is a personal accomplishment.”
Remember a few months ago when Hilary Rosen stoked the Mommy Wars by insulting Ann Romney and stay at home moms as too uninformed to have an opinion on anything outside the home? Well, the UK’s Mummy Wars flared up this week when Cherie Blair, Queen’s Council and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair made some disparaging comments about stay-at-home-mums.
One of the things that worries me now is you see young women who say: “I look at the sacrifices that women have made and I think why do I need to bother, why can’t I just marry a rich husband and retire?” and you think how can they even imagine that is the way to fulfil yourself, how dangerous it is.
Ah, yes, that is what we stay-at-home moms have done, married a rich man and retired. What exactly do some working women think that we SAHM’s do all day? And how do SAHMs handle the inevitable “what do you do?” and “isn’t it boring?” questions that we field from working women, with or without children?
Beyond the Mommy/Mummy Wars, however, I see doubt and regret. Older feminists talk about how we need to be independent for our own good, how we need to fulfill ourselves, but what really seems to irk Blair and other feminists of her generation is that younger women don’t herald “the sacrifices that women [of Cherie's generation] have made.” They want assurance through our endorsement, and they aren’t getting it.
Commentary’s John Podhoretz with an enthusiastic write-up of HBO’s Girls at The Weekly Standard:
HBO’s much-discussed new series Girls is just concluding its first season, and it’s extraordinary. Girls offers the most interesting and original televised portrait of upper-middle-class American angst since thirty-something went off the air in 1991.
Like thirtysomething, it is simultaneously an infuriatingly self-referential thumbsucker and an extraordinarily intelligent dissection of infuriatingly self-referential thumbsucking. But it is, thankfully, far more the latter than the former. And it is one of the most prodigious media stunts since the heyday of the very young Orson Welles, given that it is largely the work of a 26-year-old who created it, wrote most of the episodes, directed a few of them, and stars in it to boot.
Her name is Lena Dunham, and two years ago she did the same triple duty on a do-it-yourself movie called Tiny Furniture that I actively disliked because it was purely a self-referential thumbsuck. Something good happened to Dunham in the interim between the movie and the TV series, because Girls takes the world of Tiny Furniture—post-collegiate types with no marketable skills wandering aimlessly around New York City—and gives it heft and shape and dimension.
It’s often very funny, and given that each episode runs a half-hour, I guess you’d call Girls a sitcom. But it really comes across more like a loosely linked collection of Ann Beattie stories updated from the post-1960s anomie of Beattie’s characters to the media-soaked seen-it-all world-weariness of Generation Zynga.
Read the whole thing. And let’s consider this post the conclusion of the Girls vs Women and Boys vs Men discourse for now. (Though don’t be surprised if more articles on the subject of growing up show up at PJ Lifestyle. It’s one of Kathy Shaidle’s specialties.)
Seeing the promotions for Girls, two impressions emerged:
1. Looks like they nailed the Millennial “post-collegiate types with no marketable skills wandering aimlessly.”
2. Therefore, I have no interest in watching it right now.
Just the previews alone reminded me of myself and too many people I’ve known over the last decade who were in the same limbo zone in life: just emerging out into the “real world” and wobbling between being a girl and a woman, a boy and a man, struggling to find their path to a happy, satisfying life of meaning, worth, and dignity.
With only so many entertainment hours in the day, why spend them being reminded of all the people I care about who were making themselves miserable by refusing to grow up?
I bow to no one when it comes to admiring conservative author Mark Steyn.
I’ve traveled miles to hear him speak and even own “Mark Steyn” t-shirts.
However, he and I disagree about arguably his most famous conviction:
That we in the West need to have more children, pronto.
I might joke that the best argument against Steyn’s conclusion is, well, this.
But obviously, I know Steyn’s right.
However, like Al Gore with his private jet, I just don’t plan to do my part to ameliorate this state of affairs.
I never have.
When I was playing with a doll, all of age four, some nice lady bent down and chirped, “I guess you’ll want a real one of those of your own one day…?”
I recoiled in horror. Normally a quiet (nay, catatonic) youngster, I can still hear myself bawling, “NO!!”
I have never entertained a different answer. Not even for a moment — passionate, drunken, hormonal, or otherwise.
Why is that?
(Besides the obvious answer: Because gross!)
Those who think Dennis Prager took a decade to write one book will find themselves mistaken upon picking up Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. The 30-year talk radio veteran and longtime syndicated columnist actually delivers a trilogy of books mapping out the big ideological fights of today with greater clarity than anyone else.
Don’t let the 440 pages intimidate. The three books within Still the Best Hope are:
- 220 pages defining Leftism as a religion, explaining why its adherents embrace their beliefs, the techniques used to manipulate people into joining the political cult, and the price the world paid during the 20th century enduring the movement’s quests to remake the world.
- 70 pages defining Islam and Islamism, the relation between the two, and their moral record.
- And 80 pages — a single chapter — laying out America and Its Unique Values, as symbolized by three terms struck on our coins: “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum.” These pillars of American exceptionalism stand in opposition to the political theologies of Leftism and Islamism which value Equality over Liberty, Idolatry over God, and group rights over universal human rights.
Taken alone, each section stands as a succinct summary, analysis, and polemic. Even those already well-versed in the subject matter will appreciate Prager’s innovative arguments, precise research, respectful manner, and inviting prose voice. It’s a portable distillation of everything that makes The Dennis Prager Show so engaging each day.
Also making the leap from Prager’s radio program is an emphasis on a subject many would rather avoid: the effect political ideas have on the lives and personalities of those who embrace them.
Leftist ideas are not just wrong because they bankrupt governments but because the people who advocate for them suffer in their personal lives. One example Prager provides is how the messages young women hear about sex at college can lead them down paths they’ll later regret.
Warren Kinsella is the Canadian James Carville: that is, an extremely well-compensated, high-profile Liberal Party consultant and insider.
(It’s surely just an unlucky coincidence that since he started working for them, the Liberals went from “Canada’s Natural Governing Party” to placing an impotent third in the last federal election.)
Some of us had another great laugh at Kinsella’s expense recently, after he praised a rival party’s “innovative” campaign commercial because it starred, and would presumably appeal to, members of “Generation X.”
Except the young people in the ad were just that: young — all in their twenties.
And Generation X hasn’t been in its twenties for twenty years.
I know, because I’m a member of that cohort. As is, hilariously enough, highly paid, powerful and influential Liberal Party consultant Warren Kinsella. (See: “third place,” above.)
See, being a Gen-Xer means my irony detection meter is always switched to “ultra sensitive.” And Kinsella’s gormless mistake almost broke the damn thing.
You’d think that being Canadians of a certain age, he and I would be on the same page on this matter, if nothing else.
After all, the term “Generation X” was popularized by our contemporary Douglas Coupland’s titular 1991 novel. (And Coupland swiped his title from the name of Billy Idol’s old pop-punk band; my fellow ex-punk Kinsella should know that, too.)
There are lots of things “great minds” got wrong about Generation X since they started writing and worrying about them. (I mean, us.)
After Coupland’s novel — about over-educated, underemployed pop culture addicts who’ve formed an ad hoc “family” of friends – swept the planet, countless “consultants” (including, briefly, Coupland himself) started marketing themselves as experts on my demographic.
These consultants made a whole lot of money, keynote-speaking to job-for-life CEOs about why we Gen-Xer’s were all so broke and unemployed.
And the most irritating (and yeah, ironic) thing is, none of these “experts” (“X-perts”?) even agree on when we were born.
“Be Prepared To Spend a Few Years Working Boring Jobs You Think You’re Overqualified For That You Hate So You Can Pay The Bills. Just Take Whatever You Can Get So You Can Survive and Not Live in Mom and Dad’s Basement. Do Not Expect Your ‘Dream Job’ To Be Waiting for You When You Graduate. It Can (And Really It Should) Take Years Before You Break Into Your Field And Shift From Working Jobs to Living Your Career.”
Over the past few years, this has generally been the time when the younger, college-age writers finish up their BA or Master’s, prepare to venture off into the “real world,” and ask if I have any suggestions for them. (I was in their shoes six years ago.) The advice above summarizing my own post-college misadventures usually isn’t met with much enthusiasm.
And since 2008′s economic downturn, this injunction to “Just Take Whatever You Can Get” fell on deaf ears when passed on to some of my job-hunting friends. As long as they had an unemployment check flowing in or free rent from Mom and Dad, then what’s the rush to take a job that’s beneath you? Shouldn’t they hold out for something great? “I’ve got a college degree. Why should I work a job that I could’ve gotten just out of high school? I deserve better! I’ve worked for it!” But eventually the unemployment checks would run out.
Then it was time to cash the Reality Check, to go down to the temp office and take whatever job they’ll give you.
That’s the setting for the first act of Reality Check, a new musical comedy from father-and-son writing team David and Ben Shapiro that debuted with two performances last week in Los Angeles.
Reality Check takes the common young adult archetypes of The Breakfast Club and Friends and reinvents them for 2012. Five friends from high school rediscover each other at the temp office and find that after 10 years they’re still all clinging to the immature identities they embraced as teenagers:
- Sarah Brandon plays Lindsay, the workaholic overachiever who’s never able to focus her energy into real success and happiness. (Courtney Cox on Friends)
- Justin Buller plays Edward, the sex-obsessed jock, ladies man, and tough guy. (Matt LeBlanc in Friends and a blend of Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.)
- Samantha Rose Cardenas plays Brittany, the cheerleader and princess (Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club.)
- Alex Robert Holes plays Alex, the “sensitive,” high-minded writer-artist eager to write the Great American Novel, always scribbling down notes (David Schwimmer in Friends meets Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club with sprinkles of Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe Buffay and Ally Sheedy-style “ooh! look at me!” pseudo-creative weirdness.)
- Haqumai Waring Sharpe plays Jimmy, the class clown joking through life. (Matthew Perry on Friends.)
The whole cast shines, with each performer embodying the high school stereotypes we know so well. The personalities are so universal that every audience member should see himself in at least one of the characters on the screen. I sympathized with the pretentious writer Alex who was dressed in the standard tortured artist uniform — all black, always carrying around a book, and facial hair that just doesn’t work. That was me senior year of high school. Even down to playing the Schwimmer role chasing Princesses who in turn pursue misogynistic men and then come running back to us for emotional support only to play with our hearts, never committing to a relationship. Reality Check hits this universal dynamic in the love triangle between Alex, Brittany, and Edward — a story told many times in real life and fiction and well done here.
But stealing every scene he’s in is Peter Pergelides as “The Man,” who runs the temp office and implores the adult-children to grow up with a song that’s still stuck in my head: “Let Go The Banana.” Here are some of the lyrics which set the tone of the whole production — fun, upbeat, clever, but still sincere:
In the jungles of Africa / This is how they catch a monkey
It’s a method that they’ve used for years / And it’s now become a habit
Take a jar with an opening / Slightly larger than a monkey’s hand
Put a banana inside the jar / And the monkey will soon grab it
He can’t see the reason / He can’t take his fist out
Now the hunters grab him / All because the monkey won’t
Let Go the Banana
He won’t let go the banana / You’ve got to know
For you to grow / You let go the banana
What are the bananas Reality Check targets? Several that should resonate not just with we Millennials now creeping up on 30, but also those in older generations, some of whom still struggle with letting go of the illusions trapping them in repeating cycles of self-destruction. The challenge of growing up and maturing into happy, responsible adults is a process that’s as necessary and ongoing at 53 and 76 as it is at 28.
A review copy of Dennis Prager’s new book Still the Best Hope:Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph arrived yesterday.
I read the first 30 pages this morning and can’t wait to dig in further and start pulling out gems to share here at PJ Lifestyle.
After 3 weeks of blogging through the swamp of Derrick Bell’s Afrolantica Legacies maybe now’s the time to cool off in Prager’s cave of intellectual wonders?
I’m not sure yet which angle to take in discussing Prager’s book but his opening helped clarify how his radio show became my favorite: in his love for life Dennis reminds me of all the great Baby Boomer Dads I knew growing up.
Prager regularly laments his generation’s failures and excesses. (And I join him in doing so.) But something for which the Boomers don’t get the credit they deserve: they passed along their love of life to their Millennial children. Criticize them for raising a coddled “trophy generation” if you must but as Prager’s previous book reminds, happiness is a moral obligation. And having heard the tales of Gen-X peers raised a decade prior by absent Silent Generation parents in the ’70s, who could complain about parents who valued their children’s happiness and taught them to pursue joy?
Note to self: call Dad tonight.