June 21st, 2005

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Generation Why(ne)

Born at the end of 1981 I am a card-carrying* member in the vanguard of Generation Y. We are the generation of the '80s and early '90s, creatively named as "The generation that followed those AWESOME Xers" and echoing the baby boomers both in size and demographics. We will be the generation responsible for growing the economy in the years to come and raising the next demographic bulge of children. It is too bad, then, that we suck so much.

Don't get me wrong, not every member of generation Y sucks, take me for example, but on the whole we are the sorriest bunch of losers you would ever want to meet. As a follow up to generation X we are a colossus of a dud, astride the world in mediocrity. And it's not like generation X was any great shakes either. They didn't exactly sail on over to France and liberate Europe from the Nazis. Generation X is really known for two main products, the yuppie and the slacker. The yuppie isn't really worth discussing, just another iteration of the bullshit American success story, only focused on stocks and commodities rather than manufacturing or salesmanship. The slacker on the other hand, well he had something going. The Gen X slacker wasn't just slacking for slacking sake. He was making a statement. A statement about society and his place in it. The slacker rejected the trappings of Calvinist success that we're supposed to go gaga over in the United States and chose instead to view success in terms of the number of bowls smoked and incidents of fellatio received, rather than stacks of green paper in a bank vault. In many ways he was the descendant of the hippie, but the slacker saw that most hippies ended up having to conform to society in the end to get things like health care and a home not made by Volkswagon, so he decided why bother doing all the work of setting up communes and coming up with traumatizing names for my children when I can sit here, smoke this bowl, and hope some chick comes by desperate enough for pot to blow me.

Was the slacker admirable? Perhaps not. He could have engaged with society more constructively, and his loathing for the yuppie should have been tempered by the knowledge that he'd eventually have to become one when working at a convenience store got old and the desirable women of his generation reached the age where they wanted to start fucking men of means. The slacker was, however, at least aware of his surroundings, and there is a substantial bequest of slacker art out there to prove this point. The slacker ended up creating things like the new Indie film scene, grunge music, and the comedy of Michael Ian Black. If any slackers out there want to take that last one back, by the way, the world would not object.

My generation doesn't have slackers. At least not in the sense that gen X did. Oh we have our share of youth infected with ennui, but it is not ennui born of frustration with the unsatisfactory state of the world, it is ennui born of...boredom. When people of my generation claim to be bored it is, they think, because they lack sufficient toys and diversions to entertain them. That's not it, of course; with the proper world view you could spend twenty years alone in a cave and suffer boredom only on rare occasions. But they think that's it. The rebels of my generation seem to either follow the paths laid out by generations before us or just abandon hope and sink into hedonistic burnout.

That's those who don't start out at hedonism and descend from there. My generation is well-stocked with yuppies and conservatives. These are not people who want success in the world so they can change it, they want success so they can have the things advertised on TV and screw around with attractive celebrities. Their value system starts at power and ends at influence. Anything else just gets in the way. A product of cable television and the hip advertisements of the Gen X yuppies they are an abomination and they scare me. I've met people who frankly and flatly told me that they don't care about pollution because they think they'll be rich enough to buy air filtration systems. Or that starving children deserve to starve because their parents didn't make enough money. I don't want to go all Chicken Little and claim that there's a widespread epidemic of sociopathology, but only because most aren't as dedicated as the deeply converted. We live in an age of absolute spin and Hollywood excess, and many choose not to look any deeper than that for meaning in their lives.

The art of my generation has been a failure as well. When I was growing up and Gen-Xers would play their anthems too loud on car or other stereos I honestly believed they were just shallow imitations of the Beatles and folk music my parents claimed constituted "Good pop." Now that I'm as old as the Xers were I see that there was a conflict going on between the impulses of submission to authority and war against it. In the crowd I encountered the mainstays were the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, two creative boundary pushing groups with political impulses and rebellious attitudes. The Midwest had Tiffany and a bunch of other incredibly crappy pop bands who have now been reduced to hilarious novelties. The West Coast had the genesis of gangster rap, and then the popularization of the metal movement that lead to a recreation of rock. Later grunge and alternative.

What do we have? American Idol, Britney Spears, and corporate gangster rap. Are there creative artists out there around my age? Sure. Are they taking the world by storm? Not really. Norah Jones may sell a lot of albums but nobody seems to care. Rap has been eaten alive by the record labels and what's left is not urban angst that captivates suburban white boys but rather suburban white boy music cast as urban angst.

Where are the actors? Where's our Sean Penn, our Viggo Mortensen, our Phoenix brothers? Let's not even talk about directors. True some may still be waiting in the wings to emerge. I hope to be one of those people, but what has emerged so far is simply frightening. Paris Hilton, a woman so devoid of talent that everyone knows to attend to her is to root in a trough of refuse and garbage like the greediest of pigs, and to emerge with a literal shit-eating grin on your face. Lindsay Lohan, well on the way to being destroyed by the frenzy surrounding her. Ashton Kutcher, as an actor he makes a pretty good underwear model.

It's a sad state of affairs when these are the best the youth have to offer.

I don't want to be ludicrously overblown or needlessly nostalgic. I both acknowledge that there's always been shitty pop culture and that Generation Y has millions of conscientious intelligent young people who want to do good in the world. On the other hand when successive generations are lazier, less educated, shallower, and more materialistic than one another the country and the world face a significant problem. Most people from generation Y believe that they will eventually be in the top 10% of earners. Bruce Bartlett calls that progress. I call that dangerous delusion. Sex drugs and rock and roll are not just part of being young they're what life is about. Shallowness is celebrated and depth is seen as an illusion. Conservatism, that bastion of anti-intellectual reactionary garbage, draws more converts every day, a religion offering false hope to those who no longer trust progress.

Generation why has been raised without boundaries, nurtured to the point of spoiling, and is now loosed upon the world starting to climb the rungs of the various employment ladders set forth before it. Will it learn to straighten up and fly right as it ages and gains perspective? Will enough original intelligent voices emerge to jar it from its shallow simplicity? Will it be the one that gets to see the collapse of the American empire and try to pick up the pieces?

I don't know. I don't know, but right now, this morning, I am not optimistic.




*there is no card.
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The Descent of Stan

The Ghost of Charles Darwin appeared this morning outside the offices of Klinghofer publishing, giving quite a fright to a scion of the family named Peter Klinghofer. "Oh I always knew something like this would happen" said Klinghofer "I never trusted Charles Darwin and his finches. What man in his right mind is going around looking at the bills of finches on tropical islands? There was always something fishy about that."

Darwin, for his part, surprised many by announcing that while he still maintained confidence in his animal and plant work his claims of humans having evolved from apes was, in his words, "Quite the load of bullshit." Darwin's Ghost explained. "Look, it's obvious that humans are individual designed by god down to the last mole or third nipple, and set forth on this earth with Divine purpose. Everyone knows that. No, I actually had a different book in mind, the Descent of Stan. Stan Melvin Reynolds of Quinton lane in Bristol actually. I always thought he was a bit monkey like, and when we were in school together he used to taunt me about my dog. 'How's it going with the Beagle, Charlie? Where's your Beagle?' That sort of thing. So I decided to write a book about him called The Descent of Stan and how he came from monkeyfolk. But then my publisher wanted it sexied up so we ended up writing about the whole human race. Sorry about the confusion." When asked whether Stan was actually descended from apes, Darwin's Ghost confirmed that his suspicions were correct. "Oh yes, he had monkey blood in him there's no doubt. He was hairier than Robin Williams." This information quickly leaked to the schoolmates of Reynolds last living relative, a Timothy Wheeler of Bloomfield Illinois (his mother was killed in a fruit stand robbery gone bad) whose playmates immediately began to taunt him with cries of "Monkey Boy, Monkey Boy!" and "You're a monkey, monkey boy." Darwin's Ghost apologized for this, but added "Well he is." He added that there may be more monkeyfolk out there, but probably not. "It's likely just Timothy. He's probably the only one in the world descended from a monkey."

Darwin's Ghost was next interviewed by a religious author excited to know what hell was like. "Oh, I wouldn't know. I'm in heaven." he said. "Turns out God isn't nearly as picky as these wankers make him out to be. Everyone's up there, from Martin Luther to Pol Pot and Hitler. It's actually not all that big and you bump into the oddest folks all the time. Yeah heaven's got a real open door policy. The only real rule is that you must be dead, and no queers. It's not that Jesus hates queers it's just that up there the showers don't have dividers installed and as I believe Sir Francis Bacon put it 'you don't want to be soaping up and worrying about whether the guy next to you is peeking at your bum.' Queers go straight to hell. It's ironic really, because they could come to heaven if we had individual stalls, but of course there are no interior designers up there. Sort of a catch 22."

When asked why, then, God had made homosexuals Darwin shrugged. "I don't spend a lot of time with him, he's got fierce halitosis, but from what I understand the whole earth building project was quite a strain on the big guy. He was under a deadline and he had to paint all the spots on the leopards by hand and such, so, long story short, he did a lot of meth. Six days, no sleep, and enough drugs to kill a lesser deity, of which none exist, of course. Anyway by the time he got around to humans he was really baked and thought it would be funny if some of them were a bit...odd. That's also why the bible is so fucking incoherent, he was dictating it from rehab. At the time he thought of gays as sort of a garnish for the human race. A lot like parsley actually."

When asked if Darwin regretted his life now he looked nostalgic. "I regret I didn't do more porking. There's no sex in heaven. It's just like a giant champagne room. Also I guess I should apologize to creationists. They were right, I was wrong, at least about humans. That whole bit about God planting dinosaur bones and fossils was daft, I mean who does that? But no, humans are individually made by the creator. He's especially proud of Catherine Zeta Jones. So...anyway...sorry for the cock up." Darwin then vanished in a pillar of white light and a puff of smoke that witnesses described as smelling suspiciously like marijuana, not that they'd know anything about that.
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The Cereal Wars get Ugly

Dateline June 21 2005 - New York City, New York

At approximately 3:15 this morning the police in Lower Manhattan received a phone call noting that shots had been fired outside the Avalon club. There was apparently one victim. At 3:19 a squad car arrived to find famous cereal mascot Tony "The Tiger" Monserelli lying on the sidewalk with several gunshot wounds to his abdomen. The responding officers called for an ambulance and attempted CPR, but Monserelli was unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at 3:25.

This latest killing is the third suspected homicide involving a cereal mascot in the last 5 weeks. The first was the death of Joshua "Frankenberry" Schwartz in an apparent mugging gone bad in Greenwich Village, followed by a suspicious drug overdose of Leonard "Count Chocula" Wilson at his home in Los Angeles. Mr. Monserelli's death was certainly the most public of the three and comes as a shock to the entire cereal mascot community.

"I can't believe he's really gone." Said Arthur "Trix Bunny" Green. "Tony was...I don't even know how to put this into words...Tony was..well...he was grrrrreeeat." Mr. Green's thoughts are echoed throughout the mascot community, with many talking about how Mr. Monserelli had helped them get established in their careers and given pointers about how to do the job both effectively and professionally.

"Without Tony I don't know where I'd be. Probably in prison for selling crack to children." Says Golden Crisp mascot Stewart "Golden Crisp Mascot" Miller. "Thanks to Tony I was able to avoid the life that so many of my brothers and sisters were sucked into and become a professional. I was the first bear in my family to graduate from college, and Tony really showed me the ropes."

Tony's longtime live-in boyfriend the Corn Flakes rooster was not at the club but issued a statement through a spokesman. "The Corn Flakes Rooster is devastated by the loss of his lover Tony Monserelli. He is asking for anyone with information on the brutal slaying of Tony the Tiger to come forward and speak to police. He is offering a reward of a lifetime supply of Corn or Frosted Flakes to anyone who has information that leads to an indictment."

Witnesses have given conflicting accounts of the incident. Most agree that a Lincoln town car sped around the corner as Monserelli left the club and that shots were fired from the car into the crowd where he was. Nobody else was hit but Monserelli collapsed on the ground and growled something like "Well this is just grrreeeaaaattt." Before losing consciousness. The driver of the car was identified as a Leprechaun while the shooters were described as a brown bird and a honey bee. A witness who refused to be identified claimed that she recognized them as The General Mills Gang. "There is no doubt in my mind that General Mills set this up. Follow the money, the cereal money. I don't want to talk anymore, that bird, she's coo coo."

General Mills is the enigmatic ex-military man who heads up the General Mills cereal company. He employs several mascots with shady reputations to hawk his cereal, in competition with the products supported by the three dead mascots. None of the other mascots would talk to us on the record about Mills, but it is clear that all fear him. Mills earned his military stripes during the Vietnam war where he headed up Mills Marauders, whose motto was "Stays Crunchy in Milk." It is not clear if he was ever officially promoted to general, and in fact the Pentagon claims that all records related to his activities are classified.

Whether General Mills is behind these deaths or not one thing is clear, it's not a good time to be a cereal mascot. Several current mascots are considering retiring or moving to Europe, including the Waffle Crisp Kid and even Fred Flintstone, who eeks out a living selling fruity and cocoa pebbles. "Will leaving this gig hurt? Yes." Says Flintstone. "But I have a family to think of. Pebbles is a single mother and she needs our help with the kids. If something were to happen to me...well...it's just not worth the danger."

The police say they will continue to pursue all leads in the Monserelli case, and there is discussion of re-opening the other deaths. Says spokesman Brian Doughgut "We'll look into things, we're not going to allow these crimes to go unpunished and if there's a link we'll find it. I don't want people to panic though. As far as we know at this point these are not serial killings."
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