Tag Archives: #WPLongform

A Brief History of the Boomer Generation

(Note: This essay was written in 2009 as a WordPress “page.” It’s become buried and hard to find, so I thought it time to republish it properly as a “post,” complete with categories and tags.)

MY PARENTS were born in 1920, which seems now to be in a different historical era. They were children in the Roaring ’20s, teenagers through the Great Depression, young adults at the beginning of World War II.

They are the Greatest Generation. They put off everything to fight the war. Then the boys came home — the ones who survived — and started making up for lost time. They attended college in greater numbers than ever before, under the GI Bill, married and bought brand new ticky-tacky houses with VA loans. And they had children. Did they ever.

The Greatest Generation shared hardship, service, accomplishment, victory. Then they settled down and didn’t look back much. As they had devoted themselves to country in the 1940s, they devoted themselves to work and family in the 1950s and 1960s. They created my generation.

We’re the Baby Boomer generation. We are NOT the greatest, not even close, as Garrison Keeler wryly observed.

THINGS LOST-- AMERICA WENT FROM FAMILY DINNER TO FAST FOOD IN ONE GENERATION.  --John Hayden photo

THINGS LOST– AMERICA WENT FROM FAMILY DINNER TO FAST FOOD IN ONE GENERATION. –John Hayden photo

We have shared history from the 1950s — polio shots and “duck and cover.”  The children of the 50s and 60s grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, with an awareness of unseen nuclear danger in the world, as well as a gradual awakening to inequality in America.

Though others see us as a monolithic cohort, the Boomer generation was divided in the 1960s and early 1970s by different, even opposite experiences. Many of us went to college, and many did not. We went to Vietnam, or we opposed the war (some did both).

The country cracked apart, during the 1960s, along social and economic lines. First the Civil Rights Movement, then the Vietnam War and the Peace Movement. The divide deepened and hardened in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Make love not war. Don’t trust anyone over 30.   Continue reading

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Maryland’s Political Divide Part 2, Gun Control

MD flag 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, you can find it here.

The House of Delegates gun control vote yesterday, 78-61, looks strangely familiar. It’s nearly a carbon copy of the recent gas tax vote, 76-63. What’s up with that?

If you think Maryland is a deep-blue state with an invincible Democratic majority, those two votes seem hard to explain. Democrats hold a majority, 98-43, in the House of Delegates.

But looking closer, it’s clear that Maryland isn’t immune from the blue-red divide afflicting the rest of America. Far from it.  Continue reading

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Maryland’s Political Divide Part 1, Gas Tax

MD flag 2

PART ONE OF A SERIES

The vote on the gasoline tax in the Maryland House of Delegates gives us an interesting snapshot of the political balance in Maryland, a state considered to be among the bluest of the blue. The picture might not exactly match the popular perception.  Continue reading

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America Divided, With Reader Comments

U.S. 2012 ELECTION RESULTS, BLUE STATES  FOR OBAMA, RED STATES FOR ROMNEY. FLORIDA, THE LAST STATE TO BE DECIDED, WENT BLUE. (Map via Wikipedia)

U.S. 2012 ELECTION RESULTS, BLUE STATES FOR OBAMA, RED STATES FOR ROMNEY. FLORIDA, THE LAST STATE TO BE DECIDED, WENT BLUE. (Map via Wikipedia)

“This is the America that Obama will govern in his second term: A place divided not only by ideology, race and class but also by the very perception of reality. . . . The president who spoke ambitiously at his first inauguration about uniting America instead arrives at his second with the country further divided.”Eli Saslow, The Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2013

Note:  This post was published in 2013 following the 2012 presidential election. It seems more relevant than ever as America prepares for the 2016 presidential election.

Divided by ideology, race and class.

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That sums up America in the decade leading up to the Civil War, as described in Team Of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s history of Abraham Lincoln and the politicians, abolitionists, generals, and ordinary people of his era. The similarities between the present time and the decade before the Civil War are striking and frightening. Continue reading

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Uncommonly Good Books By Great American Writers

It’s not exactly writer’s block. But I have chronic difficulty writing about exceptional  books and great American authors.

How long has it been since I promised to finish my review of J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy?”  Is it a novel about small-town life, or hypocrisy, or intolerance, or poverty? Local politics gone crazy, or class warfare? Darned if I know. I’d have to read the whole thing again to sort it all out. (Rowling is British, but her story resounds in American culture.)

As I read the final page of “The Casual Vacancy,” I was struck speechless. Partly it’s a sense of grief that the book is over. Partly it’s awe at the author’s virtuoso performance. What can I say but, “Bravo!”?

ANN PATCHETT

ANN PATCHETT

Among contemporary authors, Ann Patchett amazes me the most. I never wrote a word about Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” What could I say? What kind of story is it, science fiction? Corporate treachery vs. scientific deception? Human hubris? The premise is a discovery so unlikely that you find yourself believing it, combined with an adventure so implausible that it has to be real. Yet it’s all nothing more than a figment — an elaborate figment — of Patchett’s hyperactive imagination! (Patchett and the following authors are all American originals.)

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Kindle Fire — Power Failure In A Fancy Box

UPDATE, NOV. 16, 2012:  Happy to report that I’ve received two emails from Amazon in response to my phone calls. Bottom line:

“In order to resolve this issue please de register and re register your Kindle Fire HD to the same Amazon.com account. In order to De register and Re register please follow the steps:

Swipe your finger down from the top of the Home screen and tap More . . .”

I followed the directions and re-registered my Kindle, which wasn’t hard. Presto, my material was again visible on the carousel. Using the information I’ve learned in the last two days, I made sure everything was downloaded from the “cloud” to the “device.”

I also browsed through the apps store and downloaded several interesting apps. Most of them were free, and I paid 99 cents for one. The Kindle can do a lot of stuff, and I’m slowly learning how.  — John

END UPDATE

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WHAT COMES IN THE BOX?

I titled my first product review (of a digital camera) “Power In A Box.” The first and most important information I want to know when purchasing a new high-tech device is: WHAT COMES IN THE BOX?

Regarding the camera,the answer was: “Everything you need, and it’s a powerful product.”

Regarding the Kindle Fire, the answer is: “Not so much.”

In the photo above, you can see the fancy box for the Kindle Fire HD 7″ and EVERYTHING THAT COMES IN THE BOX. It’s exactly as stated in the small print on the back of the box:

“USB charging cable included. Ask for the Kindle PowerFast accelerated charging accessory for even faster charging times.”

This latest consumer technology is pretty much ready to go, right out of the box. Or so I thought.

I followed the directions on the black card you see in the photo above, which constitutes the entire written documentation and instructions included in the box.

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Maryland Election Ballot Questions: In-State Tuition, Redistricting, Same-Sex Civil Marriage, Gambling Expansion

See that line? That’s the first-day of early voting at Berlin in Worcester County, Maryland.

You can expect long lines at Maryland polling places for the Presidential Election on Tuesday. The reason: Ballot questions that voters know are important, so they take the time to read all the questions in the voting booth and make their decisions. The solution: Get familiar with the ballot questions before you go to vote. Do this on Sunday or Monday. Make your decisions and mark them on your sample ballot or just jot them down on a scrap of paper. Or print out this post and take it with you. Walk into the polling booth, vote, and you’re out in three minutes. But you’ll still have to stand in line, because most people won’t take a few minutes to prepare themselves in advance.

The following comments on four of the ballot questions represent the opinions of the blogger.

QUICK GUIDE TO THE FOUR MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS ON THE MARYLAND BALLOT

QUESTION 4, REFERENDUM: HIGHER EDUCATION, TUITION RATES.

Quick recommendation: QUESTION 4: VOTE FOR THE QUESTION.

Question 4 is the in-state tuition referendum, AKA the Dream Act referendum. Authorizes in-state and in-county tuition rates for all true residents of Maryland, including undocumented immigrants. It’s been passed by both houses of the General Assembly after considerable debate, and signed into law by the governor.

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J.K. Rowling’s “Casual Vacancy,” Book Review, Take 1

“The Casual Vacancy”  is instantly notorious because it’s J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It comes with a prominent black “X” on the cover, fair warning that between these covers you’ll find a subject that’s TABOO in America.

The subject is class warfare and classism. Ms. Rowling’s story takes place in England, and you have to remember that the British and Europeans are not as squeamish about class issues as we Americans. Until recently, we’ve been in full denial.

(If you’d like to read my preview of Casual Vacancy before you start the review, see J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy — Prices Slashed.)

Ms. Rowling takes the micro approach to class warfare, focusing on the lives, relationships, and foibles of the individual men, women and children of one small town in England. The macro alternative would be a “God’s-eye view,” examining society from a distance. Rowling understands that you need to get up close and personal to understand classism and class warfare.

In the first 100 pages of Casual Vacancy, Rowling introduces an average of one new character every two pages.

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Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake in “Trouble With The Curve”

You want romance and character development? See Bull Durham.  Justin Timberlake and Amy Adams in Trouble With The Curve aren’t in the same league with Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham.

Trouble With The Curve is all Clint Eastwood. The romance is fluff. Baseball is only the setting. Trouble With The Curve is about life and loss, failure and decline, maybe even aging gracefully. Not that I’m calling Clint Eastwood graceful.

Trouble With The Curve begins as a baseball movie that only a grumpy old man could love. But it fools you like a curveball in the dirt, and turns into, of all things, a chick flick. It might be the best baseball/romance combination since Bull Durham. Both movies are about life-changing events, about going with the curveballs life throws at you.

How do you get away with casting Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake in the same film? You add Amy Adams as daughter of the old man and love interest of the young one.

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