‘The Sound of Music Live’ -- this is our fault
Well, ‘The Sound of Music Live’ attracted a full 18.5 million viewers, the overwhelming majority of whom were tweeting about how UNBEARABLY LOUSY it was.
Of course we were.
We used to have live sporting events. Now we have live unsporting events. It’s a ritual. Drink in one hand, second screen in the other, everyone gathered around the television for the Ritual Skewering of the Underwood. It’s the Hunger Games, but instead of forcing Jennifer Lawrence to run around shooting a bow and shielding Peeta, a fragile soul who tended to resemble a limp bread, we force Carrie Underwood to run around singing and showcasing her acting ability, a fragile thing that tends to resemble a limp bread.
Carrie Underwood emerged intact from the first challenge, Singing, Then Speaking, Then Making A Face (Any Face! Doesn’t Necessarily Have To Be Related To The Words You Just Said or Sang!) but was flagging by the time she reached the higher levels of challenge, which ranged from Don’t Do Something Terrifying To Your Hair and Now Appear To Be Attracted To, Not Alarmed By, Stephen Moyer.
I sent a parachute to her with some hair cream and a tool for getting water from trees, but the items were slowing her down so she quickly discarded them during a break while the Baroness and Max sang Song Three Of Three About The Anschluss That Was Cut From The Movie Version And You Could See Why, Even Though It Was Delightful.
“Are you seeing this?” everyone says.
Yes, we are. All 18.5 million of us, and that’s before the DVR numbers roll in.
That’s what all this is for -- Twitter, social media, all of it. To be able to turn to someone (maybe across a continent or maybe just in the seat next to you) and say, “Are you seeing this?” We still need a text as basis for our commentary, though -- something that turns all our heads the same way, however briefly. Barely. The article is just that thing that someone has to write so you can stick a comment at the bottom. It hardly matters what it says. What you say about it is what counts.
Every so often we require a naked emperor to go parading through our midst so we can all point at him and say, “Those aren’t new clothes at all!” in a variety of ways to our variety of audiences.
Will Rogers said “We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.” Or sit on the curb and scoff, as the case may be.
In the future there will be no events, just pretexts for us to commiserate together. There are few joys like the joy of heckling a live performance, safely from the comfort of your chair without stopping the show.
When “It’s A Wonderful LIVE” and “Les Miserables: Extra Live” and “Love Actually! The Live Musical Tribute But With The Original Cast And J. K. Rowling Is There Too For Some Reason” and “Rent! Actually! Liver! With Sharks!” come flocking to our television screens in coming years, we will have only ourselves to blame, as we do every time a Top Ten list is written about Honey Boo Boo. They wouldn’t build it if we hadn’t come. Orwell was a piker. Two minutes’ hate? Only? We can sustain it for HOURS!
It would be easier to stop this if complaining weren’t so much fun. You can bear almost anything, as long as you reserve the right to complain about it. This is the secret to most family reunions.
Was NBC genuinely expecting this to be good? Were we? Surely not. But that was what made you tune in. “Wow, last night’s Sound of Music hate-watch drew 18.5 million viewers,” tweeted @TheMattFowler. “Lesson learned is, let’s just Sharknado everything.”
Pretty much. And do it live!
The 15 best lines from Rush Limbaugh’s historical fanfiction about himself
The 15 best lines from Rush Limbaugh’s children’s book, “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans” are hard to figure out. There are so many good ones! This book is currently #12 on Amazon.com, way ahead of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, and I recommend it to any kid who likes to read books written from the perspective of a history teacher named Rush Revere who travels through time on his talking horse, Liberty, asking pointed questions about capitalism. So, everyone, is what I think I’m saying.
Yes, Rush Revere has a talking, time-traveling, time-stopping horse named Liberty who is always hungry. Also, he befriends a quarterback named Tommy and a girl of Native American heritage named Freedom (who can talk to animals with her mind?). He goes back to 1620 and 1621 to teach Pilgrim leader William Bradford about, among other things, the evils of redistributionist economics. I am in no way exaggerating this.
It is basically historical fanfiction that Rush Limbaugh has written about himself -- okay, about “Rush Revere” -- where he pals around with Pilgrim leaders Myles Standish and William Bradford. And if you don’t believe that this is every bit as amazing as it sounds, here are a few excerpts:
15. “Rush, Rush, Rushing to History!”/”Rush, Rush, Rushing From History.” (This is what Rush Revere says to his magical time-traveling horse, Liberty, in order to get Liberty to open the “time portal.”)
14. “In a way, [mean girl] Elizabeth was like Massasoit. She was the leader or sachem of this school. Students either feared or revered her. She watched and waited for any sign of weakness in her classmates or any opportunity to send the message that she was in control. I wondered when our next meeting would be. And I wondered what happened in the meeting between the Pilgrims and Massassoit. I doubt Massassoit had brought pink cupcakes.”
13. “I mean you might be a mugger or a zombie or even worse, a vacuum cleaner salesman!” (This doesn’t make more sense in context.)
12. William [Bradford] pointed to the frame on the ground and said, “This will be the Common House. It is one of the first buildings. It belongs to everyone. We’ve agreed to set aside our want of personal property or personal gain and instead create a community where the houses and buildings and profits belong to everyone. We are trying to create a fair and equal society.”
11. Liberty interrupted: “Well, if they think they’re going to use me they better think again. I’m not another man’s property. I mean, I used to be but that was in the eighteenth century and just because we’re in the seventeenth century doesn’t mean I’m going to give up my twenty-first century freedoms.”
Liberty’s mouth was so close to my face that his whiskers tickled my ear. I whispered back, “Nobody is going to use you. They might as well try to tame a thousand wild horses with nothing but a whistle.”
10. “A fine answer, Rush Revere,” said William, smiling. “Are you sure you don’t want to be governor?”
9. Liberty again whispered to me, “William really put you on the spot with that question. I couldn’t have dug you out of that one. Nice job answering him! Maybe you should get your own radio talk show. You know, callers call in with questions and you give them advice and stuff. I’d totally call you!”
8. As [Native American visitor to the colony] Somoset used his hand to sample each item, William turned to us and whispered, “He seems like an honest fellow and eager to befriend us.”
“Yes, but can we trust him to stay with us overnight?” asked Myles, suspiciously.
“Rush Revere, what do you think?” said William.
7. I approached William [Bradford] and said, “That was a difficult situation but you handled it well.”
6. “You are always thinking of the future, Rush Revere,” said William, smiling. “I like that about you.”
5. As we finished our sticks of salted beef, I walked over to William and said, “I just wanted to say that I think you make a fine leader.”
William said, “Thank you, Rush Revere.”
4. As we reached the gangplank William Bradford recognized me and said, “Rush Revere! It does my heart good to see you again.”
3. “I’m good. I’ll just sit here and play WordSlammaJamma on my phone.” (Tommy, the football star and secret nerd who accompanies Rush Revere on his travels)
2. “Now then, where was I, oh yes, when Liberty arrived in our time he appeared at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in front of that iced-tea factory. It was late at night and I was leaving the factory dressed as Paul Revere.” (Rush Revere, explaining how he met Liberty the talking, time-traveling horse. There’s more context for this, but not much more.)*
1. “Yeah, well, I really wouldn’t fit in with the other guys on the team if I admitted that I’m a science geek,” Tommy replied.
I patted Tommy on the shoulder and said, “Exceptional thinking, Tommy.”
Actually, I take it back, this is #1: It’s a letter from William Bradford inviting Rush Revere to the first Thanksgiving.
(letter inviting Rush to the first Thanksgiving) Dear Rush Revere,
The experience over the past several months is not something I want to repeat.
I cringe at the thought of the many hardships I’ve endured: escaping from England, leaving my son in Holland, losing the Speedwell, sailing on the Mayflower, enduring miserable conditions overseas, feeling persecuted by Sailor and Stranger, suffering bitter cold and wretched hunger, and especially, losing my wife, Dorothy. The latter is something that nearly crushed me. However, I survived thanks to the friendship and the support of my friends in the New World. I consider you one of them. You always seem to show up at just the right time and at just the right place. I have struggled to know how to best repay you for your kindnesses. Although I know you expect nothing in return. I’ve decided to have a celebration of sorts. I feel the winds of change and good fortune are upon us. There is much to look forward to. Please accept this letter of invitation. The details are below. I hope to see you there.
Your true friend, William Bradford.
Who: Rush Revere, Tommy, and Freedom
What: A celebration with games and lots of food
This book is amazing.
If Mr. Limbaugh wants to stop doing the radio thing and write these books full time, I would be heartily in favor of it. He has a definite gift.
Waiting for Gadot? There is a Wonder Woman and the Internet is upset
And already, the Internet has been registering its objections. “That’s not Wonder Woman,” my friend Julio Unpleasantness said. “That’s the skinny lady she saves from getting trapped under a coffee table.”
This would mark one of the first times that people, en masse, have objected to the fact that they were being handed an attractive slender model lady. “THIS PERSON IS TOO CONVENTIONALLY HOLLYWOOD ATTRACTIVE! GET HER OUT! GET HER OUT BEFORE SHE TOUCHES ANYTHING!” is not a comment you hear a lot, at least not in the circles I move in. But it’s been all over Tumblr and the comments sections of articles announcing the casting already, even prompting a parody from the Dorkly blog-- “5 Reasons Why Katherine Dorselburg Is A Terrible Choice To Play Terrified Metropolis Citizen 3.” It hits a lot of the problems with the criticism.
Fans, especially comics fans, tend to be known for their lack of attention to detail and complete indifference to iconic characters. Remember how happy everyone was about Ben Affleck as Batman? “Seems fine,” they all said, and nobody turned bright green, exploded several stories in size, or started banging cars together. And DC comics has such a great track record not embarrassing people with its portrayals of wom-- Oh. Oh. Sorry. Never mind.
Still, Gadot has the chance to prove her doubters wrong. Superhero movie casting tends to go through a cycle, like grieving or laundry. Actor Is Cast. The Citizens of Metropolis Have A Lot Of Feelings About It. The Actor Does A Good Job or a Bad Job. The Citizens of Metropolis Have A Lot Of Feelings About That Too. Here is a chart of the process.
This isn’t the greatest chart ever made by a human being (question: what IS the greatest chart ever made by a human being? Maybe this?) but you get the idea.
It’s not entirely unfair to make this kind of judgment. Unlike non-graphic novels, where you eventually realize that you were picturing Lizzie Bennet as your old Sunday school teacher, comics include a very specific visual design that’s as deeply a part of the character as the words in his or her bubbles. And people get attached to the physical forms of their heroes -- even more so to the physical forms of their superheroes, whom they want to look as much like sexy bowling pins as possible, inverted if male and right-side up if female. This is why we force Hugh Jackman to spend all his free time throwing iron lumps around and growing facial hair in specified patterns, and some people keep trying to slip adamantium into his bone health supplements. These demands may be ridiculous, but we make them of all the superhero actors, not just the ladies. From those to whom much has been given, much is, etc.
And complaining “HER PHYSICAL FORM DOES NOT RESEMBLE THE RIGHT KIND OF PARABOLA” is easier than shouting “I HOPE SHE HAS SOMETHING NUANCED TO DO IN THE FILM INSTEAD OF STANDING THERE WITH A HIP OUT, ESPECIALLY GIVEN HOW WELL FEMALE-HELMED FRANCHISES ARE DOING THESE DAYS” although, hey, that wasn’t as hard as I thought when I started the sentence.
Every gift for children this year is terrifying -- a walk over the Thin Pink Line in Target
Christmas keeps sneaking nearer every time you close your eyes, like those weeping angel statues on “Doctor Who,” so I decided I had to do it. I had to see what the kids were getting. I had to see if it were really as bad as all that.
I ventured into Target on Tuesday, a warmish day of early December, to scout the toy aisles and see what Santa was going to be bringing America’s boys and girls. I’d heard some murmurings about Excess Pink. But as Michael Buble’s dulcet tones wafted over me, I felt strong and reassured. How bad, I wondered, could it be?
Let’s start with the layout of the toys section.
It’s a little hard to see in this picture the steep gradient from pink to blue, but it is there. Pink zone to the right. Blue zone to the left. Disney in the middle. Barbie is careful to stand on her side of the line. She doesn’t want any trouble. Beyond the Pink zone, as off the edge of the old-fashioned map, there be monsters.
The first thing to catch my eye was this lovely Yuppie Kitchen Island. I realize that is not its real name, but look at the dang thing. You have the sense that these people are about to go to brunch.
She pours herself a cup of coffee before heading to her job at that Web start-up. He chats amiably with friends from the city. It’s almost time to take out the recycling and do something about their comically undersized dog -- maybe walk it? I don’t know.
Look at the brickwork tiles! Look at the icemaker! I can’t tell if the cordless phone he’s chatting on as he lounges against the counter in his casual red polo and relaxed jeans is included or not. But it had better be.
This turned out to be a red herring, because never again did I see any boys in anything that resembled a playset kitchen.
If you prefer a more aggressively gendered environment for your playtime, these next sets are a better bet.
HE PLAYS WITH DRILLS! HE IS NOT WEARING A POLO BUT PLAID! He doesn’t OWN a polo! Polos are for men with cordless phones! He has a cordless drill, not a cordless phone! He doesn’t know the MEANING of brunch!
MINNIE TALKS TO HER WHILE SHE PREPARES THINGS IN THE KITCHEN! PINK THINGS!
SOON HE WILL GO PLAY WITH HIS TOY HULK, WHOM WE ARE GOING TO TALK MORE ABOUT LATER.
An aisle or two over (now safely ensconced in the Pink Section), we run into these FurReal Friends. (If you like to see good, healthy puns with glossy coats, puns that are healthy and thriving in their natural environment, puns that have not been overworked until they forget their original meaning, the toy aisle is a place to avoid like the plague. All these puns (“Sippy Pup”?) are the verbal equivalent of Victorian cab horses, staggering around whinnying in agony.)
These toys are great if you wanted to give your girl-child a stuffed animal but were worried it would not teach her enough about caring for babies. “Stuffed bears were good enough for Teddy Roosevelt,” you said to yourself. “But I want something that she’ll have to feed and burp and clothe.”
(These are also a poor idea because they encourage the belief that you can put a tiara on a cat, the cat will just sit there and take it. You will be able to identify people who were given these toys later in life by their cat-clawed faces and tendency to approach bears offering to burp them.)
The next item gave me some hope: a minority female doctor! In the pink aisle, of all places! Awesome!
In theory, this is great. In theory.
In practice, Doc talks and sings. Doc announces that she has a diagnosis. “I prescribe lots of love -- and, of course, cuddles!” Doc McStuffins says. Clearly, she has been to medical school. “If you feel like you need a check up, of COURSE I’ll give you one!”
Then she starts singing. “Time for your checkup! . . . It’s okay if you giggle!”
Lambie has a solo. “I feel better! So much better! Thanks doc for taking all the ouchies away!” (With your pink glittery stethoscope, of course. If you didn’t know that was a Little Black Bag, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a glittery purse.)
Really this raises more questions than it answers. Does she sanitize the table after treating lambs on it? What is a lamb ouchie? To be frank, this looks like more of a veterinary practice.
Also, why is she friends with a dragon named Stuffy? I would not go to this clinic.
Over in the boys’ aisle, the talking toys selection is more varied, since boys can choose from Pretty Much Every Non-Princess Movie Protagonist Ever to carry around the house in plastic form and toss downstairs and form manly bonds with.
For instance, Talking Hulk. My biggest objection to Hulk is that he has a larger vocabulary than his real-life counterpart and seems kind of needy.
Hulk’s vocabulary includes 30 phrases, which, for anyone who watched the movie, seems awfully high.
“That was Hulktastic!” he exclaims, when you punch him in the stomach. “Hey, you’re pretty tough! Rurrrrrgh!” “Let’s have a smash party!’
But stop pressing him for a moment and he becomes nervous and alarmed. “Hey, buddy! Where did you go?”
Quickly you squeeze him again. “Let’s smash some more!” he crows. Then he belches noisily and you can hear the sound of him punching something. “You Hulk’s smashing buddy!” A moment’s pause. “Hey, buddy, where did you go?”
His conversation revolves mainly around smashing things and expressing gratitude for your friendship. It is, I regret, not limitless in its fascination. As you walk away, you hear his plaintive, “Hey, buddy! Where did you go?” following you down the aisle.
There are, fortunately, other options for talking companionship.
Batman doesn’t say anything when you squeeze him, which seems about right.
But give him a good hard punch and he says, “The Bat Signal is calling us.”
His conversation is about what you’d expect. “Criminals beware -- Batman is here!” “Take that, Joker!” “It’s time to bring justice to Gotham City” and -- a little more obscurely -- “You’re no match for me, Killer Croc.”
At least he doesn’t sing.
Unlike Hulk, when you walk away, Batman says nothing.
Overall, my least favorite discovery was Lego Friends.
I knew they were going to be bad. Any toy based on the premise that “Girls Can’t Play With Anything That Lacks Their Accustomed Pastel Palette, Focus On Friendship And Alarming Waist:Hip Ratio, Not Even Blocks” was bound to be at least mildly odious.
But they really went all out. Look at these people. They all live in a place called Heartlake City, because that is a nice girly name for a place to live. Girls can’t live in places like Gotham or Metropolis or Cleveland. That’s in the boy aisle!
Everyone there attends Heartlake High, which, from the looks of it, is a small exclusive academy with just a few lockers, carefully coordinated in blue and pink by gender.
You can also buy other locales like Emma’s Horse Trailer, Olivia’s Newborn Foal (she can borrow Emma’s Horse Trailer for it! She and Emma are best friends so I bet Emma won’t mind!), Stephanie’s Soccer Practice, Emma’s Sports Car (I guess the flirtation with horses was short-lived) and the Downtown Bakery, which sells cupcakes, obviously the baked good most in keeping with this strange boutique pastel fantasyland.
The big showpiece is a Dolphin Cruiser peppered with actual dolphins on top.
Just for contrast’s sake, here is what a boat looks like in regular Legos, which I guess are now just “boy” Legos, based on their placement on the other side of the Pink Line?
Is that a shark?
No sharks here. Just dolphins. And Andrew, your shaggy-haired boyfriend or male acquaintance, on his jet ski, in his blue polo with the sailboat on it. You are only allowed into the girl aisle as a male toy if you are wearing a polo shirt. That is how they can tell you’re safe. You also have the option of being a non-human creature, like Sniffy or Nasal Congestion or whatever the dragon’s name was.
Here’s how it looks assembled:
Of course there is also a hair salon and kitchen on the boat, lest you forget for a second that this is a toy intended for Girls. I don’t know what happens if Lego pirates attack, but I assume you can beat them off with the hairbrush.
I don’t mean to be too hard on Lego Friends. This was like a Mensa playset compared to what was next to it:
“Bling it to Life!” Actually, at least this was a craft. I take it back. The next aisle was much worse.
The next aisle was the princess aisle.
Whole essays could be written about what it contained, but that seemed like shooting glittery fish in a Bling-ed barrel. Much ink has been used to describe Barbie and her off-kilter proportions and her total lack of resemblance, incidental or otherwise, to any people living or dead. The princess complex is always getting dragged over the coals. Just picture it pink and dreadful and you will be right.
The part I saw was depressing enough. Remember Merida from “Brave,” the one non-princess-ified Disney princess, with her unruly hair and defiant spirit?
She really cleaned up.
(It’s hard to see at this size, but her arrow is now just a fun accessory that “colors Merida’s hair.”)
I guess she had to, to fit in with her new friends. But as my mom would say, if they don’t like you as you are, are they really your friends? Also, why is Ariel wearing pink? Is it Wednesday?
On the bright side, Merida’s proportions now are so creepy and off that maybe if you hand her to a child the child will start to cry uncontrollably and you’ll have to give her Needy Hulk instead. That, or the child will develop wildly unhealthy ideas about body shape! One of the two.
If princesses aren’t your speed, here’s another doll option:
I thought you couldn’t get much worse than those FurReal friends, but you can, with Little Mommy Sweet As Me. “Every baby is born with style!” But that style had BETTER BE boho chic or uptown prep, or who even ARE you? (Also: Comic Sans!)
It was at this point in the afternoon that I began to feel a strange twitching desire to have a child so I could dress it up in colorful pink outfits and use it to accessorize. I headed toward the neutral zone between the pinks andbBlues, the Switzerland of the toy aisles, and tried to find something to lift my spirits.
What all the aisles seemed to agree on was that they didn’t know where to put the One Direction merchandise, but that it was important that you buy some. Maybe it’s best to separate the boys?
Yeah, that seems right.
All in all, I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a single Nerf Gun with a girl on the side of the box?
No, maybe any girls on the blue side of the line who weren’t Star Wars characters? Maybe any boys on the pink side of the line who weren’t wearing those weird polos?
Maybe toys that wouldn’t send me running from the Target quivering all over like a Lamb(ie)’s tail?
They weren’t all bad. But they were worse than I thought they’d be.
I wasn’t a girl who played with dolls. I wasn’t particularly a tomboy; I just preferred stuffed animals and Star Wars figurines. My parents never made a fuss. They happily supplied me with whatever I actually wanted to play with. And once I had the toys on hand, I used them to tell my own stories anyway. That’s what you do when you’re a kid. Once it’s out of the box, it’s all fair game.
But that was what struck me about these toys. Pretty much everything in the pink aisle was designed in a way that limited the number of stories you could tell with it. In the blue aisle, accessories vary. There’s a Batman with a submarine. There’s a ninja with a castle. Not in the pink aisle. Everybody just had hairbrushes. Merida’s bow didn’t work for archery; it was just a hair accessory like countless other hair accessories. Lego girls didn’t get attacked by pirates. If you wanted pirates in the pink aisle, you had to bring them yourself.
I’m sure girls’ imaginations are just as charged as they ever were and they’ll take their toys on all kinds of adventures. I just wish we were making it easier for them, instead of suggesting that you use your Ipad as a makeup mirror. What else could you want with it?
Say what you will about Needy Hulk and Batman, they kept suggesting new adventures -- all kinds of things to smash and new threats to Gotham to subdue, even if Hulk didn’t want you to leave him alone when you did it.
In conclusion, here’s a Hot New Barbie Set.
You will be relieved to know that this beautiful doll can be contained entirely inside her closet.
Of course she can.
What’s wrong with boomers? They can’t seem to fend for themselves
Janis (not her real name) came into my office, looking upset and sniffling. She refused the tissues I offered. “I have no idea what to do,” she said.
“Here,” I said, shutting the door. “Let me see it.”
“She keeps yelling at me, the woman,” Janis sobbed. “I tell her, GO AWAY, but she doesn’t understand.”
She handed me the smartphone.
“Yes,” I said, nodding sympathetically. “That’s not yelling. That’s a feature. It’s called Siri.”
I rubbed her back and soothed her as I tapped the screen three times and solved everything that had been wrong.
“My kids won’t help me any more,” Janis said. “They say I’m hopeless. Am I hopeless?”
“No,” I said. But deep down, I thought: possibly?
Janis is 60 years old.
Janis struggled a little with Incompetence growing up, but not like this. And it only worsened when her children moved out of the house, forcing her to telephone them long distance from a land line to ask which button would turn on her cell phone. She has practically been begging at least one of them to move back into the basement for years now, unsubtly forwarding them all the trend pieces on Millennial Insecurities and The Six Reasons Bushwick Is More Dangerous Than You Initially Suspected Because Those Hipsters Are Fighting A Hipster Turf War that she can find. (Admittedly this is not very many, because she only reads articles online that have been forwarded to her by her ninety-year-old mother or that she has already found in print, then Googled on a desktop computer.)
I suggested taking a computer class, but Janis seemed hopeful that the kids would “come around” and teach her what to do to make the microwave oven “less angry.”
And her case is becoming the norm for boomers. As they age, they enter what someone probably likes to call a “premature obsolescence.” And it rankles. They have to face challenges that my generation does not -- having comparatively high employment at places where they do not understand the technology they are required to use. Being handed strange devices by people at work whom they insist on referring to as “mavens” and “gurus.” Having all their work periodically “eaten” by “the machine.” Occasionally reading articles that make them corner their family members at dinner and say embarrassing things like, “I don’t understand. Can’t you do this in the Cloud?” Still referring to the Internet as “The World Wide Web.” Thinking it’s okay to use a tablet to take pictures.
Probably it was years of being raised by parents whose idea of technology was an icebox and a washing machine. Possibly it is pride. It can’t be narcissism because you are not allowed to have narcissism if you’re over 30. (It throws the writers of trend pieces off.) I would not dare to characterize an entire population with a single adjective. That prerogative is reserved to people who write about millennials.
People often complain that what is wrong with boomers is that they are loading millennials with the burden of all kinds of debt and their nostalgic 1950s Christmas, with all the music that implies. That may be true, but before we saddle them with those labels, we should realize that this is not their fault. It is just how they were brought up: before the Internet.
My friends all report similar experiences with the boomers in their lives. “My parents used to call me at college to ask me how to turn on the TV,” my friend Queen Zygmar Of The Winds (not her real name) said.
“I came home one Christmas and found out my parents had had a DVR for like two years without realizing it,” another friend, Julio Unpleasantness (not her real name), told me.
boomers, of course, resist this characterization. “We can handle this change too,” they say. “We handled All The Important Cultural Changes That Came Before, Changes That Were So Important That We Have To Dedicate Weeks of Anniversary Coverage To All Of Them.” They all sneer at this idea of boomers as technologically incompetent. “I had a Blackberry before anyone,” Dave says to the group, when they get together at brunch. (Dave still has a Blackberry.)
Maybe boomers are refusing to admit their age, as many 60-year-olds do. And maybe they will outgrow their technological incompetence very slowly, step by step, over a period of decades, the same way they check their “webmail.” We don’t have the data on what boomers will be like when they’re 130, although I have a good guess. But the fact remains: by picking up the phone every time they call to ask how the WiFi works, we are enabling them in a life of dependency.
Meanwhile, Janis is still figuring out how to turn her cell phone on and off. But she gets through the day with a combination of frantic calls to her children about “the screen doing it again and I don’t know how to make it stop” and the kindness of strangers. Janis is still alarmed when The Lady In The Phone starts screaming -- but she’s a little less frightened of it now.
(Of course this piece is ridiculous. Of course it’s a series of Boldface Anecdotal Evidence strung together into a contempt-dripping thesis. Of course The Technological Incompetence of the Middle-Aged is such painfully low-hanging fruit that people at the bottom of the Grand Canyon trip over it. Of course all this is true. But that’s never stopped anyone before.)