May 2006 Archives
May 30, 2006
May 25, 2006
I've been listening to Seperation Sunday, the latest album by The Hold Steady. It's a concept album that tells the story of Holly (Halleluia) a woman who is into drugs, gets baptized, has religious visions, and has to figure out how she navigates between an old life and what could be a new life. My current favorite track is Cattle and the Creeping Things which is a funny and inventive way to look at the Bible, particularly in how the Genesis and Exodus stories are connected to current lives of the characters.
May 22, 2006
While ogling the new offerings from Apple, I checked out their new TV ads which consist of two people as personifications of a PC and a Mac, the one in a suit and clean cut hair, the other in a t-shirt, jeans with messy hipster hair.
While watching, I thought, I’ve seen something like this before in a New York magazine article, Up with Grups* by Adam Sternbergh, that ran last month about how adulthood is changing in the US. [* Also known as yupster (yuppie + hipster), yindie (yuppie + indie), and alterna-yuppie. Our preferred term, grup, is taken from an episode of Star Trek (keep reading) in which Captain Kirk et al. land on a planet of children who rule the world, with no adults in sight.]
This is an obituary for the generation gap. It is a story about 40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old. It’s not about a fad but about a phenomenon that looks to be permanent. It’s about the hedge-fund guy in Park Slope with the chunky square glasses, brown rock T-shirt, slight paunch, expensive jeans, Puma sneakers, and shoulder-slung messenger bag, with two kids squirming over his lap like itchy chimps at the Tea Lounge on Sunday morning. It’s about the mom in the low-slung Sevens and ankle boots and vaguely Berlin-art-scene blouse with the $800 stroller and the TV-screen-size Olsen-twins sunglasses perched on her head walking through Bryant Park listening to Death Cab for Cutie on her Nano.
It’s more interesting as evidence of the slow erosion of the long-held idea that in some fundamental way, you cross through a portal when you become an adult, a portal inscribed with the biblical imperative “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This cohort is not interested in putting away childish things. They are a generation or two of affluent, urban adults who are now happily sailing through their thirties and forties, and even fifties, clad in beat-up sneakers and cashmere hoodies, content that they can enjoy all the good parts of being a grown-up (a real paycheck, a family, the warm touch of cashmere) with none of the bad parts (Dockers, management seminars, indentured servitude at the local Gymboree). It’s about a brave new world whose citizens are radically rethinking what it means to be a grown-up and whether being a grown-up still requires, you know, actually growing up.
Sternbergh makes a fascinating exploration of current criteria for adulthood; what people want to keep as they grow older, what they want to take on, and what they seem to be willing to reject about being middle age adults.
What’s with the Grups and passion? It’s all anyone wants to talk about... Which brings me back to my father: the one who wore suits, not jeans; the one who, when he was my age, already had four kids; the one who logged a lifetime at exactly the kind of middle-management jobs that no one wakes up excited about going to in the morning, and who then found himself sandbagged by the late-eighties recession, laid off in what must have felt like the worst kind of double whammy. All the adult trade-offs he’d made turned out to be a brutal bait-and-switch. Is it any wonder that the Grups have looked at that brand of adulthood and said, “No thanks, you can keep your carrot and your stick.” Especially once we saw just how easily that stick can be turned around to whap your ass as you’re ushered out the door, suit and all. Just how easily a bona fide, by-the-book adult can be made to wonder where it all went wrong, and why you ever bothered to grow up in the first place.
And this, improbably, is the happy ending to our story. (And, I admit, I’d hoped for a happy ending; for all the bedhead haircuts and Hives-peddling parents, I wanted this to end well.) Being a Grup isn’t, as it turns out, all about holding on to some misguided, well-marketed idea of youth—or, at least, isn’t just about that. It’s also about rejecting a hand-me-down model of adulthood that asks, or even necessitates, that you let go of everything you ever felt passionate about. It’s about reimagining adulthood as a period defined by promise, rather than compromise. And who can’t relate to that?
It seems clear to me that the folks at Apple understand what being a Grup is all about, the personification of their product is one. As a person who works for a church, I am wondering what our personification looks like, and does it resonate at all with these new American adults or their kids? At Spirit Garage, most of the people who show up look like the Mac more than the PC, but because we are a church, it seems likely that our initial mental personification among people who have never been to Spirit Garage before is very different than the way we might want to think of ourselves. This all seems very important because based on the way I laughed at the Apple ads, personifications matter.
May 19, 2006
In the spirit of remaking classic films for a new summer blockbuster audience, This "Ten Things I Hate about Commandments" trailer is a hilarious take on the Charlteon Heston classic.
May 16, 2006
They have also put together a very powerful site, www.rejectionhurts.com, where people can share their stories about how they have felt unwanted or alienated by organized religion.
May 5, 2006
So the end of the semester has me really busy. In short, I won't be having much of a chance to write over the next week or two. So in the mean time, enjoy this cartoon.