Disclaiming Boomerdom

For years, I’ve been classified as a part of the “Baby Boom” generation. In fact, the year of my birth has been described as the height of the Baby Boom, because it was the year of the greatest number of births in the United States.

But now people are starting to argue that those of us born between 1955 and 1964 shouldn’t be viewed as Boomers at all. Instead, we should be categorized as part of “Generation Jones.” The argument is that we just didn’t have shared experiences with the true Baby Boom generation, which was born between 1946 and 1955. We didn’t watch Howdy Doody or I Love Lucy when it was first broadcast. (Countless reruns apparently don’t count.) But it wasn’t just TV that was different. Music was different. We were too young to be true hippies during the ’60s, or to be at serious risk of fighting in Vietnam. So really, we don’t belong with the much-maligned Boomers, but should be off on our own. (“Generation Jones,” a pretty lame name, refers to our “generation’s” alleged “keeping up with the Joneses” yearning.)

This seems like a dumb thing to argue about to me, but then I think trying to divide people into arbitrarily defined “generations” is stupid, too. People born in different years and in different places, even if they are born in the same 10-year span, are bound to have as many distinct experiences as they do common ones. Sure, the same TV shows were being broadcast on the same three channels, and the music played on pop radio was the same for everyone, but if you had a sibling who was a lot older than you, you probably had no choice but to watch different TV shows and listen to different radio stations than someone who lived in a house where they controlled the dial. If you had older siblings who were fighting in Vietnam, your experiences and childhood memories were different. The closest common cultural touchstones were probably shared by people who were in high school at the same time, but even then the experiences of kids in southern California, the Midwest, and Brooklyn were bound to be a lot different. So why try to shoehorn us into one “generation” and act like we all have the same approach to the world and the same perspective on life? It’s pointless and phony.

I don’t care whether I’m officially a Boomer, or not, but don’t now try to slide me over into “Generation Jones.” At this point, I guess I’d rather just be myself.

Catch Phrase Fever

What was the first TV catch phrase?  When did TV writers and stars realize that there was something different about this new entertainment medium that made viewers crave the familiar line that they had heard so many times before?  The discovery probably occurred at the very dawn of the TV era, when someone like Milton Berle was running out of new ideas and decided to re-use some old material, and realized to his astonishment that the audience loved it.

I can’t think of many catch phrases from the early TV shows.  If Lucille Ball had a catch phrase on I Love Lucy — other than crying Waaah! when one of her plans went awry — I don’t recall it.  The first catch phrase I can think of is also one that would never be used on modern TV:  Ralph Kramden’s frustrated uppercut and cry of “Pow! Right in the kisser!” when Alice had finally and conclusively squelched another of his harebrained get-rich-quick schemes on The Honeymooners.  (Of course, everyone knew that Ralph loved Alice deeply and would never, ever hurt her.)  If that was in fact the first catch phrase, later TV stars owe Jackie Gleason a huge debt.

As Timeless As Wine (Or Human Behavior)

Archaeologists have uncovered the world’s oldest known wine press in southern Armenia.  The wine press was found in a cave and is being dated to 4,000 B.C. — 6,000 years ago.  In short, the wine press is so old that it predates even the rise of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

The archaeologists believe that the wine press produced a dry red vintage using some kind of foot-stomping method.  They also speculate that the wine was a special vintage used in a burial ritual by a complex ancient society.

I think the key facts in the article suggest a different back story.  Those key facts are (1) a cave, (2) wine, and (3) the world’s oldest discarded leather shoe, which also was found in the same cave.  Do those facts sound to you like the ingredients of a burial ritual?  Or, do those signs point to a secret drinking place where the lazy ne’er-do-wells of the tribe could escape to kick off their shoes, stomp a few grapes, guzzle homemade hooch, and enjoy some drunken hilarity with their buddies away from the tribal chief, the high priest, and angry spouses?  To confirm this theory, the archaeologists need only start looking for dice, chicken bones, and signs of ancient graffiti in the vicinity.

The wine press may be 6,000 years old, but human beings really haven’t changed that much over the millennia.