And the Real Tech Generation is…

When I ask my English Composition students to consider what has had the most impact on their generation they typically say technology. True, at eighteen or so that’s all they know. But I would argue that technology has had a greater impact on the preceding generations, the Gens X’s, Y’s and Baby Boomers.

Their lives have been revolutionized by technology.

When I was a little girl my grandparents had a telephone party line in their house. I would eavesdrop on the conversation of strangers by merely, and stealthily, removing the handset from its base and listen in.

Now I do that through social media.

I watched in wide-eyed fascination the first televised movie filmed in color, The Wizard of Oz. (Incidentally, the electric-green bad witch and terrifying anthropomorphic flying monkeys scarred me for life.)

Now I turn to Neflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes or I DVR. If I forget, I do it remotely from my phone.

As a teenager, I took pride in reading maps and charting a course to anywhere in the continental United States.

Now I no longer even think of asking for directions, much less squint at a map. My GPS has become like family.

Assigned a story as a news reporter, I researched by interviewing numerous people, in person and by phone, and probing the library and the newspaper morgue.

Now I Google.

I listened incredulously to a prescient college professor tell my class that one day we would all have a personal computer in our homes. Now it’s in my pocket. That same professor lectured that we would do everything on this personal computer, including shop, work, read and communicate.

Now I barely remember life without it.

I bought music in record stores, not online, and in the form of 45s and 33s.

Now I buy downloads with my Starbucks coffee.

I empathized with my late husband, Charlie, who left the military with a recurring case of jungle rot because his boots never fully dried out during monsoon season.

Now we send unmanned aircraft to limit those boots on the ground, literally.

I received breaking news – like when Jack Ruby ambushed and fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald – on one of the three television networks.

Now my phone alerts me 24/7 the instant something happens.

So when I ask my students to tell me what has most impacted their generation, and they say technology, they have to be willing to share ownership. Because while it might be commonplace to them, its effect on the generations before them has been nothing less than profound.

P.S. How’s this for a perfect crossover – a breaking news app with Walter Cronkite’s image and voice. And if you say, “Who’s that? Well….


Under the Sky

For two days the consistently smoggy skies over Beijing were blue, sort of.

Then APEC ended and the heads of state, including President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, returned home. On cue, the skies returned to a murky, smoky pall, ending the brief respite from pollution and the rarified exposure to breathable air.

In the previous week, China had shut down its factories, sent workers on forced vacations, moved cars off the road, and stopped residents from firing up their coal powered heat despite the frigid temperatures. Foreign dignitaries arrived under a naturally blue canopy.

Clean air is that natural resource we sometimes take for granted in America. And frankly, something I worry about given how little environmental work gets done in Congress, and now, given the midterm elections, how much may actually get done, and not for the better.

I’m bothered by this on a couple of fronts. First, I hate how cavalierly some of us regard our environment. We ignore the recent reports from scientists, of no particular partisanship, advising that things are bad, really bad, and getting worse. I’m bothered that the students in my college classes are smart and hardworking but they’ve grown up hearing the terms “climate change” and “global warming” so often the phrases no longer carry any weight. Not unlike when we said Xerox to mean copying, and Kleenex to mean tissues.

I know it’s impressive that Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping last week reached an historic agreement to cut emissions by 2025, but according to an editorial in the New York Times, the amount of damage that will be caused in the next 11 years will pretty much make that a wash.

Still, I suppose it’s something.

I walked early this morning with a neighbor. A few clouds cluttered the blue sky. Many trees still held selfishly to their last clusters of brilliant red and orange leaves, their discards scattered at their bases like exquisite quilts. I thought: It’s gorgeous here. And there is no reason on earth why it shouldn’t be.

What occurs in China and the U.S. and elsewhere in the world matters to everyone. Climate change is not a local problem. No matter where we are, we share this space. Like the song from the movie “An American Tail,” And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby. It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky.

I can’t seem to get that song out of my head.

Hopefully, neither can you.


Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go but I had convinced my childhood friend, Barbara, to fly in from California, agreed to meet a few old friends for lunch and mailed in my check.

The die was cast for me to attend my high school reunion. And so I did, this past weekend.

Before you respond like so many of my more recent friends, “No thanks, I wouldn’t go to mine,” let’s consider the sway of the high school reunion:

Where else do you experience equal doses of curiosity and familiarity?

Where else do you party with 100 plus people, all of whom know your age?

Where else do you see the first boy/girl you ever kissed, and a couple of others you wished you had?

Where else do you talk with people who remember your childhood house?

And your parents? And that Miss Raycroft really was tough on you in English class? And that you always did want to become a writer?

And where else do you enter a room filled with football jocks, Ivy League braniacs (shout-out to you, Cuz), far out artistic types and ordinary kids, like me, and it no longer matters?

Truthfully, who cares? At our age, we’re just grateful we’re able-bodied enough to attend.

Three days later, I am still thinking about the evening, feeling elated that I went. If only I could get this tune out of my head:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

CHEERS to Lower Merion High School class of 1969!


Don’t Blame Her

When paired singers dance provocatively during award shows or Super Bowl we, for the most part, hastily condemn the female. Think Miley Cyrus and Janet Jackson. The men they share the stage with, on the other hand, get off scot-free.

There would have been no twerking without Robin Thicke, or wardrobe malfunction without Justin Timberlake. Or, most recently, no highly suggestive moves by Beyoncé, without Jay Z.

Beyoncé, minimally dressed, gyrated seductively all around Jay Z in the Grammy’s opening number. And the blogosphere and some folks I encountered the following day blasted her “inappropriate dress” and “suggestive moves” at a time “kids were still watching.” No one commented on her husband’s participation.

Beyoncé took the hit.

Miley Cyrus continues to be derided and mimicked after twerking Robin Thicke during their performance at the VMAs. The talk shows and blogs were all over her for weeks. SNL convulsed with Miley skits, even bringing her on as a host in which she mocked her own performance (good for her). Whether you like Cyrus, hate her, or think she’s a wrecked ball, if Thicke hadn’t been on the stage with her she would have merely looked silly. Thicke, who’s 36 to her 20, by the way, and whose Blurred Lines video features all nude women, participated in the scene.

Cyrus took the hit.

And with Sunday’s big game approaching everyone recalls Janet Jackson’s ill-fated performance during which she sustained a purposeful wardrobe malfunction. Again, the so-called malfunction would not have happened if Justin Timberlake hadn’t ripped her top off, as rehearsed. But no one criticized Timberlake (who, yes, I adore). Without Timberlake there would have been no wardrobe malfunction.

Jackson took the hit.

Regardless of what you think of these and other suggestive performances (and the list is extensive in the music, film, and television industries) why is the woman the only one criticized? If you think a performance is too suggestive, then I respect that. If you think it’s tasteless and humiliating, I just might agree. But place blame where blame belongs. And that’s not just on the woman.

It takes two to tango.


A New Year: Time to Look Ahead

Walking in the mall today I noticed a seasonal kiosk selling calendars, and it got me thinking. Actually my first thought was will that vendor be back a year from now as the paper calendar goes the way of landlines, CDs, and telephone books, but that’s for a different blog. Regardless of what form we use, a calendar affords us the opportunity to look back over the past year.

And the effect can be chilling.

Our 2013 calendar – digital or paper – reminds us that we had a colonoscopy in August. Remember that day?

And that the Tuesday night after Labor Day we had dinner with an old college friend at Amada. So that was the name of the restaurant.

And that two glorious weeks in May were spent traveling throughout Israel with our family. Was it really that long ago?

It’s a strange perspective to replay a life already lived. Sometimes it brings relief. Our colonoscopy was negative and we’re cleared for another 10 years. Or sadness. Our friend became ill later in the year. Or wistfulness. When will we get to travel as a family again?

At best, it can motivate. We took a train into New York last October to see Book of Mormon. We have no plans to visit New York this year. Maybe we should make them.

Otherwise, revisiting the past is a little like reading old news. It’s already history, our history, and nothing we can do will alter it.

As the saying goes: “The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come” – author unknown.

So don’t look back. It’s a grand new year!

And I hope a very happy one for you.


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