Tag Archives: 21st century

In which I am having trouble lifting stuff on account of this chip on my shoulder.

14 Oct

So, apparently people are abuzz with talk about the Millennials! This is relevant to my interests, on account of how I’m generally considered as belonging to that generation (1985). This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education talks about the practice of generational studies, which, like so much of academia, mostly seems to involve saying some stuff and then arguing about it with people who are saying slightly different stuff. It’s a pretty interesting article and definitely worth a read, and I’m now interested in adding the books referenced to my list of things to get next time I’m at the library!

I mostly wanted to say, though, dear Neil Howe and William Strauss, I have a hard time taking your study seriously when you base all your observations on a survey not only of one county and one alone, but of Fairfax County in particular. Now, admittedly, I have a bit of a complex about Fairfax County, being from the county everyone in Fairfax makes fun of: for instance, I once had someone from Fairfax, on finding out that I had grown up in Woodbridge, across the river in Prince William County, respond with “wow, I didn’t know that was something people admitted to in public” (this is why I feel a certain kinship with New Jersey, just FYI). But dudes, Fairfax County is hardly representative of the entire country in any way. As the article points out, in 2007 Fairfax “became the first county in the nation to have a median household income of more than $100,000, about twice the national average.” Admittedly, in the DC Metro area, an income of $100,000 doesn’t go as far as it would elsewhere in the country, because the cost of living is so high, but dudes, leaving aside the class issues, what about the regional differences? What about urban vs. suburban vs. rural?

Like, I am willing to hear out some talk of generational theory, at least insofar as it loosely corresponds to historical trends, but dudes. Seriously. The sample size is pretty good, but that is not much in the way of sample variety. Probably the funniest point, for me, comes in a discussion of an admissions officer’s doubts about this whole business:

He wondered if the sample of students in Millennials Rising had corrupted the findings. After all, most students do not apply to top-20 colleges.

Which pretty much sums it up right there. Oh, Fairfax County.

At first glance, this post probably looks like a thinly-veiled excuse for me to vent some spleen re: Fairfax County, but look closer! What I’m talking about is actually a pretty important thing to pay attention to when doing Serious Historical Research. Obviously, having grown up in the Northern Virginia area during the period Strauss and Howe were studying, I’m able to spot a lot more quickly that drawing conclusions about an entire nation’s worth of young people based on the teenagers in that county alone is stupid, because that county is very much exceptional. But you do need to be careful when faced with raw data, which these dudes seem to have forgotten: in the United States there’s tons of regional variation, and while this might be useful as a study of, say, Mid-Atlantic teenagers, or teenagers in busy, rich, suburban/urban areas, it’s not useful as a study of an entire nation’s teenagers.

In conclusion, though, seriously: FAIRFAX COUNTY, DUDES. SO TOTALLY NOT THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. If they were, I would probably emigrate.


In which there is awkwardness all around.

5 Oct

The happy little stars this layout uses for bullet points just add to the effect, really.

  • Hey remember when you made a big deal out of Holocaust denial and then it got out that your family converted from Judaism when you were little? Hahaha, man, that was awkward.
  • Or hey remember when you were a German pen company and you marked the birth of a dude who embraced an ascetic lifestyle and “shunned foreign-made products” and was pretty known for making hunger strikes by selling a $25,000 pen? Oh man, that was awkward.
  • Oh man remember that time you used the White Man’s Burden as an excuse to wipe out the indigenous people and then it turned out they had canal systems thousands of years before you got there? Hoo boy was that awkward.

Oh man, sorry dudes, I am out with a pretty fierce cold the past few days so I pretty much got nothing. Also why would you need a $25,000 pen at all, seriously.

In which I have thoughts on stage parents.

3 Oct

So there was an interesting letter in Salon’s broadsheet tying together the Polanski case and a recent incident in which a photograph of Brooke Shields was removed from the Tate Modern in London on the grounds that it might constitute child pornography. It got me thinking about how I am really bothered by everyone who blames the parents in situations like this! Like obviously what Brooke Shields’s parents did strikes me as pretty creepy. But the constant barrage of people saying “well, what about Samantha Geimer’s mother” in the Polanski case are making me really mad, because you know, it’s ultimately shifting the blame for his raping a thirteen-year-old girl to someone else, and a woman at that. And yes, it sounds like Samantha Geimer’s mother was a crappy exploitative stage parent for putting her daughter in a situation where she could be drugged and raped to begin with, but on the other hand, my parents sent me and my sister to a gymnastics school that was later closed down and our coach was arrested for raping students there. Possibly I am projecting a bit, but I don’t know, it’s still ultimately not their fault the dude was raping girls, it’s his fault.

I guess the insistence on tying it into terrible parenting—actually, not just terrible parenting, but terrible mothering, which I feel it’s important to note, because no one is talking about the fathers specifically in these situations, just the awful awful mothers—bothers me, because it’s a way of shifting the blame from the dude who actually drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl, and shifting it to a woman besides. And in an exploitation case like that of Brooke Shields, examining the parents’ behavior is valid, but when it’s a case like the Roman Polanski one, where Samantha Geimer was put into an exploitative situation and then raped, it seems really problematic to me to blame the mother instead of, you know, the guy who actually did the raping.

It’s also striking me as sketchy that Tracy Clark-Flory has reduced the judge in the Shields case to practically a footnote. Like, the focus is on how terrible the parents’ behavior is, not the judge who basically said that since Brooke Shields had done suggestive jeans ads as a teenager, she had no right to get upset about the creepy kiddie-porny picture that was taken of her when she was ten. This is a pretty classic example of what we in the Getting Irritated About Lady Matters biz call “victim-blaming”, and I would like to hear a hell of a lot more excoriation of that dude in this case, you know?

Like, there is more than enough blame to go around in our culture, because I do subscribe to the idea that we live in a rape culture and there are a lot of people who fucked up royally and betrayed both Brooke Shields and Samantha Geimer and, if they didn’t directly exploit them, at least allowed them to be exploited. But this just doesn’t sit right with me.

IDK, I originally intended to tell you guys how much I liked Zombieland! Maybe that will be an entry for tomorrow or something.

In which I cannot maintain my cynicism.

1 Oct

Man, I don’t even know what it was about this, but it basically had me all weepy and ridiculous when I read it. So, okay, awhile back, a high school teacher assigned his students a project in which they would collect oral histories from their family members to create a record of the town’s memories of the Second World War. And they ran across a story the American 30th Infantry Division who were moving through Germany at the end of the war, intercepted and then proceeded to liberate a train that carried thousands of people from the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen to a death camp. It turned out this story had basically been forgotten about, because Mat Rozell, the teacher who’d started it all, began getting emails from people who’d been on that train.

Like, the ABC article about it is kind of silly and manipulative soft journalism, but I’m not gonna lie, I was totally manipulated by it. This is also a really good example of how technology can be really useful for historical study; one of the survivors who was on the train said he had spent 44 years searching for some mention of the incident and found nothing until Matt Rozell’s high school history class posted what they’d found on the Internet.

Seriously this is ridiculous, I am crying all over again. I don’t even know, guys.

In which I’ve got nothing.

26 Sep

I went to Small Press Expo in Rockville today! That was good times. I was going to make you a ~brilliant work of Photoshop art~ to illustrate some of the highlights of my day (wishing I had a flamethrower to use on other drivers; finding and replacing a blown fuse in my car and feeling all competent about myself for it; having someone cut in line in front of me to see Kate Beaton and then hearing that same someone complaining about all the people jumping the line; feeling really bad for Kate Beaton, who looked a bit terrified at the crowd; starting my day by getting up at four AM to take my father to the airport so he can go visit Hawaii for work), but I got up at four, so mostly I am thinking I will just kind of nap for awhile. Sorry, dudes! Have this instead.


I’m also sorry about the white text. Life is a series of miseries followed by the peace of the grave, my friends. At least you’re not getting stood up and having to watch your army dwindle?

In which the world is in a shocking state.

20 Sep

From News9 in Oklahoma comes the shocking — SHOCKING — report that 75% of high school students in that state can’t name the first President. Obviously this is pretty crazy-sounding, which, I have to admit, is what makes me a little skeptical. I recall some kind of similar poll from the UK a few years back, in which ridiculous answers about Celebrated Naval Hero Gandalf came up a lot. Basically, I remember when I was in high school, and how a lot of the kids I knew probably would’ve thought it was pretty hilarious to pretend they didn’t know who the first President was!

So I don’t know. On the one hand, we are constantly being told that American public schools are not great compared to the rest of the world. On the other hand, these are high school students we’re talking about, and I do not have any trouble at all believing that high school students would want to screw with people polling them. I’m thinking it’s probably a little from Column A (the SHOCKING and TERRIBLE state of our public schools!!!!!!) and a little from Column B (high schoolers being high schoolers). It might just be that rather than telling us a lot about the Tragic Ignorance Of Today’s Youth, this is merely telling us about their Heroic Dedication To Sarcasm!

This is a pretty optimistic post for me, though, I have to say! Normally I am pretty much the first person to come down on the “people are all stupid, grumble grumble” side of things. This is part of what I learned to do in my Serious Historian Training, though: don’t take things at face value. It’s easier to do this with a statistic from my own time, though; it’s a lot easier to go “hang on a second, what would the people I went to high school with ten years ago have done for the lulz” than it is to try and approach the foreign mindset of someone from even two hundred years ago.

(Side note: oh my god I started high school ten years ago. WHAT.)

Basically, polling would be a whole lot easier if having ESP were a requirement for being a pollster! Someone should get on that.

(I also refuse to believe that anyone could forget about the hotness that was George Washington. SOMEDAY I WILL GET A TIME MACHINE AND THEN, HOT YOUNG GEORGE WASHINGTON, THEN WE ARE SO GOING ON A DATE.)

In which I say “oh dear” a lot.

9 Sep

The Telegraph reports that the Church of England is recommending a mosque as a tourist destination. Okay, not so terrible, right? Depending on what wording they may have used, I suspect it might be kind of problematic in terms of othering, but it could be—wait, sorry, what’s that?

Oh. It turns out that the mosque in question was the one used by the suicide bombers who committed the London attacks of July 7th, 2005. It’s where they worshiped, and it’s also where they recruited. Oh, dear.

It’s also the only Islamic place of worship included in the places-of-religious-interest-in-Britain web page the Church put up on its site. Oh, dear.