1) The Atlantic provided an insightful zinger to the finger-waggers of today’s adultescent. Looking at today’s young people, of whom I am one—blogging away, shoes off—the piece is a response to the recent cover article of Time magazine, “The Me Me Me Generation.” The Time piece is a backhanded spotlight on the millennials, a heat-ray at their unique and insipid self-absorption, their phones, their extended stays at home. Contrary to this, Elspeth Reeve writes that the Me, Me, Me Generation is every generation—that we’ve been locating (and writing about) the narcissism of youth since we’ve written. She then delineates a long line of stories about just that.
Millennials are the “ME ME ME GENERATION,” writes Joel Stein for the cover of Time magazine, which is apparently a marked departure from the Baby Boomers, who were the plain old “Me Generation” (one me, no caps) and who created the “Me Decade” in the 1970s, and who coined the phrase, “But enough about me… what do you think about me?” in the 1980s when they were raising the next narcissists, Generation X. Sometimes you get the sense that these magazines’ cultural writers have very little experience with the entire American culture, and prefer to make their grand analyses based on what people they know in the gentrified parts of cities like New York and Los Angeles were talking about at brunch last weekend. The type of young person that magazine writers come across most frequently are magazine interns.
Basically, it’s not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it’s that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older. It’s like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences. Further, they write:
In turn, when older people are told that younger people are getting increasingly narcissistic, they may be prone to agree because they confuse the claim for generational change with the fact that younger people are simply more narcissistic than they are. The confusion leads to an increased likelihood that older individuals will agree with the Generation Me argument despite its lack of empirical support.
In other words, Reeves argues that it’s not a generation thing, it’s a youth thing, it’s a people thing. Young people are simply self-centered, and time and life and suffering have an uncanny ability to silence (atleast partially) the conceit of our one-man show. While I’m still waiting for this happen (maybe you are, too), a more intriguing idea is the correlation not meaning causation. Upon exiting one’s own generation of self-discovery into a time of “growing up” (think This Is 40), it makes sense that the new slang of the next generation becomes categorized into an altogether inferior class— because their way is the way of “feeds” and “tweets”—rather than being seen merely as young. For those of us preening millenials, well, I guess we’ll just have to wait for Life to grow us up…
2) Maybe you’ve already caught the Abercrombie headline this week, when CEO Mike Jeffries defended why his store did not supply plus sizes (XL, XXL). At Salon, he had things to say about the posture of exclusivity he wants to maintain for the store, while also maintaining its “All-American” aesthetic. The interview is brimming with irony but, lest we crucify Jeffries, he’s onto one thing: we are driven by the exclusionary and alienating economics of scarcity. If there is no cool from which I may be denied, there is no desire to buy (ht NW):
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either,” he told Salon.
And, then, in the other dugout, have you seen these delightful series of commercials from Dove? Not just a feel-good ploy, but a great exemplar for being our own worst enemies, how “humility” and “honesty” are oft-times our acceptable words for “self-loathing.” To see ourselves, the first place to look is, oddly enough, from without. Stick with the video—the reactions are the best part (ht DB).
3) The death of George Jones brought a lot of writers out of the woodwork, including Possum’s close friend Merle Haggard, who wrote in Rolling Stone about the living confliction Jones embodied. George Jones had the quintessential country hang-ups with fame—booze, drugs, divorce—and the miraculously counteracting country resurrection. Haggard talks about Jones’ twiny, instrumentally strung voice, the wake his legacy created for country music, and the fame that nearly snatched it from him.
George was half-tough – he wouldn’t put up with any crap. In the Sixties, George and Faron Young, who had a big hit with “Hello Walls,” went to the ground four different times. They just didn’t like each other. I was always trying to help George out of some damn thing. I felt like his big brother, even though I was younger. I know he depended on me and he respected me to tell him the truth when a lot of times other people would lie to him.
I‘d get mad at him over the years because of his self-damage, but everything I said to him was out of love. Imagine you’re George Jones, and every night you’re expected to sing as good as you did on a song like “She Thinks I Still Care.” He was a shy country boy from East Texas walking around with that on his shoulders. He knew people expected him to be the greatest country singer that ever lived. He was the Babe Ruth of country music, and people expected a home run every time.
On 1999’s “Choices,” he sang, “By an early age I found/I liked drinkin’/And I never turned it down. . . . Now I’m living and dying with the choices I’ve made.” It was a summary of his mistakes, and it was perfect. But George’s greatest song was 1980’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” It’s like Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues”: You can play it 100 years from now and it’ll still sound good. We recorded two albums together, and it was about as much fun as a singer could have. Every singer in the goddamn world would like to get up there and sing with George, listening to him innovate.
I was planning to attend his final concert, in Nashville, this November. They had 100 meet-and-greet tickets that they were selling for $1,000 apiece, and I bought two of them. There’s not that many of us singers left. There was me, Ray Price, Willie and George. And we lost part of our quartet.
4) Katharine Welby, daughter of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, had a candid interview with the Telegraph about her bouts with depression. The video is below, but her original blog post can be found here.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I am very low I still will see a black veil of nothing hanging in front of me, I will still find that point of hopelessness where there is no way forward. My brain gets full and I cannot possibly understand how to empty it or what the way forward is. However, in between these moments I find life. There is a hope that comes from the understanding that in it all, the highs and lows, the hope and despair there is truly a place where you can find peace.
The bible is my key. Reading the psalms (that oh so regularly quoted ‘you can yell at God, look’ book) I find that I don’t need to have hope every second of the day. In my hopelessness I just need to acknowledge that God is bigger than my illness and he will come through – eventually. Not always easy, but always possible. I go back to Job in the bible, again an inspiration, a man in despair, who maintained trust and faith, but not in a squeaky clean ‘all is fine’ kind of way. In fact, I don’t know that I have yet encountered a single person from the bible who did have a ‘everything is fine’ kind of life. So why do we feel we need to?
The church is the place where hope can be found, but this is only possible if the church is willing to accept that life is not always rosy. The stigma around mental health illness – of any kind, must be eradicated. The bible is full of people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane found life a little too much to bear and pleaded with God.
5) In TV land, have you started Rectify yet? On the Sundance Channel, and from the Breaking Bad producers, and from creator Ray McKinnon—who had his hands in HBO’s Deadwood—it’s probably not going to be a show that brings in a whole lot of traffic, but it certainly is stunning, visually- and dramatically-speaking (Terrence Malick meets Justified’s Harlan eccentrics). Aden Young, who plays the lead role as Daniel Holden, is mystifying. Holden has been released from death row, after a DNA test proves he wasn’t guilty of the rape and murder for which he was convicted. He returns after decades to his Georgia childhood town, where his innocence is anything but expressed by his neighbors. It’s certainly more cerebral than a Southern setting with that kind of plot might imply—one that draws lines and blurs them, between freedom and imprisonment, guilt and forgiveness, new life and death, the past and the present. The Smart Water scene in episode two was priceless…
In other TV news, after FNL, after Parenthood, Jason Katims is rearing to wow us again. This time, it’s About a Boy!
P.P.S. Vampire Weekend Gets Religion…?
P.P.P.S. Clooney In Space!!!