Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

No, famous people won’t stop dying on January 1. But we lost too many bright lights this year and we hope that 2017 will be better. Here’s a list of noteworthy people who died in 2016.

For the past several months a lot of us have been saying we can’t wait for this damned year to be over.

2016 gave us the worst election season I can remember, and every ten minutes or so another beloved artist would die, it seemed. Any year that gives us Donald Trump and takes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince in return has done more damage than some decades.

No, people aren’t going to stop dying at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Continue reading “Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died”

Kids today aren’t like we were

You know how schools sometimes have assemblies where outside speakers or entertainers put on a show for an hour? Right.

Well, when I was in first grade my school, Wallburg Elementary in sleepy little Wallburg, NC, had a musician come in. I don’t remember much about the show, except for this one thing. He said he was going to do something amazing. Then he draped a blanket over the piano, put on a pair of boxing gloves, sat down and went to town on a rag of some sort.

Holy hell! How did he DO THAT?! Continue reading “Kids today aren’t like we were”

Generation X, whatever, nevermind: reflecting on Kurt Cobain

No one could possibly be THE voice of Gen X, but Cobain was certainly A voice of my generation.

SRHonors_Kurt CobainIn their seminal 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?, published in 1993, Neil Howe and William Strauss argued that the only thing Generation Xers really agreed on was that there was no such thing as Generation X. Given the inherent irony and collective self-denial bound up in any examination of the cohort born from 1961 to 1980, then, maybe Kurt Cobain was the Voice of His Generation.

Whatever. Nevermind.

Yeah, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but not as much as you might think. Gen X is a subject I have studied deeply through the years, and if trying to characterize any demographic that’s 50 million people wide is a tricky enterprise, it’s doubly so with m-m-my generation because we’re so goddamned contrary. Continue reading “Generation X, whatever, nevermind: reflecting on Kurt Cobain”

Five reasons why soccer will eventually surpass football in the US – #4: The children are the future

Soccer’s American base is young, passionate, and more globally minded than any generation in history. In part one we saw ESPN analyst Rich Luker explaining that in the 12-24 demographic, soccer is already bigger than any sport except American football. … Continue reading Five reasons why soccer will eventually surpass football in the US – #4: The children are the future

Mark Zuckerberg: Is it time for Facebook’s boy genius to go?

Today’s LA Times asks a good question: Is Mark Zuckerberg in over his hoodie as Facebook CEO?

Business writers Walter Hamilton and Jessica Guynn dig into an issue that I suspect some of us have seen before, and it’s remarkable that the clamor over Zuck specifically hasn’t been louder for some time.

Should Mark Zuckerberg, the social media visionary but neophyte corporate manager, step aside as CEO to let a more seasoned executive run the multibillion-dollar company? Continue reading “Mark Zuckerberg: Is it time for Facebook’s boy genius to go?”

North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Rachel Held Evans nails it:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

My generation is tired of the culture wars.  Continue reading “North Carolina’s Amendment One and America’s youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war”

Target to require retinal scans and DNA samples of all in-store customers

Okay, maybe not yet. But we’re definitely getting there. Check out today’s two-part gotcha.

Part 1: Back in 2008 I wrote a piece called “The Smartest Shopping Cart That Ever Lived,” a glimpse into the near-future of GPS meets RFID meets customer relationship management meets intelligent supply chain meets nosy retailer shopping experience. I invoked Minority Report in doing so – remember Tom Cruise trying to get through that mall without being skinned alive?

Of course, as is so often the case when it comes to predicting the future these days, I was way too conservative. Check this item, from the Not-Science-Fiction-At-All Files.

An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager: Continue reading “Target to require retinal scans and DNA samples of all in-store customers”

Dear Judge Adams: No, it was worse than it looked

“He who spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)

“Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

By now, you’ve probably heard about the video of Texas judge William Adams beating his disabled, then-16 year-old daughter, Hillary, with a belt. You may even have seen the video. If not, a caution: it’s every bit as disturbing as reports would lead you to believe. We’re not used to seeing this kind of domestic brutality on YouTube, especially when it’s punctuated by lines like “lay down or I’ll spank you in your fucking face.”

I initially ignored this story. I heard the headlines, made the same assumptions as a lot of people probably did and moved along. But today the story hooked me back in when I saw that Adams, in the process of blaming the victim (she only released the tape because he was cutting her off and taking away her Mercedes, he says), suggesting that the footage looked “worse than it was.” Continue reading “Dear Judge Adams: No, it was worse than it looked”

Getting hired and getting ahead: five important tips for the career-minded college student or recent grad

My alma mater, Wake Forest University, has a “career connectors” group on LinkedIn, and there’s currently a thread where one of the university’s career dev folks asks for some input on a project she’s working. Specifically, she asks: “If you were hiring a recent graduate, what top five professional skills do you want him/her to possess to be a strong candidate in your profession?”

Great question. Since I’m all in favor of young Deacons taking the world by storm, I thought I’d try to contribute some advice. Here’s a slightly buffed out version of what I wrote.

1: Develop communications skills. Especially the ability to write clearly and flawlessly. The erosion of writing skills over the past 20 years has been dramatic, and a student who can demonstrate this ability has a huge advantage over the competition. A warning, though. Continue reading “Getting hired and getting ahead: five important tips for the career-minded college student or recent grad”

More than marketing: The Blueflowers and the New Wave of Americana

I’ve never much cared for the musical genre broadly known as Americana, and lately I’ve been thinking about why this is. I suppose it’s acceptable to say hey, I’ve listened to a lot of these artists and most of them just kinda bore me, but that seems unsatisfactory for a guy who thinks about music like I do.

After some reflection, I think it comes down to a couple of issues. The first one, I admit right up front, is objectively unfair of me, but there is a part of me that associates Americana with the Baby Boomers, and in particular sees it as a late, faint attempt by the post-Reagan iteration of the cohort to recapture lost authenticity. Continue reading “More than marketing: The Blueflowers and the New Wave of Americana”

The American Parliament: our nation’s 10 political parties

Part two in a series.

Forgive me for abstracting and oversimplifying a bit, but one might argue that American politics breaks along the following 10 lines:

30-Day Song Challenge, day 12: a song from a band I hate

I talk a lot about generational dynamics and have been known to criticize the collective shortcomings of the Boomers and Millennials. I’ve also allowed that my generation (X) has some failings of its own, and one of them is that our cynicism can get the best of us. In fact, sometimes it almost seems to define us. As much as I hate it, I think we’re going to go down in the history books as the Whatever Generation.

And I admit it – I have my own cynical streak, and sometimes it threatens to take over completely. Continue reading “30-Day Song Challenge, day 12: a song from a band I hate”

Report says pistol shots preceded Kent St. shootings: let’s wait and see on this, shall we?

The story: Tape analysis: Pistol shots preceded 1970 Kent St. shooting deaths of 4 students.

Let me be the first to wade in with a caution here.

  1. I need to know a good bit more about the person doing the analysis and
  2. I would be interested in knowing if he’s being compensated.
  3. If so, by whom?
  4. There’s allegedly a 70-second gap? If I think I’m under fire it won’t take me that long to shoot back.
  5. And let’s not forget that in the hearings it became clear that the soldiers fired in the opposite direction of where they said they thought they heard fire. Continue reading “Report says pistol shots preceded Kent St. shootings: let’s wait and see on this, shall we?”

Unsolicited Pimpage: Rock & Roll Tribe

Here’s another in our occasional unsolicited shout-outs to people and groups we like.

You’re probably hooked into a variety of social networks, but Rock & Roll Tribe is a little different. It is, as the tag line suggests, a “community for kickass grown-ups.” Music is at the center of most conversations, but it’s more than that. It’s a social net that’s by, of and for those of us whose spirits are younger than our knees. That’s how I see it, anyway. In addition to the online activities, RnRT is also pushing local get-togethers and inviting meaningful contributions from folks like you.

One of the founders is the eminent Bruce Brodeen, he of Not Lame renown. And that alone makes it cool.

Drop in. Sign up. Rock out. Continue reading “Unsolicited Pimpage: Rock & Roll Tribe”

Business and social media: American companies growing up, sort of

Ever since the Internet began gaining popular awareness in the mid-1990s, the topic of how businesses can productively use various new media technologies has been a subject of ongoing interest. Along the way we’ve had a series of innovations to consider: first it was the Net, and the current tool of the moment is Twitter. In between we had, in no particular order, Facebook (not that Facebook has gone away, of course), CRM, mobile (SMS, smart phones, apps), blogging, RSS and aggregation, Digg (and Reddit and StumbleUpon and Current and Yahoo! Buzz and Technorati and Del.icio.us and seemingly thousands more), targeted e-mail, YouTube, SEO, SEM, online PR and, well, you get the idea.

We certainly hear examples of businesses getting it right with new media, but in truth these cases represent a painfully small minority. Continue reading “Business and social media: American companies growing up, sort of”

Jon & Kate: a sign of the times to come

If you’ve been off-planet for the last few months you may have missed the news: Jon & Kate have split, and in the process migrated from the relative banality of the TV listings over to the hyper-banality of the tabloids. I’m still not sure what the future holds for the popular “reality” show, but whatever it is, Gosselin family 2.0 equals Jon minus Kate.

It occurs to me that these events represent something significant in our culture. Since about 1980 or so we’ve been in one of our periodic “childrens is the most preciousest things in the whole wide world” phases. (For more on the generational cycles that produce this dynamic, see Generations, 13th Gen and Millennials Rising by William Howe and Neil Strauss, two men whose work I have referenced a number of times in the past.) In the previous generation (Gen X), children were an afterthought for most parents, who had been socialized in far more self-centric times. Continue reading “Jon & Kate: a sign of the times to come”

Ten years on: was Columbine the rule or the exception?

Part two in a series

How did it happen? Why did it happen? There’s simply no way to measure how many hours have devoted to these questions in the ten years and four days since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, and while we don’t (and never will) have all the answers, we do have some of them. Obviously a good bit of the discussion focuses on the individuals themselves, and other analyses cast a broader net, examining the social factors that shaped the individuals. In a way, the question we’re still debating perhaps boils down to nature vs. nurture. Were Harris and Klebold Natural Born Killers? Or are they better understood as by-products of deeper social trends and dynamics?

The answer is probably “All of the above,” but we can’t simply check C and be on our merry, uncritical way. Continue reading “Ten years on: was Columbine the rule or the exception?”

Ten years on: the enduring lessons of Columbine

Part one of a series

April 20, 2009: 11:19 am MDT

Ten years ago a co-worker turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget, no matter how long I live: “Hey, Sammy, there’s been a school shooting in Littleton.”

Since that day a great deal has been written and said about Columbine High School and the events of 4.20.99, and like a lot of other people I’ve tried my hardest to make sense of something that seemed (and still seems) inherently senseless. Tried and failed. Now, ten years on, the grief hasn’t fully dissipated here in the city that I have come to call home, and even if we manage to understand the whos, whats, and hows, there’s a part of us that’s doomed to wrestle forever with the whys. Continue reading “Ten years on: the enduring lessons of Columbine”