The Death Of Generation X

Red X

If one Google’s Generation X, one of the first things that comes up is an article in the Telegraph titled ‘’Whatever Happened to Generation X?’’ Born roughly between 1961 and 1981 and sandwiched between the much larger baby boomer and millennial generations, our invisibility can be attributed to many of us possessing a generally mellow ‘’live and let live’’ attitude. But, are we in fact, truly forgotten? With yesterday’s announcement of the suicide of Chris Cornell, it occurred to me just how influential we have been and how many of the good things we created and/or embraced, have been lost over the past 18 months.

It’s been a tough time for Generation X and with Cornell’s death on top of everything else that came before it, I first felt that we are on the precipice of losing our identity. Then, I realized that this is a part of our identity. And it’s not our fault. The main event that kicked off the current run of crap was the death of Prince in 2016. from an opioid overdose. Opioid addiction is a problem that has reached epidemic proportions. It was created by the greedy pharmaceutical industry (run by baby-boomers), whose sole intent is profit, above and beyond the suffering caused by the mass distribution of their addictive products. Additionally, many turn to street drugs when their Doctors cut them off (after having received their kickbacks from the manufacturers, of course.)

When he died, we lost something big. Although Prince was not the first to break racial and gender identity image barriers, he was the first to do by crossing musical genres commercially. What other black artist in history could pull off a yellow ass-less jumpsuit and high heels and still be the most masculine guy in the room? What other musician before or since could compose, produce, mix and play all his own music? What other artist fought for artists’ rights and changed the way we think about record companies and the concept of copyright and ownership of sound? There was only Prince.

Although a boomer himself, he was embraced commercially by Gen X and I remember vividly, older people in the mid ‘80s not understanding him at that time. But, we understood him. Our open-mindedness contributed to his success. We didn’t care about his curious sexuality and accepted his positive racial message ‘’white, black, Puerto Rican. Everybody just a-freakin’.’’

This was made abundantly clear when our generation’s President, Barack Obama was elected over the boomer favourite Hillary Clinton in 2008 and under his watch, gay marriage was made legal. For a short time, it seemed as if we could let go of our disenfranchisement with society and we almost became hopeful. Almost.

Collectively, we spent the ensuing years watching the older generation try to tear down and reverse the wheels of progress that we put in motion. By the time Obama’s second term in office was over, there was a full-scale boomer revolution whose fires were fuelled by those who preferred to throw society into regression rather than continue the forward momentum we started. Shocking to anyone under the age of 60, Obama was replaced by a bullshitting trust-fund baby reality TV star con-man. Since then, we’ve seen an erosion in voting rights, healthcare policies, women’s rights and pretty much everyone who isn’t healthy, wealthy, male and white is now fucked. Once again, we were robbed of our accomplishments by a bunch of old establishment types that just never understood the things that seemed perfectly logical to us.

Then Chris Cornell died. His suicide is currently being reportedly as being connected to an adverse psychological reaction to a medication he was on. Strike two for the pharmaceutical industry.

As one of the founding members of the seminal Grunge movement that began in the early ‘90s as a reaction to the crappy state of the economy and late ‘80s hair-band rock music, Cornell’s bands Soundgarden and Audioslave contributed greatly to the revitalization of the hard rock landscape and gave us some of the best albums ever made.

Their lyrics spoke to Generation X. Then, as now, we were pissed off. Many of us raised ourselves because our parents worked constantly. Then, after seeing their successes, we were told ‘’Sorry, not for you kids!’’ and graduated into a world of boom/bust cycles created by decades of Thatcher/Regan/Bush economic policies that made the boomers rich but ensured that Gen-X would be the first generation since WWII to not do better than our parents. The songs were dark, honest and raw. No bullshitters allowed. Once again, the message was liberal. ‘’Times are gone for honest men.’’

Now, along with Scott Weiland, who died from a drug overdose and Kurt Cobain, who also committed suicide, we have lost three of the most influential members of the musical movement that defined our youth.

Unfortunately, this is our legacy, as well. Anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide are common among Gen-X but rather than admit complicity, it is frequently dismissed as being self-indulgent by the hypocritical boomers, whose social and economic policies have helped to create this shit show we now live in.

My heart goes out to Chris Cornell’s kids, who will now have it even worse than we did. Their Dad isn’t at work. Their Dad is dead. My only hope is that they, and the countless others like them will grow up to start their own musical movements, reflective of and a catalyst for the change that they too crave. They have the numbers that we didn’t and as the boomers die out, and Generation X gets older, we won’t be as resistant to change. They seem more optimistic than us but are equally as angry for the socioeconomic and political situation they have been left with. I know there are good bands out there with something to say. I just hope that there enough of us Gen-Xers left to see them when they come around on tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Forgotten Films To Watch On Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and though there are plenty of newer films available to honor the day, why not celebrate the feminine with a few forgotten old school films? None of the films on this list were commercial blockbusters at their time of release but all of them are now highly respected and/or considered classics with the added benefit of having kick-ass soundtracks. Enjoy.

Season of the Witch (a.k.a Jack’s Wife) (1972) Dir: George A. Romero

Season of hte Witch

Image ©Arrow Video

The only film on the list written and directed without the input of a woman, this film nonetheless shows remarkable insight into the minds of aging housewives in the late 1960’s at the dawn of the women’s liberation movement. The plot concerns Catholic housewife Joan (Jan White), who has spent the best years of her life doting on her abusive husband Jack (Bill Thunhurst), and raising her very cool free-thinking daughter, who is now in college and no longer needs her. Despite having all the comforts of a suburban life, she regularly attends therapy sessions for her recurring nightmares in which she is tied up like a dog and left in a kennel by Jack. Eventually, she meets a practicing female occultist and decides to explore “the craft” in an effort to gain meaning and empowerment in her life. The question at the heart of the film is whether witchcraft is responsible for Joan’s ensuing emancipation, or her decisions. She casts spells, but she also initiates practical steps that are in no way supernatural and directly lead to her having an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend, breaking off her relationships with her older, more conservative-thinking female friends, and ultimately to the death of her husband. The power, it seems, was Joan’s all along and it is her decision alone who she will submit to. No irony is spared when we see her dead husband being carted away on a stretcher intercut with images of her kneeling down, completely nude for indoctrination into her local coven. Entirely happy with her new identity, the film’s conclusion is nonetheless haunting as it seems the rest of the world has yet to catch up with the new modern Joan as she is still referred to socially as “Jack’s wife.”

In the UK, Arrow Video will be releasing this film later this year on Blu-Ray. Definitely check it out.

Foxes (1980) Dir: Adrian Lyne

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Image ©Warner Home Video

Starring a young Jodie Foster and The Runaways’ Cherie Curie, the film follows the friendship of a group of girls in L.A. in their last year of High School in the late ‘70s. Although each girl has a coming-of-age storyline, the plot’s focus lies mainly with latchkey kid Jeanie (Foster), and her close relationship with her druggie friend Annie (Curie) who constantly parties to avoid going home to her physically abusive policeman father. Director Lyne is no stranger to drawing complex authentic performances from his female actors as evidenced by his excellent take on Nabokov’s Lolita (1997) and this film is no exception. Jeanie is not just a kid. She’s the smartest person in the room even when she’s with her mother or her teachers. She takes care of everyone and everything. Consequently, she has difficulty finding people who will look after her when she needs it. Her parents are divorced and both act younger than her. After tragedy befalls one of their group, Jeanie leaves them all behind for college and hopefully a better future.

Times Square (1980) Dir: Allan Moyle

Time Square

Image ©Network Video

This film is probably my favorite on the list. The development of the unlikely friendship between shy well-off Pam (Trini Alvarado) and volatile street musician Nicky (Robin Johnson) into the Sleeze sisters, who become beloved by all the young girls in the city for their take no bullshit attitude and music is only enhanced by the backdrop of decaying 1980 Manhattan, which almost becomes a character in and of itself with the age-old question of culture vs. gentrification featuring prominently. The changing city has an important impact on the way these divergent girls come together to understand each other, their sexualities, and the outside commercial world. In the end, the message is one of rebellion, self-expression and believing in yourself, even when at odds with those closest to you. As if those weren’t enough reasons to see it, the soundtrack rocks and Tim Curry plays a DJ.

Girls Town (1996) Dir: Jim Mckay

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Image ©Lions Gate Films

Not to be confused with the 1950’s Mamie Van Doren movie, this title is another film about the last year of high school, this time set in gritty urban New Jersey. The film follows a gang of four girls (Lili Taylor, Bruklin Harris, Anna Grace and Aunjanue Ellis) one of who is a single teen mother to a little girl, who must cope in the aftermath of the rape and subsequent suicide of one of their group. Feelings of rage, sadness and hopelessness cause the surviving three to act out towards in various ways, to just about everyone in their periphery despite the prospect of college and a better future. The girls become closer in their shared trauma but and they know in their hearts, that no matter where any of them end up in life, this will be the event that defines their friendship. The writing (with contributions from co-star Lily Taylor) is especially poignant when dealing with mother-daughter issues and the guidance or lack thereof provided after the incident. This one is hard to find as it was only ever made available on VHS, but it is worth looking for the occasional screenings on IFC, which is where I first discovered it. The performances are incredibly strong and the soundtrack features some great music from that era, including Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y., which is used to great affect as the girls patrol their neighborhood spoiling for a fight.

 

 

Doing Business In A Glass House

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Last year, I secured a contractor gig at a small startup occupying one of hundreds of box-sized hipster-friendly shared offices within a large modern building in East London. The establishment featured floor to ceiling glass in place of walls, both inside and out. Each floor had a fancy kitchen, with tea, coffee and fruit infused water included in the price of rent.

At first glance, the people running and working for the companies within the premises seemed professional and hardworking. The (mostly) millennials ran around between meeting rooms, constantly talking on their phones, clutching coffee and laptops and tablets as if they were extensions of their bodies.

Within one week, the façade began to crack. Each day, I listened in on the tea break and commuter conversations of the owners and employees of many companies, and it turned out that a lot of them were just throwing money down the drain trying to look good by renting space with a cool “company culture.” Many had no viable business plans or even any idea how they were going to pay for today’s 3rd Starbuck’s run and believed that their ideas and image alone would propel them to success, even if the idea had been done before, and in innumerable cases, done better. I even discovered several who provided no services at all and/or didn’t sell a product or content, but who inexplicably had marketing staff. Many complained of living hand to mouth and more than a few still lived with their parents. “What exactly does your business do then?” I would ask cautiously, knowing that my question might be perceived as being contradictory to their fantasies. Almost all of them would be proceed to show me an app or a website that they were convinced would bring them great fame and wealth.

As a veteran of the Television industry in Los Angeles, I am familiar with this phenomenon of human psychology. It is the same one that plagues almost every moderately attractive actor who moves to Hollywood to be the next Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lawrence. It’s called delusional. In 15 years I never saw it pan out for anyone. In fact, those who concentrated on the fame and fortune aspect of things usually ended up moving back to Indiana. Conversely, those who were willing to take whatever job they could get within the industry, including those behind the camera as well as in front it, were the ones that ended up building successful careers and living very comfortable lives.

Drawing further parallels, these young entrepreneurs in the glass building were just as excited about the meeting to discuss the meeting with the potential investors next week as recent acting school graduates getting their first set of head shots. “I really think Mr. Goldpockets will love Tinder for cat ladies. I mean, who wouldn’t? I dated a dog guy once. What a waste of time. So…coffee then?

Of course, it goes without saying that for every 25 starving impresarios, there is at least one venture capitalist (or in the case of show biz, an agent) with far too much money lying around who would be impressed enough by the hip aesthetics within the glass offices to give Tindercat enough capital to continue paying rent to the landlord who, by the way is currently valued at $16 Billion. Life must be pretty sweet for agents and the guy taking those head shots in L.A.

By the end of the week, I realized the all-glass design of the building, which was meant to impart a transparent, shared space, was a larger metaphor for the current state of the small business economy and its appropriation of show business culture. It is fragile and it bends light in such a manner as to create rainbows, which look nice but are nonetheless fleeting. Just like the lens of a camera in Hollywood.

Honoring Divine in the Month of March

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Image © 2017 The Criterion Collection

This month marks the 29th anniversary since the death of Divine, the actor, singer and drag queen most famous for the films he made with his friend and fellow Baltimore native, John Waters. Recently, a full six months after its release in North America, the United Kingdom was blessed with the limited theatrical release of the newly restored version of Waters’ second film 1970 Multiple Maniacs. On the 21st, The Criterion Collection will be releasing the title on DVD and Blu-Ray and for fans, it is essential viewing.

For mainstream audiences the 1988 feel-good Hairspray, its subsequent Broadway musical adaptation and then play’s 2007 cinematic re-adaptation are likely their first introductions to the duo. But, for those casual fans curious about the humble beginnings of Waters and his muse Divine (aka Harris Glenn Milstead) Multiple Maniacs is as good a starting point as any and perhaps a gentler introduction to the pair’s oeuvre than the more famous Pink Flamingos (1972.)

The plot of Multiple Maniacs concerns “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions” where unsuspecting middle-class punters pay to see such late ‘60s American horrors as “real homosexuals kissing” in a Baltimore roadside carnival scam where everyone is eventually humorously robbed, humiliated or killed. Like all of Waters’ early work with Divine, the story is secondary to the visuals, which are indeed meant to shock and include simulated sexual acts with a rosary inside a church and a sexual assault perpetrated by a giant lobster.

Past reviews have referred to the film as “outrageous”, and “grotesque.” It is also agreed by many to be very funny and it was indeed, a hell of a good time to watch it with an audience at the BFI.

In the 47 years since its initial release, the one word that has probably never been associated with Multiple Maniacs is charming. Not charming as intended by a film like Marley and Me (which is arguably a more traumatic a viewing experience) but charming like your favorite nephew’s first student film that had monsters running around in it. Where the director and crew had not yet mastered the technical skills associated with good filmmaking but whose results made it abundantly clear that those kids put their hearts and souls into every frame.

Rather than being mean-spirited, the scenes of violence in Multiple Maniacs are frequently evocative of child’s play, with Divine’s knife strikes missing their intended targets by a good 18 inches. Compared to modern rebellious cinema, such as the New French Extremity movement, this film feels innocent. The missed cues, flubbed dialogue, out-of-focus zooms and awkward editing only add to the experience and more than once, I found myself rooting for Edith Massey (the egg lady from Pink Flamingos, 1972) to get through a whole take without missing a line.

Of course, as with all of Waters’ earlier works, Divine is the standout performer of the piece. He effortlessly recites pages upon pages of dialogue without missing a word, hits all of his marks perfectly and ultimately elevates the proceedings to new heights in his high heels. The camera loved him, whether he played men or women. Waters knew this and his instinct to showcase Divine’s talents whenever possible was part of what made him into the cult hero director he is today. Had Divine lived, he would have no doubt enjoyed the same enduring success.

As fate would have it, March 7th is the 29th anniversary of Divine’s death. He died of heart failure at the age of 42 in 1988 on the eve of starting work on what was likely to become a groundbreaking recurring role as the openly gay Uncle Otto on the American sitcom Married With Children.

Of his late friend and long-time collaborator, Waters once said “I think he changed drag queens forever. Ru Paul’s show wouldn’t be there. His legacy was that he made all drag queens cool. They were square then, they wanted to be Miss America and be their mothers.”

So, in honor of the great Divine, (and John Waters who was recently bestowed the Writers’ Guild of America Lifetime Achievement Award) pick yourself up a copy of Criterion’s newly restored Multiple Maniacs on DVD or Blu-Ray, make some popcorn and have some friends around. Soon you’ll all be quoting such award-winning lines as “I love you so fucking much…I could shit!”

Sources:

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26962/1/john-waters-remembers-legendary-drag-queen-divine

https://www.criterion.com/films/28954-multiple-maniacs

How to Fix the U.S. Media: 101

whoever-controls-media

In the ‘90s I had a very passionate Professor named David Hawkins who taught my Broadcast History 101 class. During one memorable lecture, he told us that the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 was the single most destructive act of de-regulation ever committed against our democracy. He told us bright-eyed young journalists, editors, writers and presenters that we would some day face a very different world professionally than the one we had signed up for. It took a few years for this to materialize, but ultimately Professor Hawkins was right. RIP.

The Fairness Doctrine was implemented by the United States Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required all licensed broadcasters (including radio) present all issues considered to be of public importance, i.e. Presidential races, be presented in a manner that was honest, and equitable to all sides of a debate, with all points of view being represented. Those broadcasters who failed to do so were at risk of losing their license. WWII was fresh on the minds of both regulators and the public, who all understood clearly how Hitler and Goebbels had manipulated Germany’s media to their advantage. For many years, this rule helped the U.S. to avoid a similar situation developing at the dawn of the advent of a little thing called Television.

Just imagine it. To be able to turn on your TV or Radio and have actual facts presented and different points of view all in one place! Rather than some truths, many half-truths and opinions presented as facts, all from one side of the aisle depending on what station you’re tuned in to.

The people who argued against the doctrine (people like Rupert Murdoch) referred to the doctrine as “the thought police” and believed that it “restricted the journalistic freedom of broadcasters.” (1). Because as Stephen Colbert once noted “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

It’s funny how those who argue the loudest that their freedoms are being hindered are usually the ones who inevitably remove everyone elses. But they had Ronald Regan’s ear and the act was eliminated in 1987.

In years since, we have seen the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News and MSNBC. In 2011, all language even referencing the doctrine was removed. The final nail in the coffin of responsible un-biased journalism.

Now, here we are with a Trump/Pence administration set to take over the country. Many are decrying the agendas of the different so-called news outlets. Outlets that have become sad shadows of their former selves. Even more are criticizing the lack of oversight on the publishing of false information on Social Media. But nobody is advocating a return of industry regulation, despite all signs to the obvious.

Re-instatement won’t work. Technology is changing too fast for that. What we need are new modern regulations that include current and future social media platforms and take into the consideration the 24-hour news cycle, which did not exist when the original rules were written. Perhaps then we can return to the discourse of reason, facts, calm debate and respect for opposing viewpoints. Perhaps then we can close the gap between “them” and “us” and realize we’re all in this together. Perhaps then we can avoid political and economic shitstorms like the one we’re heading into.

Oh, wait…that’s not profitable. Sorry! I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled bullshit now.

5 Films in 5 Weeks – Halloween Edition

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It’s 5 weeks until Halloween. In the run-up to the big day, there will be parties, costumes, candy and decorations. Part of celebrating the season includes watching scary films. If you’re too busy to look through the longer lists available online, here’s a short tally of recommendations for your viewing pleasure, on per week in the run up to Halloween 2016.

  1. The Thing (1982) Dir: John Carpenter

THE GREATEST HORROR MOVIE EVER MADE. All the films on this list lose nothing with repeated viewings, but The Thing is so well constructed, that the mystery deepens each time. Details emerge that we didn’t notice the first (or fifth) time. Every shot, every edit and every plot twist are perfectly crafted to keep us guessing and on the edge of our seats. There is no waste. It is a lean, mean scaring machine with great acting, atmosphere, real in-screen special effects and creatures the way your wannabe Tom Savini loving cousin used to make. You haven’t seen it? “You gotta be fucking kidding me!” If you have, go watch it again. See if you can figure out if Doc was infected when he logged on to the computer.

  1. Halloween (1978) Dir: John Carpenter

The first of two films by John Carpenter on this list. Though the re-make by Rob Zombie gets its fair share of respect from audiences, I was not one of the champions. I threw my remote at the TV as the credits rolled. Then I re-watched the original classic to wash the bad taste from my mouth. Michael Myers was scarier when we didn’t know why he killed. He just did. That’s all we need to know. The story, though simple, is so well photographed, acted and scored that it still holds up 38 years later. Watch it with the lights off and if you’ve seen it, watch it with someone who has never had. It’s fun to see people jump the way we did the first time and it really brings home how effective Carpenter is as a director.

  1. The Exorcist (1973) Dir: William Friedkin

Lauded as the “scariest movie of all-time” it needs no exposition. Full disclosure: I was unable to watch this all the way through until I was 41 years old and yes, I had nightmares after.

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Dir: Tobe Hooper

Far superior to the 2003 re-make. I base my opinion on my experience of watching a restored print at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA with an audience of millennial film students. Initially, they were dismissive, chuckling at the bell-bottoms and astrology-driven dialogue. But, once Leatherface made his first kill with his handy sledgehammer, they became silent. They remained so through the continued mayhem until well after the end credits. When the house lights came they revealed expressions of traumatized dismay. 42 years later, it still packs a punch. Right in the gut. With the business end of a sledge.

  1. Evil Dead (2013) Dir: Frede Alvarez

In a sea of bad re-makes of horror classics, this one stands a mountain above the rest and deserves a place on this list. It respects the Sam Raimi classic while updating it smartly within the narrative. It increases the tension of the original situation by adding the specter of drug addiction and ramps up the pace and effects to such an extent that when it was over, I had all but forgotten all about my undying love for Ash and his boom stick. Of course, if this list were longer, I would honor that love and tell you to watch the original as well as its two awesome sequels. Groovy.

Got a scary film you’d think I overlooked or a list of your own? Please share it in the comments section! Happy Halloween and Happy Viewing!

Finding purpose as a multipotentialite

Square Peg in a Round Hole
A square peg forced into a round hole.

It seems that a week cannot go by without the publishing of a new article on finding one’s purpose. A cursory Google search brought up 196 million hits dedicated to doing so. Quizzes, personality typing tools, pep talks and “how to” books all dedicated to helping people to figure out what they want when they grow up, regardless of age. It is clearly a lucrative game. But I wonder if it’s really helping or it’s just a lunchtime mood booster for miserable office workers to see guys like Tony Robbins share their success stories from their palatial estates telling us how successful we’ll be if we follow his plan of self-discovery. For a price, of course.

What about those of us who have taken the personality tests, read the books, listened to the “experts” and find it disheartening to discover that we don’t fit into any one box? A few of us have lots of different interests that have changed and developed over time. What about people perfectly happy in one job for a while who then decide to do something else, only to hear “You don’t have the experience!” or “Your CV has too many different things on it!” from recruiters. Some of us are good at more than one thing and find it frustrating when we cannot apply our skills in our working lives. It’s time for us to find our collective voice.

For this type of person, reading (and writing) articles on finding your purpose or doing quizzes to identity your passion are counter-productive because they promote what career coach Emilie Wapnick calls “a narrowly focused life.” This may be fine for those who knew from age 3 that they wanted to be a Doctor. But, many people are what Wapnick calls multipotentialites.  It’s a great word that describes a person with “many interests and creative pursuits.”

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of possessing such a personality i.e. having a fractured CV or dealing with the problems of changing fields, Wapnick ascribes us 3 Superpowers. These are:
1. Idea synthesis (bringing ideas from a broad range of fields of expertise together to create new and interesting concepts)
2. Rapid Learning (people who are polygamous in their interests are generally good researchers and keen to learn all they can about their new subject of interest)
3. Adaptability (the ability to become whatever an employer needs them to be. They can draw on their vast past experiences and broad range of knowledge.

It is a model that stresses breadth and depth, rather than simply the depth of finding one thing to do for the rest of your life and sticking with it. These are attributes encouraged in higher education, but rarely drawn upon in the professional world outside of academia.

I for one will be exploring my newfound multipotentialite attributes and eschewing any more of the “specialist” focused online quizzes and purpose-finding books and articles.

Emilie Wapnick’s Ted Talk on Multipotentialites can be found here: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling?language=en#t-472195