Tag Archives: About Generation Jones

Your first personal computer

Do you get nostalgic about your first personal computer? Perhaps it is a sign of geekdom if the answer is yes. But if you’re a Gen Joneser, it’s very possible that you discovered computing on your own, making for a lot of good gee whiz discoveries and eventual memories.

Commodore 64 computer (Photo: Wikipedia)

Commodore 64 computer (Photo: Wikipedia)

When I finally decided to buy a personal computer in 1988, I aimed for the low end: The venerable Commodore 64. By then, the IBM PC had already made its mark, and the Apple 128 was giving way to the Mac. Nevertheless, I was still working as Legal Aid lawyer in New York City, and I didn’t have a lot of money.

More importantly, the C64 had established itself as one of the best game machines around. Designers had squeezed everything they could out of its tiny amount of available memory, and the result was an incredible array of gaming software. I was especially partial to sports video and simulation games, and the choices were considerable.

Productivity software designers were similarly ingenious. For example, the C64 supported decent word processing programs that signaled the eventual demise of my electric typewriter. The C64 even managed to introduce me to online computing, however primitively. Powered by a 1200 baud modem, I dialed into Quantum Link, soon to become AOL.

Although I was among the last major wave of C64 buyers, I was in very good company. As this excellent Wikipedia article about the history of the C64 tells us, it was one of the bestselling computers of all time. Airplane buffs will understand the reference when I say it was the DC-3 of personal computers.

In the early 90s, I upgraded to a PC, and about five years ago, I morphed over to Macs. Yup, affordable personal computing power has come a long way during the past 25 years. For me, though, I don’t think that any computing experience will surpass the pure fun of booting up that C64.

What now, not what if

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Currently stored on my DVR are a PBS program and a National Geographic docudrama about President Kennedy, both produced to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Although I’m a devotee of history, I have a feeling that I won’t be watching them.

I was way too young to understand the tragedy of the assassination when it occurred. Today, however, I regard those events with a deep sense of loss and a light snuffed out.  Kennedy’s three years in office were marked by large successes and failures, but he appeared to be hitting his stride by the time he met his demise in Dallas. The “what ifs” are both tantalizing and sad to contemplate. It is oh-so-tempting to imagine what might have been had he lived.

Nevertheless, watching television programs devoted to Kennedy and his death seems like wallowing in a past that cannot be changed. That lesson was reinforced to me in Stephen King’s 2011 time travel epic, 11/22/63, which takes us back to the years leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy. The main protagonist — a modern-day school teacher — learns that when we go back in time, our attempts to change the past may have unintended consequences.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be drawing such fundamental lessons from a bestselling novel, but I’ll take the chance. Even hardcore nostalgia addicts like me must recognize that what’s done is done. And to a generation raised with options, the what-ifs — the speculations over the roads not traveled — can consume us if we let them.

Rather, what counts is how we live today, including the measures we undertake to better our lives and those of others. This point applies in the realms of public affairs, our personal lives, everything. We take the world as it is and do our best to move forward. It’s the best choice we have.

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This article is cross-posted with my professional blog, Minding the Workplace.

75 reasons you may be a Gen Joneser

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1. You know what happened on “a three hour tour” (and can finish the theme song!).

2. You got annoyed when corn kernels spilled into the dessert compartment of your TV dinner.

3. You first knew of John Glenn as an astronaut.

4. You know that Laura Petrie came before Mary Richards.

5. You were ecstatic to have access to an electric typewriter to do your term papers.

6. You looked at beaches differently after seeing “Jaws.”

7. You were a member of the Columbia House Record and Tape Club.

8. You’ve flown on a four-engine propeller passenger plane.

9. You remember baseball before the designated hitter.

10. You know Fred and Wilma, Barney and Betty.

11. You remember, as a kid, simply “going out to play.”

12. You once got all excited about the new frontiers of FM radio.

13. You held back tears during the premiere of “Brian’s Song.”

14. You know the difference between a flash cube and a flash bulb.

15. You know that “Have it your way” is not to be confused with As You Like It.

16. You huddled under your covers while reading “‘Salem’s Lot.”

17. You can finish from memory the song that starts with “Doe, a deer, a female deer…”

18. You know that Felix and Oscar were just apartment mates, though Felix might’ve given you pause.

19. You recall how “You’ve come a long way baby” was used to sell cigarettes to women, and you remember the tune!

20. You owned Silly Putty.

21. You understand the brilliance of “Tapestry” by Carole King.

22. You lobbied your mom to buy a new product called “Buitoni’s Instant Pizza.”

23. You’ve literally dialed a phone number.

24. You debated the merits of Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo (“Lots of curves, you bet…”).

25. You know why CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News together don’t add up to one Walter Cronkite.

26. You know that Dr. J came before Air Jordan.

27. You associate “There’s got to be a morning after” with a sinking ship (not the Titanic).

28. You know which President was a peanut farmer.

29. You remember the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment.

30. You remember how the arrival of a Baskin Robbins ice cream store in your neighborhood was an event.

31. You first laughed at Flip Wilson’s jokes listening to an LP album.

32. You now get hives at the thought of “Seventies music.”

33. You now start twitching when you think about “Seventies television.”

34. You woke up early on Saturday mornings, in breathless anticipation of your favorite cartoon shows.

35. You recognize the names Hoss, Little Joe, and (wincing…) Hop Sing.

36. You had an ant farm or Sea Monkeys.

37. You know who used the Cone of Silence.

38. You got all excited about the Bicentennial.

39. You had a Bobby Sherman poster in your room.

40. You had that Farrah Fawcett poster in your room.

41. You remember when yogurt was considered kind of exotic.

42. You remember when acupuncture was considered extremely weird.

43. You watched the grainy live video of the first moon landing.

44. You once filled your car with leaded gasoline.

45. You know that “Fischer v. Spassky” was not a lawsuit.

46. You were just a tad too young to fully grasp all those protests during the 60s.

47. You debated the merits of Davy Jones vs. David Cassidy.

48. You’ve ingested Jiffy Pop, Space Food Sticks, and Tab.

49. You used mimeographed and ditto master handouts in grade school.

50. You watched an American President resign on national TV.

51. You’ll take Olivia Newton-John over any of today’s pop tarts.

52. You get all of the jokes in the movie “Airplane!”

53. You read Tiger Beat magazine.

54. You read Mad Magazine.

55. You made Creepy Crawlers and ate ’em.

56. Your first understanding of death came out of JFK’s funeral.

57. You remember Howard, Frank, and Dandy Don.

58. You know why Leno, Letterman, and Conan together don’t add up to one Johnny Carson.

59. You know that “Got to Be There” came before “Thriller.”

60. You read My Weekly Reader and Ranger Rick magazines in grade school.

61. You debated amnesty for draft resisters.

62. You know that Shirley Chisholm came before Hillary Clinton.

63. Your head automatically starts playing the music from “Charlie Brown Christmas” every holiday season.

64. You daydreamed of owning all the toys in the Sears Wish Book catalog.

65. You regard the theme song from “Hawaii Five-0” as one of the best of all time.

66. You sent away for stuff advertised in comic books.

67. You rank Ball Four as one of the greatest and funniest sports books ever.

68. You played lots of board games with friends and family.

69. You have (possibly vague) memories of cities rioting.

70. You rooted for Billie Jean King or Bobby Riggs (but not both!).

71. You thought that quotes from the TV show “Kung Fu” were so profound.

72. You wrote and received real handwritten letters from friends and family.

73. You skipped watching “That 70’s Show” because it was too been there, done that.

74. You can explain, even today, the sibling rivalry between Marcia and Jan.

75. You easily can add a half dozen of your own items to this list!

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If you can say YES to more than half of the items on this list without using Google or Wikipedia, there’s a darn good chance that you’re a card-carrying American member of Generation Jones!

Please feel free to add your own in the comments!

(And for those wondering about any of these pop culture references, searches on either of those two online sources will fill in the details. I fully concede that this list favors those who watched too much television as kids!)

Gilligan’s Island image: Wikipedia

The Wizard of Oz and Generation Jones

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No single generation can lay claim to “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), but I certainly can attest that it holds iconic status in the eyes of many Gen Jonesers.

It’s a movie that we associate with our childhoods, replete with the annual anticipation of its fall screening on TV. It was an event in our lives, right there on the small screen. The songs became etched in our minds, especially “Over the Rainbow,” “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead,” and “If I Only Had a Brain.” The scary parts, most notably the tornado scene, anything to do with the Wicked Witch, and the flying monkeys, had us huddled together on our couches.

And how many times have variations of memorable lines from the movie entered into our everyday sayings and quips? Such as:

  • “Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!”
  • “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
  • “I’m melting! melting!”
  • “…we’re not in Kansas anymore”
  • “Shucks, folks, I’m speechless.”
  • “There’s no place like home!”

(See the imdb.com entry for more!)

“It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”

Over the past five years, I’ve gone on a number of storm chase tours in an effort to learn more about severe weather in America’s heartland. The tours are led by expert storm chasers, and these experiences have put me in touch with dozens of other chasers, severe weather enthusiasts, and storm geeks.

Whenever we talk about the roots of our passionate interest in tornadoes, the twister scene in “The Wizard of Oz” inevitably comes up, early and often.

Spanning our emotions

Very few movies of our childhood so envelop a range of emotional qualities: Joy, longing, belonging, friendship, caring, love, fear, courage, shame, kindness, evil. We care about and identify with the core characters. Each has a quest, a challenge, and we root for them.

Yup, I could wile away the hours (sorry!) thinking about the lasting imprint of this movie on my generation.

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Movie poster: Wikipedia

Generation Jones, 9/11, and a formative decade

Here in the U.S., today is marked by the annual observances of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Several friends and family members who were more directly affected by 9/11 — in New York, Boston, and elsewhere — are readers of this fledgling blog. I know that this is an especially meaningful and hard day for them.

Those who study the beliefs and attitudes of different generations often seek to identify shaping mega-events. For Americans of two generations, it’s pretty easy: The Depression and World War II for the “Greatest Generation,” and numerous points along the whole Sixties arc for classic Baby Boomers.

And what of Generation Jones? For my generation, I believe that the 9/11 attacks were a signature event and the beginning of a defining decade.

I lived in New York City from 1982 to 1994, and for six of those years had practiced law in lower Manhattan, within easy walking distance of the Twin Towers. New York was my first chosen home, a place I have loved from my first forays into Manhattan. The images of the day — via TV screens here in Boston — felt like a hard body blow. And I knew, in ways I couldn’t fully anticipate, that the ground had shifted under us.

For many Gen Jonesers, that day shook us out of the complacency of lives formed largely in the 1970s and 1980s. Most Americans have been fortunate to escape the risks of upheaval and terrorism that continually confront millions of others around the globe. For us, 9/11 launched a new reality and a tumultuous decade, capped by the financial meltdown.

That decade likely will reverberate throughout our years. Regardless of one’s politics, the “war on terror” has changed the way we live and created challenging, unresolved questions for public policy and foreign affairs. During the last years of the 2000s, our focus shifted to economics, and brutally so. Our financial system went into near collapse, and although economists have proclaimed the Great Recession “over,” millions of people are still trying to recover.

The two preceding generations experienced their formative events relatively early in their lives. For Gen Jonesers, I think we’ll look back and see that the last decade created our new worldview, well into our adulthoods. And far from being the stuff of soggy nostalgia, we’ll be living with these realities for the long term.

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The YouTube link above is the opening montage from Woody Allen’s 1979 film, “Manhattan.” Its beautiful black & white cinematography, accompanied by Gershwin’s luscious “Rhapsody in Blue,” capture the indomitable spirit of this great city.

How will Generation Jones make its mark?

I can relate. (Photo: Screen shot from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer")

I can relate. (Photo: Screen shot from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”)

If you’re a card-carrying U.S. member of Generation Jones, you no doubt recognize this screen shot from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” depicting some of the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys, hoping that Santa Claus will pick them up some Christmas Eve and deliver them to loving homes.

And that, for me, captures how I feel about our chronological place in time. I think of Gen Jones as a group whose formative period missed out on the heart of the Sixties and preceded much of the gee-whiz launch of the Digital Age.

Instead, the Seventies come to mind, and I don’t necessarily consider that a good thing: Big, gas guzzling cars; a struggling economy; lots of cheesy pop music, TV, and movies; some pretty scary fashions; high crime rates and crumbling cities; and the outing of political corruption at a national level. Despite my Cancerian devotion to nostalgia, that’s one decade I don’t get all warm and fuzzy about.

Finding our place now

But I’m over that — er, sort of.

More importantly, there’s a bigger question presenting itself, and that’s how we make our mark as a generation. I know I’m not alone in wrestling with these thoughts. The quest to find that narrative and purpose is said to be one of the defining characteristics of Gen Jones, as its Wikipedia entry suggests:

The name “Generation Jones” has several connotations, including a large anonymous generation, a “keeping up with the Joneses” competitiveness and the slang word “jones” or “jonesing”, meaning a yearning or craving. . . . It is said that Jonesers were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as they came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, leaving them with a certain unrequited, “jonesing” quality.

For now, it’s fair to say that the process of generational self-definition is a work-in-progress for Gen Jones.

Here’s one take on it…

Beth Wiggins, whose work brings together aging issues and community services, suggests that Gen Jones can make its unique contribution by how we handle our aging population. Here’s a piece of her article for MinnPost.com, “Time for the Jones Generation to Make Its Mark”:

We . . . have been given a name: Generation Jones. Born between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s, you don’t hear much about the Jones cohort. Yet, we outnumber all other Boomers and Generation X. Jonathan Pontell, who coined “Generation Jones,” describes it as a large, anonymous generation with unfulfilled expectations. . . . But here we are at our midcentury mark, and we have an opportunity to step out and make a difference.

. . . And we must, whether motivated by pursuit of the greater good or pure self-interest. Generation Jones is the crest of the population age wave. We personify its biggest challenges and are especially vulnerable to the potential insecurities when the wave hits the shore. Health-care costs continue to escalate, and Medicare is in a precarious position. Professional care-giving work force shortages loom ahead. Dispersed families and the increasing prevalence of single-person households have implications for how informal care is provided in the future. How we approach aging matters.

A good conversation over a bite to eat

Just yesterday I enjoyed a quick meal with an old friend from high school who was in town on business. We hadn’t seen each other in decades, but Facebook put us back in touch. He’s got a ton of important work experience in both the private and public sectors, and he’s at a point in his life where he’s considering how to bring this accumulated wisdom to bear upon some of our larger challenges in creating a vibrant, socially responsible economy.

Our conversation covered a wide swath of what our generation has experienced over the past 30 years. For both of us, this includes witnessing the sharp decline of our hometown of Hammond, Indiana, once a thriving small industrial city in Northwest Indiana’s steel belt, now yet another Midwestern locale trying to hang on. We’ve seen good jobs at decent wages disappear, with massive shifts in wealth distribution to go along with it.

Will my friend be part of a creative solution? I’m betting that his myriad experiences, and what he’s learned from them, have led him to this point.

Legacies

There’s no shortage of good works and noble deeds that need doing. That said, we’re in our 50s and late 40s. Realistically speaking, we have about a 20 year window to continue or begin creating the heart of our personal and collective legacies.

In other words, we can’t afford to feed a lot of angst about the world and our places in it. It’s game time, and we need to realize that.

Welcome, dear readers!

Me in a bookstore. Where else?

Me in a bookstore. Where else? (Photo: Sharon Franklin Driscoll)

Welcome to Musings of a Gen Joneser, my personal blog especially for late Baby Boomers and early Generation Xers.

“Generation Jones” is the term coined by television producer, director, and writer Jonathan Pontell to capture that group of people born between 1954 and 1965. We’re between two well-defined generations, and our life experiences — on the whole, at least — are different than those of classic Baby Boomers and Generation Xers.

Years before I had heard the term Generation Jones, I referred to my age cohort as the ‘tweener generation. I felt that we didn’t quite fit in with the prevailing characterizations and timelines of the Boomers and Gen Xers. And now that we’re decisively into our middle years, I think we have some unique perspectives, insights, and observations worth sharing.

I don’t mean to sound all that earnest. This blog will serve up plenty of trivia and pop culture, in addition to the serious stuff. And I’ll use this as an excuse to share personal stories as well. I plan to be writing from here at least once a week, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to offer.

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A few words of introduction: I’m a law professor, active blogger, and activist, and I live in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. I was born in 1959, which puts me right in the heart of Generation Jones! If you’d like to learn a bit more, I’ve included some brief biographical information on my About page.

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