Friday, October 26, 2007

The First Boomer

Did you know that there is actually a first Boomer? And she recently applied for Social Security benefits.

Here is a blurb from a Hartford Courant article on the subject:

Earlier this month, the nation's first Baby Boomer filed for Social Security benefits. Kathleen "Kathy" Casey-Kirschling, born one second after midnight on Jan.1, 1946, will be eligible for benefits beginning in January 2008. The retired seventh-grade teacher is on the leading edge of what the Social Security administration refers to as a "silver tsunami," nearly 80 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964 who will qualify for Social Security over the next two decades.

I’m in no hurry to apply for those benefits, if they even still exist when I reach retirement age. But articles like this might serve to remind us that most Boomers are horribly unprepared for living without a full time job.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Movies For Us

Boomers rule the world but no longer own the cultural landscape. Brittney Spears proves that point, doesn’t she? Tonight, however, I found evidence that Boomers are gaining a foothold on at least part of pop culture.

Two examples that help support my point: 1) there is at least one movie out there that doesn’t conform to the norm of fast action and simple plot lines and 2) there are new movies starring actors over 50.

First, the new movies: at least two of the dozen that were previewed before the main feature I went to see tonight star actors over 50 and have plots dealing with Boomerish interests and Boomer music. One of the movies is The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. A bucket list is a list of things one wants to do before kicking the bucket. You can see where this might be going. And the music-based movie I saw a trailer for is about the Rolling Stones and is directed by Martin Scorcese, of all people.

The movie I refer to that doesn’t conform to the norm is called Michael Clayton, starring Boomer-aged George Clooney. The movie moves along at a slow to moderate pace and features a complicated plot. There are no chase scenes, no sex, only one explosion and there is a great ending. The story begins with a short slice of the present, stopping at the explosion. Then the viewer is taken to four days earlier, and the complex story unfolds slowly back to the present, revealing pieces of plot and characterization in a deliciously slow manner up to the explosion again. The story continues to a mostly unpredictable and not completely tidy ending. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore!

It’s nice to see there are movies for us out there.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Class Update

My first online college class will be done in one more week and I have to admit it is more challenging than I expected.

Some observations:

Dream come true. The online option makes my dream of finally finishing college a real possibility. My long work hours and the commuting insanity around here would make going to class on the main University of Maryland campus totally intolerable.

Cutting class. It is way to easy to “cut class” when the classroom is a laptop computer. The classes aren’t “scheduled” in the sense of 2p-3p M W F. But you do have to log in several times a week, and the courses are divided into weekly segments with readings, assignments and conference participation. The bad pattern I already have is that I don’t really hunker down till the weekend.

I need a bigger monitor. I had six windows open a little while ago for one fairly simple assignment, but could only arrange three at a time on this 14” laptop monitor. A 20” wide screen should do it. In fact, taking these classes has driven my decision to buy a desktop as my next computer rather than a laptop.

Beer and wine. When I was last in college, three decades ago, I spent Saturday nights drinking a lot of cheap beer while trying to ignore class work. Tonight, a Saturday, I spent two hours sipping some very good red wine while wrapping up this week’s class assignments.

I need new glasses. For a 50-something who reads books and magazines often, reading on a screen is a big adjustment. I already spend about 75 percent of my workday on a computer. My eyes are rebelling.

Time management. This class is only a 1-credit hour Library Science course and I’ve used the grace period for posting assignments three of the six weeks. What will I do when I start my first “real” 3-credit hour History course in two weeks?

Social isolation. My current class has about 70 students, but I haven’t met even one. In a brick-and-mortar setting, there would likely be at least some socializing. Online, it is just me and the instructor. Tonight was the first time where an assignment actually involved another student. I assume my next class will be smaller but will require more interaction. The instructor is setting up a cyber chat option for the class.

Potential success. Taking only one class per semester means I’m at least five years from a degree, maybe more. I’m guardedly optimistic about reaching that goal. With the overscheduled life I lead, sticking to studying will be a big challenge. I want this, but it is still too early to tell if I’ll get it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This Thing is Fifty

A bright silver flying object changed our world fifty years ago this week. It was the size of a basketball and weighed ten pounds less than I do. Americans could see the small speck twice a day as it crossed the sky like a slow shooting star. Russians could brag about it constantly.

Sputnik was the first human-made satellite in space. It didn’t do much compared to today’s satellites but it scared the hell out of us because of what we thought it and its successors could do. Our morale was shaken too because we apparently lost the coin toss in the space race game and were now on the receiving end, defending our pride and global status. Over the next twelve years we took the ball and ran with it, to take this metaphor a bit further, and scored the ultimate game-winning moon landings.

Today there are nearly a thousand satellites orbiting the earth at any given time. Our lives depend on them in ways we may rarely realize. Weather forecasting, Tom Tom and Desperate Housewives enter our lives by way of satellites. Cell phones that teenage users, map photos clear enough to display license plate numbers, real-time troop tracking – all enabled by satellites.

We won the race to the moon but haven’t been back since 1972. Outer space exploration that once promised Mars colonies and lunar vacations is now limited to multi-national high tech constructions projects. The science that launched humans out of Earth’s gravitational pull continues to have positive influence on our ground-based lives but only connects to the final frontier in movies.

October 4th marks not only the birth of the space age but also the beginning of highly-visible acting careers for Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers.

Here are a few other things associated 1957:

- Celebrities Melanie Griffith, Matt Lauer, Paul Reiser and Geena Davis were born and Humphrey Bogart died.

- Liz Taylor’s 3rd marriage and I Love Lucy’s last episode.

- Buddy Holly and Tommy Dorsey shared space on the pop music charts and John Lennon met Paul McCartney.

- Dwight Eisenhower was president, gasoline costs 24 cents per gallon and you could buy a new Ford for $2000.

- My hometown New Orleans gets its 2nd and 3rd TV stations and the Governor of neighboring state Arkansas calls out the National Guard to prevent nine black children from entering a public school.

Boomers know first hand how much the world has changed in fifty years. But age doesn’t really matter. If you are reading this, your life has been influenced by a Friday night rocket launch in Russia on October 4, 1957. According to an article in the Washington Post this week, Sputnik led to the formation of a U.S. government agency that developed the computer network we now know as the internet.