I’ve just finished Jon Meachan’s biography, “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”. It reminds me of the inadequate job that our education does in making history interesting and engaging for the teens in our school systems.
Did you know that there were people who wanted to impeach George Washington? That Jefferson received letters with death threats while he was President? That Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis & Clark originally was an aide for President Jefferson prior to being sent on the famous expedition and many years later reportedly went insane and committed suicide (or was murdered)? I didn’t.
As I listened to the audiobook version of Meacham’s book, I kept thinking how much more I would have taken away from my history courses in high school and college had my instructors explained the stories in context with events that were going on in the world at the time rather than on the this was the date/ this was the event/ this was the result approach.
I was also thinking about how great it would be if HBO reunited members of the cast from its John Adams series to recreate the same roles in a mini-series version of “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”.
I wrote this a couple of years ago. Mom celebrated her 94th birthday earlier this year. So, I thought it was worth re-posting for this Mother’s Day weekend.
My mother was the first born child of immigrants. She was born Alice Della but has been referred to by her nickname, “Del” for most of her life. Mom’s mother was from England and her father from Canada. Except for a few months during World War II when she and my father lived in Washington state and California, she has always lived in Rhode Island. Mom was the eldest of five kids the youngest of whom she was frequently responsible for babysitting. I always thought that her parenting skills were honed during those days when she was taking care of her little sister and brother.
Mom grew up during The Great Depression and, like many others, her family struggled financially. When she was 15, my mother quit school in order to take a job in her uncle’s mill. I’m not sure how she felt about that but, as an intelligent young woman, I suspect that she wasn’t happy about it. Yet, I’ve never heard her complain about having to quit her education in order to help support the family. She felt it was her duty and she did it.
Mom was raised a Catholic but for reasons about which I’ve never been quite clear decided to leave the Catholic church and began attending youth group meetings at a Methodist church where she met my father. Apparently, the pastor of the church, a Dr. Metzner (sic) was a charismatic man who had a great deal of influence on both my father and mother. I remember them both smiling in obvious enjoyment as they told my brother and I stories about the doctor and their adventures with the youth group. I believe he was the minister who married them.
Mom and dad met when they were 16 and it was apparently love at first sight. Except for the years when Dad was away during World War II, they were never apart. And they always seemed to enjoy one another’s company. Every morning that I can recall, Dad would stroll into the kitchen, bellow “Good morning, Alice Della!”, sweep Mom into his arms and give her an enthusiastic kiss. Her return kiss was just as enthusiastic. It was the kind of overt display of affection which provided a strong sense of security for an impressionable young boy like me.
Like any married couple, they’d sometimes quarrel or disagree often when Dad would take a detour down some unchartered route to see which way it might take us. Mom preferred the known to the unknown but I think that she secretly enjoyed Dad’s sense of adventure. Recently, Mom observed that they’d never had a fight. (Imagine how warped my perspective on married life was coming out of that environment!) .
As was normal in those days, Mom was a housewife. She didn’t even know how to drive. In fact, she didn’t get her driver’s license until she was in her 40s. However, when I was in elementary school, Mom became the first woman president of the Smithfield (RI) PTA. Smithfield was a small New England town and that was a big deal. My father was well-known in town because of his business activities and members hips in the Lions Club and Volunteer Fire Department but it also made me proud when I saw the respect with which teachers, school principals, and prominent members of the community treated her. My mother is not an ambitious person so I suspect that she was nominated for the PTA presidency by people who wanted someone in the position whose opinions they respected and integrity they trusted.
One prominent memory from my younger days is Saturday nights at our house. As the big sister and surrogate parent, Mom always hosted her younger siblings and their families on Saturday nights. Invariably, we males would congregate in the living room to watch TV and banter with occasional conversation. But I can still see all the women gathered around the dining room table to get my mother’s opinion. It’s not that she sought to impose her opinions on them but that they seemed to value her insights and advice. My observation was that they always thought of my mother as well-grounded and a source of common sense. They trusted her opinion.
Dad died just after Thanksgiving in 2006. After all their years together, it’s hard for her to not have Dad but she’s adapted well and has realized how self-sufficient she really is. With age have come some challenges but she is still surprisingly alert and present. Since I take after my mother and her side of the family, I find this especially encouraging!
I know that everybody feels this way about their mother but my Mom is a very special lady. I’m proud to be her son and especially pleased that I was able to bring a granddaughter into her life.
Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm” and “Restrepo”, has created a documentary in tribute to the photography, Tim Hetherington who filmed the video for the documentary version of “Restrepo”. Hetherington was killed in 2011 while accompanying a band of rebels in Libya. Junger’s documentary, “Which Way Is The Front Line From Here” is currently showing on HBO.
While being interviewed about the documentary by Terry Gross on her NPR show, “Fresh Air”, Junger spoke about how he had been at home in Massachusetts when the bombs went off at the Patriot’s Day marathon. He described how he was having a conversation about the attack with a friend when, all of a sudden, he zoned out and his mind transported him back to a vivid recollection of battle scene which he’d witnessed in Afghanistan. The tastes, the sounds, the smells, the emotions of that battle washed over him as though he were actually back at that place at that point in time. The experience lasted for only a few moments and then Junger snapped back into reality.
As I listened to Sebastian Junger describe his experience, I wondered how many other Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were in Boston that day or in Watertown during the Friday morning shootout, if they experienced similar reactions and, if they did, what the impact of those reactions might be on their lives and the lives of those with whom they live.
Let’s be honest. Al Gore can come across as a pretentious, pedantic bore. His political enemies have done a great job of convincing most Americans that Gore takes personal credit for inventing the internet. (By the way, he doesn’t. During a 1999 CNN interview, he spoke about taking the initiative as vice-president to foster, economically and legislatively, the technology that we now know as the internet.) But Gore’s formality and stiffness in otherwise relaxed situations along with a tendency to sound self-righteous play right into the hands of those that perpetuate this notion.
That said, as the New York Times reviewer noted, Gore’s latest book, “The Future:Six Drivers of Global Change” is worth checking out for two ideas that it introduces. Reviewer Chrystia Freeland writes: “The first is the premise. Gore believes we are living in a ‘new period of hyperchange.’ The speed at which our world is changing…is unprecedented, and that transformation is the central reality of our lives. The technology revolution, Gore writes, ‘is now carrying us with it at a speed beyond our imagining toward ever newer technologically shaped realities that often appear, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, ‘indistinguishable from magic.’’”
“Gore’s second big argument is based on this first one,” Freeland writes. Since we’re experiencing these major economic and sociological changes, we need to think about the local, regional, and geo-political implications. Gore seems to believe that the nation-state is fast becoming irrelevant and talks about how globalization has really transformed business into Earth, Inc. And, he believes that if America doesn’t lead the rest of the world in developing a viable international reaction to these rapid changes, that the world will stay stuck in the paradigm that we’ve inherited from previous, less complicated centuries.
Of course, Al Gore isn’t the only person who believes that the business world has some issues such as “quarterly democracy” which need to be addressed. There are some, and I include themselves among them, who believe that this period of Capitalism is reminiscent of the days of the robber barons from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a recent TIME essay, “The Curious Capitalist” Rana Forooha talks about the short-termism of our system of shareholder capitalism and about those “calling for not only corporate pay and tax reforms but also a more Germanic-style stakeholder capitalism that can spread the benefits of a company’s growth more evenly among labor, management and shareholders.”
For capitalism to remain viable, it’s important that the population be economically productive. However, new technologies are enabling companies to employ “robosourcing” which eliminates a high percentage of workers from the equation. If memory serves, Gore mentions software which can be used by legal firms to do the work of 10,000 legal interns. Not great news for law students who’ve invested all that time, money and effort in their educations.
With people living longer and healthier lives, society is going to need to figure out a way to keep the population productively employed so that they can participate not only as conscientious citizens but also as active consumers who stoke the engines of capitalism with their purchases and contribute to the government coffers via taxes.
Along with unemployment, the overall growth of the world population, the aging of populations in first world nations, “The Future” also addresses water quality and shortages, top soil depletion and, of course, the effects of global warming. I have to admit that the Malthusian in me started wondering about the impact these dilemmas would have on fear and the growth of intolerance which generates hate groups like neo-Nazis, radical Islamists, and the like.
In his New York Times review of “The Future”, Michiko Kakutani says Gore is most convincing “when he refrains from editorializing and sticks to analyzing how changes in technology, our political climate and the environment are going to affect the world, often creating domino and cascadelike effects.” For instance, how the growth of the Internet and proliferation of mobile phones in developing countries has helped closed the information gap and increased the opportunity for “robust democratic discourse” but also increases threats to privacy and cybersecurity. Or how 3-D printing raises questions about intellectual property as well as copyright and patent law and how advances in science technology might soon create ethical dilemmas when parents have the opportunity to create “designer babies” with the ability to choose not only hair and eye color but also height, strength, and intelligence characteristics.
“The Future” is an ambitious project. Probably,too much so. Gore tries to educate us with a comprehensive, holistic overview about how various factors (business, population, environment, technology, information) interrelate but the effect can be overwhelming. Add Al Gore’s wooden and ponderous communication style to the mix and you might find your mind wandering as you wade through it. Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort. As Gore observes: “We as human beings now face a choice: either to be swept along by the powerful currents of technological change and economic determinism into a future that may threaten our deepest values, or to build a capacity for collective decision making on a global scale.”
Something to think about.
Jessica Chastain won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the CIA operative whose obsession with al-Qaeda’s network of couriers led to the discovery of Osama bi Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.
However, it might surprise you to learn that the woman on whom Chastain’s character is based was denied a promotion which would have earned her an extra $16K per year.
Apparently, the real-life Maya (not her actual name) is, shall we say, “assertive” and as one of her colleagues explained to a reporter not Miss Congeniality. However, another colleague pointed out that jerks are not in short supply at the CIA so the woman’s abrasive personality shouldn’t be an impediment to promotion.
The CIA says that she received a financial bonus after bin Laden was found but the agency was reticent about discussing why the operative’s promotion from GS 13 to GS 14 was denied.
Here’s the Washington Post story: http://wapo.st/VNTlJH
You’ll notice that this story was published in early December and it did get some press coverage then. But, as Charles Peters observes in The Washington Monthly, it’s odd that this story hasn’t received much wider media attention. Especially, following Chastain’s Oscar win.
It was Sunday, February 9th, 1964. Just eleven weeks earlier, America had been shocked and stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. JFK had been a beacon of hope and inspiration for Americans, especially BabyBoomers. But Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun had silenced those hopes and created a void which needed to be filled. That void was filled by The Beatles.
Music industry veteran, Steve Meyer has vivid memories of that moment and he’s graciously allowing me to share them with you:
“We were four guys…I met Paul, I said do you wanna’ join the band, ya’ know? Then George joined, then Ringo joined…we were just a band that made it very, very big, that’s all.” — John Lennon
Yes…very big indeed, once the “Lads from Liverpool” hit our shores and nothing was ever the same.
Their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ was watched by an estimated 74 million people that Sunday night in February 1964 making it one of the biggest events in broadcast history, and the crime rate in U.S. cities dropped dramatically during the show’s broadcast. It was indeed, as Ed Sullivan used to say, ” A really big show!”
The assault on American radio and charts was equally overwhelming. In the past few decades you’ve all read about the chart accomplishments of such mega-artists as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Madonna, and others, but they all pale in comparison to this statistic:
For the week ending April 4, 1964 The Beatles had 11 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart, including the first top five slots:
* #1* – Can’t Buy Me Love
* #2* – Twist and Shout
* #3* – She Loves You
* #4* – I Want To Hold Your Hand
* #5* – Please, Please Me
* #31* – I Saw Her Standing There
* #41* – From Me To You
* #46* – Do You Want To Know A Secret
* #58* – All My Loving
* #65* – You Can’t Do That
* #79* – Thank You Girl
Of course if you’re old enough to remember listening to your favorite Top-40 station back then, you remember hearing all these songs and more as the “British Invasion” started. It’s almost impossible to imagine any artist or band being able to monopolize the charts and radio in such fashion today, and I don’t think we will ever see it happen like that again. It was a different time.
Just how much The Beatles changed everything in pop culture has been the subject of many articles, books, TV specials, and now they teach courses on them in many colleges. Prior to The Beatles, Top-40 radio didn’t play album cuts from best-selling artists … not even Elvis at his height.
But when The Beatles released ‘Rubber Soul’ and made the decision there would be no single released from the album for radio or retail (much to Capitol’s dismay originally), radio programmers simply put “Michelle” on their stations along with “I’m Looking Through You,” and about four other tracks from the album. The Beatles ruled at retail and requests, so radio had to respond.
But the fact is, NOBODY had ever achieved that kind of airplay (album tracks) at Top-40 radio previously. The Beatles were the first. Of course ‘Rubber Soul’ wasn’t the only album they released without a single for radio/retail. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (the first rock “concept” album) didn’t have a single and neither did their double-album, ‘The White Album.’ But it made no difference, they were all over Top-40 radio. Of course the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper’ (and subsequent concept albums by the Stones, Who, etc.) gave birth to the notion that the radio audience might want to hear more than just singles and great radio men in Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and elsewhere, put FM stations on the air that played albums and “progressive radio” (the forerunner of all album radio that followed) was born.
Before The Beatles, there was no such thing as “stadium rock.” Nobody had ever played arenas or stadiums before 1964. But The Beatles sold out Shea Stadium, Candlestick Park, and other stadiums around the country in mere hours after tickets went on sale, shocking those in the press and media who predicted the shows by the group (“a fad” as they were called back then) wouldn’t sell tickets in those quantities. I was lucky enough to see them at Carnegie Hall, Forest Hills, and at both Shea concerts. The word mania doesn’t begin to describe what occurred the minute The Beatles took the stage.
Long before MTV hit the air (thirteen years to be exact), The Beatles made a TV film called ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Though the critics in the UK panned it for the most part, in hindsight one can watch it and realize it was merely a long-form video with five separate concept videos to support their new songs. They were years ahead of the curve in realizing how music and video could be merged for greater audience.
Another amazing fact: ‘Sgt. Pepper’ was recorded in four-track. Yup, that’s right. Four track. Listen to it today and you realize what an engineering masterpiece it is, and how many tracks had to mixed down and on top of each other to make the final recording. Many albums made today use dozens more tracks and updated technology … but sonically, Pepper remains a masterpiece.
I could go on and on … I’ve been a Beatles fan for these past 49 years. I never imagined that night I watched them on the Ed Sullivan show that within five years I’d be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to. When I worked for Capitol Records in 1970 and 1971 in New York City I was fortunate enough to meet John Lennon briefly. The first time I talked to him I got “mealy mouth,” was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said,” I … I watched you on Ed Sullivan …” And he said, “Ah…well, that was The Beatles thing and all that … I’m just John now … so tell me what kind of music do you like?” We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.
The Beatles created the soundtrack for our lives back in the ’60′s and each song they sang made us feel like the wait wasn’t going to be too long, and that sooner rather than later, we’d all be on our way to better lives. Maybe that’s been only partly true, but it’s what we all wanted to believe because their music made us feel such things. So we sang their songs loud, proud to claim them as “our own.” But we should’ve known they belonged to the whole world and that the world we lived in was moving away from innocence.
John was right…they were a “band that made it very, very big.”
They were all that … and a whole lot more. A helluva lot more.
The closest I ever came to meeting a Beatle was when I was about five feet away from Paul McCartney as he left the premier of his movie, “Give My Regards To Broad Street”. We had eye contact for a few seconds. He didn’t look happy.
I also had the chance to hang out one night with John Lennon’s son, Julian. Unfortunately, I blew it. The realization that I was actually spending time with a Beatles’ son left me tongue-tied. While I should have been having a pleasant conversation focused on him, his opinions and aspirations, I was too busy second-guessing myself so that I wouldn’t come across like a dim-witted fan. Too bad. Turned out that Julian’s a pretty nice, down-to-earth guy.
Stephen Meyer is a music industry veteran who has served in executive positions for several music labels including as National Promotion Director for Capitol Records from 1976-1983. You can subscribe to his weekly music industry newsletter at http://stevemeyer.webs.com/
Paul Greenberg, author of the customer relationship management book, CRM At The Speed of Light, cites a recent blog post about an observation from the IBM Institute of Business Value’s 2012 CEO Study which states, “ The view that technology is a driver of efficiency is outdated; CEO’s now see technology as an enabler of collaboration and relationships-those essential connections that fuel innovation and creativity.” Greenberg notes, “This leads CEO’s to see that the three most important areas for creating sustained economic value are (in order) human capital, customer relationships and products/ services innovation. We are seeing the beginnings of more distributed organizations to handle these transformations.”
So, what does this mean for us Alpha Boomers? We keep hearing that the business community has been reconsidering its attitude towards that part of the work force which is seasoned in our favor although the evidence remains slim. We certainly bring a lot of expertise to the table when it comes to establishing and maintaining positive relationships with customers. And, although Alpha Boomers may not be in the top quintile of Early Adopters when it comes to technology, we are certainly more open to embracing innovative new technologies that have been previous generations.
But, as a story in the New York Times noted this past weekend, the latest economic recession hurt we Boomers more than it did Millennials or members of Gen Y. A woman quoted in the article observed that employers are afraid to hire Baby Boomers because they’re concerned that they might have a negative impact on the company’s health insurance premiums and that it might not be worth investing in training Boomers due to the possibility that they’d leave the company in five years. Personally, I find the concern about leaving the company to be a bit disingenuous since a three years is considered long-term commitment nowadays.
However, in a recent editorial, the journalist Thomas Friedman observed that “everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value” better than the above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius that’s available to companies these days. It’s going to require individual initiative on each of our parts to develop 21st century skills which compliment new technology and, as Friedman notes, will require us to combine our PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) with our IQ (intelligence quotient) to find or invent jobs along with a commitment to consistent learning and re-learning.
So, it seems to me that a challenge to Alpha Boomers will be to make a psychological commitment to stay fit in body, mind and spirit and to do the math so that we’re able to create a cost/ benefit analysis for potential employers which honestly compares the cost of hiring us over a three year period to the cost of hiring a younger worker.
I’m curious to learn your insights about a question which concerns me and many of my fellow “Alpha Boomers” (those of us born between 1946-1956). Although society and government have yet to catch up, many of us would rather pay in to social security than to collect it and have no interest in retiring at age 65. In fact, a recent report on CBS Sunday Morning indicated that, while there are currently 75,000 people in the US aged 100 or older, in 40 years there will be more than 6 million. Those will be today’s Alpha Boomers and it means that those people aren’t “senior citizens” but are “middle-aged”.
My point is that many of us Alpha Boomers are able and willing to continue working in economically productive and financially rewarding careers. However, there is an obvious preference by organizations to choose young & inexperienced over older & experienced applicants. Automation and globalization are certainly factors in the downsizing and restructuring which has been prevalent during the past 20 years. It’s my understanding that HR departments have not escaped this trend. So fewer people are left to cope with more applications. That’s led to a mindset whereby it seems that the primary function of HR systems is not as much to find the right applicant than to find a reason to say NO.
It seems to me that the US needs to focus on a way to create opportunities so that Baby Boomers who are able,willing, and (for economic reasons) need to work can collaborate with GenY’ers who need work in order to build financial security and pursue productive careers. Youth benefits from the wisdom and experience of seasoned professionals, older workforce is inspired and revitalized by the ideas and perspective of youth and the result it the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Is anybody in the HR industry and business in general considering this perspective? Is my attitude totally Pollyanna and unrealistic?
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts
CBS Sunday Morning has been one of my few “appointment viewing” TV shows since it debuted with Charles Kuralt in 1978. It seemed to me that what Kuralt and producer Shad Northshield had created was essentially the secular equivalent of a religious service complete with sermon, homily, music, and moment of reflection for a nation which was increasingly foregoing organized religious services. It was also very much radio on TV with a lot of effort put into creating sound which enhanced to impact of the visuals.
It’s been apparent for a long time that the current producers of the show don’t share this vision. They don’t seem to grasp what marketers would call the show’s “brand ideal” and the purpose that the program serves as a part of many viewers’ lives. Instead, it’s treated as just another morning news/infotainment vehicle for the sales department. Consequently, we get a bumper stating “This moment of nature is brought to you by Prodaxa…” leading into some usually very abbreviated nature footage which is immediately followed by a pharmaceutical industry spot targeted at the 60+ crowd. (Note to sales: It’s not about demographics. It’s about psychographics. “Hangover” star, Bradley Cooper said he was thrilled to be interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning because he had grown up watching the show and I have Millennial friends who are avid fans of the show.)
OK. Here’s what prompted this outburst.
Today, CBS Sunday Morning presented its annual end of the year “Hail And Farewell To Those We Lost” tribute to folks who’d died during the past year. I come from a broadcasting background, so I can appreciate the editing decisions which are part of this compilation process. I also understand that the network is interested in making the show relevant and interesting to a younger 35-49 year old female audience. So, I the programming guy part of me can understand why the producers would choose to spotlight a pop icon like Whitney Houston but essentially (forgive this choice of words, but it seems appropriate) bury important historical figures like WWII hero/ Senator/ Presidential candidate, George McGovern and Gulf War hero, General Norman Schwarzkopf in a brief three-way montage with WWII hero/Senator Daniel Inouye in the piece as historical footnotes.
McGovern’s presidential bid was a colossal failure in 1972 but I would contend that it politically galvanized Baby Boomers, helped legitimize the anti-Vietnam War, and contributed to the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency. Whitney Houston was talented artist with incredible promise who lost her way and experienced a tragic decline. Hers is a heartbreaking story but I’d contend that McGovern’s was more significant.
I was also annoyed as the final strains of Etta James’ version of “At Last” provided an underscore for the end of the segment. Ideally, the music would have reached its end, there would have been a few poignant moments of silence with the appropriate CBS Sunday Morning logo bumper, and then programming would have resumed. Instead, there was a quick fade of the music before its end into an inappropriately upbeat bumper teasing the use of pink in today’s world. It reminded me of some of the ”train wreck” moments I’ve heard in radio when a somber news bulletin about some tragic event is immediately followed by a DJ who was obviously not listening and who jauntily launches into some inappropriate song or, worse, an inane contest.
Again, I can appreciate the pressures and time constraints that the producers and staff are under at CBS Sunday morning. It’s not my intention to be a cantankerous old fogey and bitch just for the sake of complaining and venting some unrelated frustration at an easy target.
Call me a starry-eyed idealist but I really believe that radio , TV, and movies are more about art than about commerce. My goal here is to contribute to the conversation about content.