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CSotD: Our critical fool shortage

Jen Sorensen points out an unintended consequence of a generational oddity, and I like it for a couple of reasons, but mostly because complaining about the differences between generations triggers a rant that is dear to my heart.

Except that she doesn’t use fictional Madison Avenue marketing terms to pigeonhole her characters: She says “older” and “younger.”

An intelligent choice that short circuits my rant, dammit.


But xkcd comes to my rescue on that one, with a cold-eyed look at the whole absurd concept.

And, yes, “Millennials” currently range from 23 to 38, and, no, I don’t know what  23-year-olds have in common with 38-year-olds.

Then again, I’ve never known what people born in 1946 had in common with people born in 1964, aside from the fact that everything wrong in the world is our fault.

Here’s what I do know: Anybody who believes in generational labels is only a pawn in the game of life.

And if you’re of a certain age, you just thought about Mongo. Unless you didn’t. Or maybe you did, but you’re not in the right age group and just happen to really like that movie.

Which is my point.

People who prattle on about “Baby Boomers” and “Gen Xers” and “Millennials” and “Gen Zs” are either on the selling-something end, or they are on the sucker-born-every-minute end.

Neither end of the stick is ennobling.

Here, by the way, is a non-paywall link to the article Sorensen references, and they do say that “Baby Boomers” built those ridiculous McMansions that they now can’t unload.

But it’s not a “Baby Boomer” thing. It’s a “Stage of Life” thing, and, in fact, the article is kind of inconsistent because it concedes that the people who built those monstrosities did so as older, financially successful people, so that the “younger” people they’d most likely sell them to would be maybe 50 or 60, not 30 or 40 or younger.

Furthermore, it’s a niche market: “Trophy homes” as Sorensen suggests. No, I don’t know who needs a trophy home.

Last couple I knew personally who bought a huge, sprawling brick-and-stone mansion were on the brink of inheriting a company that was about 75 years old.

And, under their expert management and guidance, it nearly made 85 before it cratered and the lawyers began to circle the corpse.

So that’s who needs a mansion.

I’m definitely at the down-sizing point (he said, sitting in his three-room apartment). But, at any age, I wouldn’t have wanted to be responsible for six bathrooms and an atrium so tall that you’d need a crane to dust for cobwebs.

I figured that out when I was still a tenant, and the three houses I owned were small and affordable.

And old, because nobody in the past forty years has built homes with one bathroom and without a garage door opener, built-in dishwasher, ceiling fans and so forth, except for tiny-houses, and those are just mobile homes for hipsters.

There is a market for starter homes, but nobody seems to want to serve it: I knew a builder a few decades ago who was selling small, affordable starters as fast as he could crank’em out.

Then his marketing people persuaded him to move up to the semi-custom level and he was out of business and broke within two years.

As it happens, there’s a chi-chi development around here that is full of woodsy overbuilt McMansions, with an HOA that forbids “For Sale” signs.

But if you look it up on Zillow, the whole neighborhood lights up like a Christmas tree.

Which is a form of good news, because it means there were plenty of fools who bought these vanity castles when they were new a dozen years ago, but the fact that there is an unsellable resale glut must mean we’re currently suffering a fool shortage.

Who saw that coming?


But it’s excellent news for bankers and stock traders like Alex and his cohorts.

A friend of mine who was forced by the fall of Phnom Penh to go from ambassador to refugee, but who had lived in Paris and several other world capitals, was delighted with California wines, and said that anyone spending more than a few dollars, but less than a whole lot, was wasting it, that mid-level California wines were as good as all but the best.

However, he did specify “mid-level” as opposed to the Two-Buck-Chuck paint thinner that Alex is passing off as the good stuff.

Although that’s a good way to start the discussion: If they did tumble to it, Alex could always blame his vintner and then accordingly adjust the financial package he had been set to offer them.


And then there’s this

I’ve been watching “Law & Order” marathons at night, and they’re old enough that I can sometimes get 15 or 20 minutes into an episode before I know whether or not I’ve seen it.

Bruce Plante applies that same idea to Dear Leader’s rally in Orlando, where he went off on his opponent from 2016 instead of focusing on those ahead of him.

Of course, a lot of Democrats seem fixated on Bernie Sanders, so we probably shouldn’t be too snarky about those who can’t resist trying to rekindle old flames.


And besides, as Brian Duffy points out, there’s just a little bit of sorting to be done.

Last time around, the Democrats didn’t have enough candidates. Well, they’ve certainly fixed that problem.

The good news is, nobody hates any of them, yet. Instead of nominating someone with two or three decades of being pilloried by conservatives, they’ll have a fresh face to put up there.

Or, at least, it’s a fresh face now.

We’ll see what it looks like after 20-some opponents have finished trying to carve it up.

Maybe they’d do better if they had everyone chose a runningmate before things got going, so they’d have a little support.


Community Comments

#1 Mark Jackson
@ 6:26 am

Research ( suggests that people really experience wine as tasting better when they think it is more expensive.

For some definitions of “experience” and “really,” of course.

#2 Brian Fies
@ 11:38 am

I’m a late Boomer and never put any stock in the label. It always seemed to me that other milestones of time and culture are a lot more relevant.

For example, if you’re old enough to remember when Elvis hit big and to be drafted for Vietnam (which I was not), your life experience was vastly different than mine. Hippies were over by the time I was old enough to be one. My daughters talk about being the last generation to remember a time before ubiquitous computers and cellphones. There’s a generation coming along too young to remember Sept. 11, 2001, just as there was once a generation too young to remember Pearl Harbor. I think those are the sorts of markers that shape your life, not which arbitrary 20-year cohort your birth happened to hit.

But it does sometimes seem like we Boomers are going to go kicking and screaming into the night, raging at our increasing irrelevance, doesn’t it? Sometimes I’m embarrassed for us.

My mental dividing line for fantasy houses is staffing: I never want to live in a place so big and complex that my wife and I can’t take care of it ourselves. Oh, I could imagine maybe having an every-other-week gardener or house cleaner (tho we haven’t), but a real groundskeeper or maid? A nightmare.

#3 Sean Martin
@ 1:23 pm

I have a running joke with my best friend Randy, that when I kick off, it’ll take about an hour to clean my place out, while his will require three days and as many tractor trailers.

I dont know why people feel the need for so much useless stuff, but I guess it keeps the economy moving………

#4 Mike Peterson
@ 5:15 pm

There’s an enormous cultural gap between the Frankie-and-Annette gang and the British Invasion crew, though they’re only about three years apart, but, then again, within that second group, there’s a huge gap between British Invasion people and Beach Boys people that has nothing to do with age at all.

I also found myself torn between my high school classmates who mostly went to Vietnam and my college classmates who didn’t know anybody over there.

OTOH, we weren’t as far apart from each other as some people who wanted to exploit our differences assumed we were.

Stereotypes are stereotypes, no matter how you carve them up. (It’s more about why you bother.)

#5 Denny Lien
@ 6:35 pm

re “I dont know why people feel the need for so much useless stuff” — er, if it fulfills a need that they feel, isn’t it by definiton not “useless”?

#6 Sean Martin
@ 8:38 am

@ Denny: I need a date with Brad Pitt. See what you can do about that, okay? :-)

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